When we first read about Minca, it sounded like a wonderland. The blogs we read used words like “paradise” and “idyllic” and “picturesque” and “lush” with “cool mountain breezes.” It was “the real Colombia,” or so we read. Lies, all of them, lies.
You know what you really need to know about Minca? I will tell you. It is full of bugs. Blood thirsty bugs that think DEET on gringo is just about the tastiest thing they have ever eaten. Bugs that will quite literally leave you bleeding in the forest. Think I’m joking? Think again. Check out these legs. And, mine weren’t even the worst we saw — plenty of people were more eaten up than we were.
What kind of bugs are these? I have no idea. They aren’t mosquitoes (although there are plenty of them in Minca too). We heard them called sand flies, but who knows? These bugs are tiny little black things. You don’t even feel them at first. Then, you look down and your legs are covered in black bugs and when you shoo them away your legs are covered in small dots of blood. Then, a day later, you have huge lumps on your legs where you were bitten and the lumps have hard little centers that sometimes ooze who knows what (and that at least one web site says might be scabs or might be eggs). And, they itch. Boy, do they ever itch. I’m not joking when I say the local pharmacy seemed to specialize in bug spray and cortisone cream. (Not that either one really did any good.)
Now, let’s talk about some of the other descriptors we read when researching Minca. Let’s start with “paradise” and “idyllic.” Well, I guess if you consider dogs barking almost all night long an “idyllic” “paradise,” you will love Minca. And, once the dogs finally settle down, the roosters get going….Yeah, if you book a room without air conditioning like we did based on the promise of “cool mountain breezes,” good luck getting any sleep. Especially if there is no way for those “cool mountain breezes” to get into your room and you lie awake all night in a pool of your own sweat.
And, if by “lush” you mean that the roads are so dusty that you come home covered in dirt every single day, well then, by all means, you will love Minca. I’m not exaggerating. We saw numerous people watering the roads trying to keep the dust level down. It didn’t work. After a long hike, the first drink of water would taste like mud. Seriously.
So, let’s talk about Minca being “the real Colombia.” I’m not even sure what that is supposed to mean. Isn’t all of Colombia “the real Colombia”? But, here is what we found. A small little town absolutely full of motorcycle taxi drivers looking for fares. Roads that doubled as hiking trains so we were constantly dodging motorcycles and 4X4’s as we tried to get out into nature. Tourists who couldn’t even say please and thank you in Spanish and got angry when locals didn’t understand English. Huge crowds at some of the “sights.” And, signs like this:
Now, I’m not saying Minca is all bad. It isn’t. The chocolate bread at Duni and La Miga was incredible. Duni serves up something that reminded me more of a cake and La Miga serves up a warm, yeasty bread stuffed with chocolate. Both are to die for. There is a nice family on one of the main streets that serves rotisserie chicken with potatoes and arepas for next to no money — just look for the chickens spinning on spits and walk in even if there aren’t any tourists in the place. El Archo Minca Cafe serves up a very tasty red berry tea and a delicious passion fruit juice with lovely views. The tour at Finca La Victoria (an organic coffee farm) is quite informative and Robert tells me the club sandwich and the coffee at their cafe is fantastic. The bird watching is incredible. More on that in our next post.
But, please, trust me when I say this: do not stay in town. There are some lovely hotels up in the hills. We ended our visit at La Loma Nevada Minca Hostel which is about an hour up the mountains in a 4X4 and it completely changed our perspective on Minca. All those descriptors we initially read about Colombia were true at La Loma Nevada (well, except the one about “the real Colombia” because what does that even mean). Just be prepared to walk long distances down the mountains and take scary moto taxis back to the hotel before it gets dark.