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Digital Nomad Life Month 79

Month Seventy-Nine was spent entirely in Colombia, traveling in the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast, and Medellin.

We started the month in Taganga where we had one more day hanging out by the beach and the pool before catching a taxi to Minca on Christmas Eve. In Minca, I did yoga daily, we hiked to coffee farms, swam in the river, and watched sunsets from our hostel bar – and got eaten alive by sand flies.

From Minca we spent a short couple of days in hippie Palomino before spending a long day on buses back to Cartagena to spend New Year’s Eve.

After a few days in Cartagena, we headed to Isla Grande on the Rosario Islands for three nights which turned out to be quite the (unwanted) adventure, then it was back to Cartagena for a few hours before our evening flight to Medellin.

Cartagena street

We spent a night by the airport because we flew in late then took a taxi into Medellin the next day. El Poblano in Medellin was our base for the next six nights and we spent our time there exploring the area as well as the city center and Comuna 13, enjoying the lack of humidity, and eating all the international food.

From Medellin, we flew to the jungly Pacific Coast for five days of offbeat Colombia travel, basing ourselves at a beach hostel on Playa Almejal in El Valle, then we flew back to Medellin where we spent the rest of the month just relaxing and eating.

Now onto the stats!

Playa Blanca Utria National Park

Countries Visited: Colombia

Places Visited:

  • Colombia: Taganga, Minca, Palomino, Cartagena, Isla Grande, Medellin, El Valle

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Cartagena, Utria National Park

Islands Visited: Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands, Playa Blanca in Utria National Park

Best Meals: All the breakfasts at Casa Loma – they were brunch in Melbourne level good!; the incredible wood-fired pizza at Cafe Zorba in Medellin; Sushi from Yacky Chan in Medellin; Creme brulee from Carmen in Medellin; coconut ice cream from a little shop in El Valle; and Mushroom bao from Bao Bei in Medellin.

El Poblano Restaurants

Worst Meals: Sushi and dumplings from Kung Food in Medellin – it looked like such a cool spot but the food was inedible.

Best Craft Beer: Nothing incredible this month (Colombia’s beer scene isn’t the best), but I did manage to find a couple of sours that were nice at a craft beer bar in Cartagena – Sangre De Marimonda by Tresquinces, and Chente by Antaño.

Hikes/Walks:

  • La Candelaria Finca from Minca, Colombia – 3.5 miles out and back
  • La Victoria Coffee Finca to Minca, Colombia – 4 miles one way
  • Secreto Hotel to Playa Libre on Isla Grande, Colombia – 3 miles out and back
  • Jungle Hike from Playa Almejal in El Valle, Colombia – 5 miles out and back

Watching: Insecure (I only just discovered this addictive show!), This is Us (it’s baaaack), Don’t Look Up

Reading: I read five books this month and the best were Brown Boy Nowhere by Sheeryl Lim, The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy, and The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson.

Park in Medellin

New Posts:

I published this detailed guide and itinerary for 7 days traveling in Maui on a budget.

Highlights

Hanging Out at Casa Loma in Minca

I first stayed at Casa Loma in Minca back in 2013 and it was one of my highlights of South America. I knew I wanted to return on this trip so I booked us in for four nights over Christmas. The hostel was just as good as I remembered it, better in fact, because now there is also a restaurant and sunset bar.

Minca sunset

We did a couple of hikes and a tour of a coffee farm during our time in Minca, but we also spent a lot of time at Casa Loma, reading in hammocks, watching the sunset with a beer, eating at the restaurant (the breakfasts are sooo good here!), snuggling with the four gorgeous hostel kitties, and I even did yoga every morning, looking out over the jungled forest.

It is such a beautiful spot and I highly recommend staying here if you are traveling to Minca.

Tubing in Palomino

The thing to do in Palomino is to go tubing down the river so that is what Toby and I did during our one full day there. We paid for a company to drop us off up the river by motorbike, then we floated to the ocean for over an hour with a guide.

It was fun to practice our Spanish, float on a gentle river surrounded by mountains, and to just relax.

