Kite fishing in Colombia
After the inactivity of Taganga, Palomino and Santa Marta the three of us –me, Emy and Lio headed off inland. We got a cab up into the mountains to the little town of Minka. We arrived in the drizzle without accommodation to discover that our options for accommodation were limited as everywhere was full.
As usual, we decided to get our priorities right and we immediately sat down for lunch rather than dashing around to find somewhere to sleep, and then, after chatting to the cafe owner about places to stay, we began to climb the steep steps behind the church to a hostel.
Accommodation was indeed limited but we settled for a hammock and a tent between us. The hostel was a strange place with hammocks slung among the trees in the forest and the main communal area being built of wood and all open to the air. But the views were amazing. From up here we could see the coastal city of Santa Marta (we just could not escape it) and despite Santa Marta and the coast not having had any rain for ten months, we were in lush, damp tropical forest with enough rain to sink a battleship.
We decided that we should go for a hefty hike the next day and beat our lethargic demons into touch. We set off up the mountain. Just one hour in it began to rain. Six hours later it was still raining. To say that we were wet was an understatement. When the rain was at its heaviest and with thunder and lightning echoing off the mountains, we were clambering up a narrow, steep path, miles, or so we thought from anywhere, when we came across a tiny little cottage. We decided that we would see who was home and we went in through the gate or at least Lio went in and Emy and I waited to see if he would come out alive.
Sat at a wooden table and staring out of the glass-less window was an elderly couple. They were sitting in the gloom watching the storm and eating tangerines. They spotted us looking like drowned rats and they didn’t hesitate to open the door and then invited us to sit with them until the worst of the storm passed. It was a mini-adventure like something out of a Brothers’ Grimm fairytale but there were three of us and the elderly couple were so very trusting to take us in, I think that our fears of a Hansel and Gretel moment were a little exaggerated.
With an earth floor and simple rustic furniture which we dripped all over they peeled and handed us segments of tangerine and attempted to communicate. After a while, they un-padlocked a door which bizarrely only led to the kitchen and proceeded to stir a pan which was on an open range. We didn’t want then to feel obligated to share their lunch with us, or to make us a part of it, so we thanked them profusely and set back off into the deluge, although this took a long while as the lady of the home kept on hanging on to me and Emy and was almost crying because we wanted to leave.
Continuing our uphill slog we finally reached the high point and posed for photos in the rain with a couple of guys who had reached the same point from the other direction and then we carried on along our circular route, but thankfully we were mostly going down hill by now. We were singing every song known to man which incorporated any wet and rainy lyrics and we stopped every so often to feast on the sweetest, ripest and discovered too late, worm infested wild mangoes which we collected from the ground under the trees.
The next day after watching a toucan hopping about in the tree canopy above our tent, we set off for the bus back to Santa Marta. We were fed up of the rain and whilst pretty, there wasn’t enough in Minka to keep even us three sloths occupied and certainly not enough rum.
Amazingly we were early enough to keep on moving and we caught an onward bus to Cartagena. Me and Lio hugged a hasty goodbye with Emy as we were deposited next to a supermarket on the road into Barranquilla and Emy disappeared into the afternoon sun all by herself towards Cartagena.
As per our usual pattern, we were not going to decide on anything until we had eaten, but we finally found our way to our hostel – The Meeting Point, Barranquilla. It was probably the only one in Barranquilla but it was run by a lovely family and had long term guests there who were working in the area. Lio and I decided to head off the next day for a very unusual tourist attraction in the port area. A wide river runs out into the sea from the city and in this down-trodden barrio it is flanked by some very rustic looking fish and seafood restaurants. We had lunch first at one of these overhanging the water and then went to find the little train that we had been told about.
Train is probably too grand a word for a platform driven by a lawnmower engine. Running along metal tracks embedded into the side of the road we slowly chugged along, following the riverbank. Soon we came to the sea, but strangely the track continued, along a barrier of piled up rocks between the river and the open ocean.
It felt very weird to have open sea on our left and the wide river mouth on our right as we trundled along the narrow strip of land on the train. We had stopped to pick up passengers at various points along the tracks and we soon had a full load. A couple of times the train broke down but the very fed up driver soon got it going again with a couple of whacks of a huge hammer. At the end of the line the driver indicated that we had an hour or so to walk to the very end of the point to the lighthouse if we so wished. The narrow pile of rocks which was lined with bleached wooden ramshackle huts turned out to the be the final resting place of thousands upon thousands of shoes and flipflops and plastic which had been washed up by the sea.
The shacks were basic resting and sleeping places of the fisherman who worked off the rocks. We spotted a few of them sat on the rocks and flying kites in the wind. Originally I believed them to be lazily idling their time away with the kites, but then we stopped and spoke to one of them. It turned out that they were kite fishing. They would sit on their rocks day and night flying their kites high as dots in the sky, whilst trailing off the kites’ string were long lines with hooks and baits which dangled far below in the water. Skilfully manipulating the kites the men dipped and played the lines and caught their fish which they would take to market the next day. Lio had a go, sitting on the rocks and flying the kite whilst the fisherman proudly showed off his catch so far to us.
When it was time to head back to the land the train broke down more and more frequently, taking more than twice the time that it should have and then it finally deposited us back at the port in the dark. Not too worried, despite our hostel owners warning to be out of this poor barrio before dark, we walked out of the area to the main road with the other passengers from the train. At the main road we all separated but despite waiting for about half an hour we were unable to flag down any cabs.
Lio and I decided to split our efforts and we stood either side of the busy road. And then it happened. A skinny, dirty little man approached me. Taking hold of the strap of my shoulder bag he quietly and politely asked me in Spanish to give him my bag. I obviously refused and told him where to go. He rolled up his filthy t- shirt to show me what looked like a knife stuck in the waistband of his trousers and then grabbed me and shook me while shouting now to give him my bag. And as I angrily screamed back at him and I told him to fuck off my mind was computing the fact that he had a knife. I thought that if he ordered me a third time to give him my bag the sensible thing would be to hand it over but he didn’t get a chance. Lio had been alerted by my yells and came powering over the road, yelling like a mad thing and with arms waving like windmills and basically calling the man every name under the sun in Spanish, French and English. Lio does security work and is an expert at martial arts. You only had to read his body language as he launched himself over the road to know that this was a man who would not be afraid to attack – and the would be robber turned and ran down an alleyway. At that point an empty cab approached and scared that it too would drive past I jumped into the road forcing it to stop. I actually shut me eyes as it skidded and wondered fleetingly if I had escaped a knifing to be squashed flat by a cab.
However it did stop and we jumped in and collapsed onto the backseat laughing with relief at our lucky escape. Well, after all, I had wanted adventure and this one had ended well. But we decided to head south for Cartagena the next day.