The 350 miles downwind sail was one we were carefully picking out our weather. This stretch of water along Colombia had caused us problems and ripped sails in 1993 when we were first setting out for Panama and our circumnavigation. Now we know this is one of the windiest areas in the Caribbean and even in the world. So we did our research and involved Chris Parker from a weather service to look ahead. We also wondered about the decision to go to Colombia but found lots of positive writeups from previous cruisers. We headed off from Curacao knowing we could stop at Aruba if need be.
A pod of pilot whales accompanied us that first evening. They played in the waves and around the bow wake similarly to dolphins but much bigger and with a very blunt face. Here I am communing with them.
They must have been good luck for us as we set off at a good pace. We did the first 170 miles in 24 hours sailing past Aruba during the night at 8 knots in flat water. There was a offshore anchorage with about 20 ships all at anchor and lit up like hotels.
Fishing as always underway is part of the entertainment as well as dinner. Caught a great big male Mahi Mahi and we are still eating it.
In the area near Santa Marta we lost the wind entirely for a few hours. We needed a charge anyway as the wind vane had stopped working and the autopilot was doing the job. John would be able to fix it but not underway. We neared the Colombia coast near Santa Marta and the 5 capes. We had hoped to be able to see the 2 snow covered 18,000 foot peaks just inland of us but no luck. We did decide that this would be a great place for us to stop for the night in a bay in Tayrona National Park. No one else here except a few fisherman on shore. We were a bit surprised to find the hills so brown.
The fisherman was out early to put out more pots in his dug out canoe and paddles. He moved the boat very quickly. No lights came on at night in the 3 small huts on the shore.
Next morning we sailed the 12 miles around into Santa Marta. Anchoring is only allowed by special request from Port Authority so we have to go to the Marina. It is a busy cargo port and we have enjoyed watching many ships come in right along side the marina breakwalls.
Maraki in one of the rare times she gets to be pampered with fresh water rinses. We were expecting the weather to change and it did blow up to 45 knots the next few nights. We were happy to be inside the breakwall. This is a brand new marina and very nicely done. They also have just now started using agents to help with the clearing in process. This was one of the worries coming here- how would officialdom treat us. So far as has come smoothly although a bit expensive.
Santa Marta is the second oldest city in South America, started in 1525. Simon Bolivar died here.Its twin sister is Miami Beach. It is a moderate sized city(450,000) and very interesting place. Here we are walking the waterfront beside the marina.
Wonderful fresh fruit stands as well as every other kind of street food available. Can be bought whole or cut up served with a fork and plastic cover. Love this. Everything can be bought or fixed in this city, even baby chicks in crates.
We took a day trip up into the hillside above Santa Marta to a small village called Minca.(Pop. 500). I wish I had a picture of the car taxi that took us plus We made it 2500 feet up in just under an hour on a narrow, potholed dirt road. He dropped off the feedbags all along the way. From here we loaded onto to the back of motorbikes to travel another 40 minutes uphill to Los Pinos for the overview of Santa Marta region. Hugo and his master Vladamir were the only people up here. He said he was the caretaker for a hostel now undergoing renovation. He had his coffee drying as well as his marijuana.
We then sent the motorbikes away and wandered our way down back down to Minca over the next 5 hours. We heard lots of howlers in the mountains. We had hoped to see those snow capped peaks from here but no luck again. We needed to be here first thing in the morning instead of midday.
So the road down was an easy walk(except on the quads) and we saw no one. We took along a picnic lunch and stopped at this coffee picking station.
The plantation was started in 1892 by an Englishman who brought all of his equipment with him from England. It still runs without using any electricity instead running all the machinery and processes using water from the river and springs in the mountainside.
Jaime, a young women who was born and raised on the plantation gave us a great tour. Her english skills were good and were all learned on the internet. Made me ashamed of our Spanish skills.
She told us that the pickers pick usually from October to December but were very late this year. 120 men were employed around to maintain and process. They were paid by the amount of coffee they picked per day. the coffee is sent down from the mountain using water and pipes. Water then moves it into fermentation bins for 24 hours. Then using water power it is husked and sorted. All the grade A beans are dried by dryer for 36 hours(7000 kilos at a time). The husks and rejected beans are composted, left with worms and then sprouted. When they are 30 cm tall they are planted into the ground with mango and avacado trees to give them shade.
We bought some beans to try them at home.
Now it was time to finish our wander back to Minca and catch the last taxi collectivo to town. Minca was a one intersection town.
It was a great day and our legs were sore from all the downhill walking. Off next to Cartagena for a few days.