Casa Elemento to Santa Marta then San Gil

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

This will be an article without photos for now. While blogging in an internet cafe in San Gil, my card got corrupted and I can´t access my photos anymore on that card. Let´s hope I recover those shots somehow later. I suspect there was a virus on the computer I was on, so I just changed computer. So annoyed!!!!

I left Casa Elemento that day around 9.30am with a guy who also wanted to hike down to Minca. We asked the hostel to give our big packs to a jeep which would drop them at Cafe Minca where we could pick the bags up later on.

Here is the map again of the area.


We walked towards Los Pinos and then down the road I had taken when going to La Cumbre, but at some point we went right instead of left. We kept walking down to La Victoria that we reached around noon. There was a French guy making awesome bread. We had some coffee and cake and ordered some sandwich for later on. La Victoria is a small place where there is the brewery of the Happy Toucan. I took some shots of the brewery equipment which I can´t show you unfortunately but can roughly describe as very basic, few tanks, few tubes, not as big as the XXXX Brewery in Brisbane! If I ever recover my photo, hopefully I could put some here.

La Victoria is also a place where coffee beans are stripped from their skin and dried and put in bags. Again, no photos here, but to tell you a bit, it is a very old Coffee Production Factory which runs mostly on hydraulic power and very few electricity. The machines came from the UK and were custom-made for this place. A German guy and later his family has been running the business there. The machines date from 1870. The coffee bean harvesting season is from November to February. During that time, workers come and harvest the coffee beans based on their colour. There are 14 collection points in the Sierra Nevada, some 20 kilometers away where people work all day during that time. The beans far away are put in tubes and carried with water pressure to La Victoria. There they go through a selecting system where they get separated based on their size. Later the machines they go through take the skin out, and separate them in three different quality groups based on the size. They are dried there by being spread on some boards, or through a drier when the area where they are dried is full. La Victoria exports 70% of this coffee abroad. 30% is kept for Colombia consuming. They also have some basic roasting machine there in which they roast coffee that they use locally for people coming to drink it or for sale. A coffee bean with some coating can be stored 12 months before it is too bad to be used, but 4 months only when the coating has been removed. The torrefaction of the coffee is not done there as usually importing countries prefer to do it their way.

That´s all I can tell you from memory, I also wished I had recorded the visit on my recorder actually! It was a short 35min visit but really awesome, in Spanish but one of the visitor translated all really well in English, which made the visit even more enjoyable.

After that visit, we had the awesome French made bread sandwiches and enjoyed a last Toucan bier and another cup of coffee. The funny thing is that it poured rain during the two hours we spent there. When we started walking again around 2pm, the rain had stopped. We were really lucky.

Next we walked to Pozo Azul falls, it was about 20 min off track but it was nice to go check out that fall. Again, will put some shots one day hopefully, if I recover this bloody card!

After the falls, we continued our walk to Minca where we arrived around 4.30pm. We got our bags there at Cafe Minca where we sat down and enjoyed some coffee and brownie. It started raining again. We were really lucky to have stopped each time at the moment it rains! After an hour chilling out, we grabbed a taxi. Now that guy was more of a local car driver. His car was truly falling apart and at some point he had to stop because his breaks on the left front wheel was fuming! We waited for an hour while he unscrewed and screwed again the wheel. It was a bit freeky. Half-hour later he stopped and the wheel had almost completely come off. We gave him half of the price of the journey, grabbed our bags, wished him luck and jumped in another taxi a bit more reliable.

That taxi dropped us at “The dreamer” hostel where Sebastian had booked for him and a friend of him he was meeting there. I went to the bus station in taxi which was 5 minutes drive away and asked about the night buses to San Gil. It was 7.30pm and the next one was leaving at 8pm. I just had time to go back to the hostel, grab my big pack, say good-bye to Sebastian who was flying to Medellin the next day with his friend, and jump in the taxi again, forage through my stuff to grab warm clothes for the journey that I transferred in the small pack, arrive, buy some chips and jump in the night bus which departed immediately! Whoooo!!

The night ride was freezing and I was glad to have warm clothes. The bus was spacious though, with reclining seats, but I don´t really sleep well in night buses so didn´t sleep more than a few hours. I arrived in Bucaramanga, changed bus, and was then in another bus from Bucaramanga to San Gil. There was a Scottish couple and a guy from Perth with me and Colombians. At some point the bus stopped because all the traffic had stopped as there was a cycling competition going through this road. We stopped half-hour until they realised that actually the cycling competition was on another road, so we could keep going, ahah. Funny. On the last bit of the journey, the landscape was mindblowing, with incredible mountains. The Scottish and Australian were sleeping and I felt like waking them up to tell them, guys, watch, those mountains are amazing!! I wish I could share with you here some of those shots. One day hopefully.

Thursday 23rd July 2015

We arrived in San Gil around 9.30am. I asked the three of them which hotel they were going and it happened they all were going to Bacaregua, so I decided to share the taxi ride and check out that hotel. They had a bed for me so I decided to stay there and emailed Martina saying I was staying in that hotel. My phone was dead and I could not remember which hotel she was in. I found out later that she was in that hotel too!

During the day, I just went for brekky, withdrawing money as I only had 20,000 COP left with me, which is about 10 Australian dollars ahah. I did some washing. Went blogging, that´s when I posted the first 2 articles about Casa Elemento. And around 4pm I was struggling to keep my eyes opened and needed a nap. Then I saw Martina, had a nap and later in the evening we went to El Dorado hotel to meet Anne-Lina I had also seen during the Ciudad Perdida trek and Lynn who I had seen at Dropbear hostel in Santa Marta the 2 days after Ciudad Perdida. The 3 of them had left Casa Elemento earlier and during the week I volonteered they had been to Palomino and Punta Gallinas, the northern tip of Colombia and South America as such which is a desert. It was awesome to catch-up and travel twice through their photos and stories.

Here I was in San Gil! Next day, rafting!

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