Palomino Beach

A Low Key New Year in Cartagena

Four days just wasn’t enough time in Cartagena for me so after our trip further along the coast, we spent another three nights in Cartagena over the New Year. We had already seen the sights on our first trip so we just spent this time wandering around the old city and Getsemani – my favorite thing to do in Cartagena.

Street in Cartagena

We moved to the Getsemani area after staying in the old city on our first visit, and it was great to be in this part of town for New Year’s Eve. We walked around the old city just after sunset and had dinner there, then hit up a craft beer bar with live music in Getsemani before going to the countdown in the main square, where we saw multiple fireworks displays and enjoyed the electric atmosphere.

It was definitely a fun place to be to ring in the New Year!

Getsemani art

Exploring Lively Comuna 13 in Medellin

Comuna 13 is a neighborhood in Medellin that was one of the most dangerous places in the world in the 80s and 90s during the reign of the drug lords. Now it is a beautiful and lively place full of street art and galleries, street food and street bars, street performers, outdoor escalators, and more.

Street art in Comuna 13

We did an English-speaking Comuna 13 tour with a local guide through Paisa Tours and loved it! Highlights were learning the history of many of the murals, checking out some galleries, having a butterfly land on me and hang out for a couple of minutes, having a craft beer at a little bar with a view, going on a crazy outdoor slide, and just soaking up the festival atmosphere.

If you only do one tour or attraction in Medellin, do a Comuna 13 tour!

View from Comuna 13

Slowing Down in Medellin

I have really enjoyed just living a regular life in Medellin. We did a couple of touristy things like taking the metrocable to Parque Arvi, exploring the city center, and touring Comuna 13, but mostly we have just been hanging out in beautiful and green El Poblano, eating at the different international restaurants, watching Netflix, practicing my Spanish, cooking, and working – it sounds boring but it has been just what I needed after feeling burnt out and a bit depressed during my first month in Colombia.

El Poblano in Medellin

It is so important to have downtime when you are traveling long-term, especially if you don’t have a base like Toby and me. Sometimes I forget this.

Offbeat Travel on the Pacific Coast

I have condensed this down to cover all the highlights of our five days on the Pacific Coast to keep it short although I could have easily separated these as different highlights. The Pacific Coast is just amazing!

El Valle waterfall

We loved our time at Playa Almejal in El Valle – the incredible waterfalls, the massive flocks of pelicans we always saw flying overhead, hiking in the jungle and seeing poison dart frogs, the rugged black sand beaches, Playa Blanca in Utria National Park, the lack of tourism here, the coconut icecreams we walked all the way into town and back for, the insane sunsets, and the people we met – both locals and other travelers. 

Despite getting sick of eating fish for almost every meal, and the dampness of all our bedding and clothes from the humidity, I loved our time visiting this offbeat part of Colombia and I’m so happy we went despite the flights being a bit pricy. So worth it!

Beach sunset

A Kitty Friend in El Valle

You all know how I love kitties and befriend them on my travels – well, as soon as we arrived at the Humpback Turtle hostel in Playa Almejal where we were staying, a cute kitty instantly befriended us and hung out with us for the five days we were there.

El Valle kitty Kitty love

She was such a love cat, and loved cuddling and sleeping with us in our hut most nights. We gave her fish and chicken, she gave us lots of love – a pretty good exchange if you ask me.

Rescuing a Baby Squirrel

One of the highlights of my life, I rescued a baby squirrel that had fallen out of a tree in Medellin this month. I was walking through the park near our hostel and I saw this tiny squirrel on its stomach on the ground with its eyes closed.

Baby squirrel

At first, I thought it was dead, but then I saw it was breathing. I decided to pick it up and take it to our hostel to see if they could call animal rescue. The cute little guy cuddled up to my chest on the way back, probably in shock, then the hostel owner and I wrapped him up and fed him some milk back at the hostel.

Animal Rescue was called and picked him up that evening. They examined him and said he just had a broken tail so he will probably be OK and will be able to be released in a couple of weeks!

Seeing My Cousin in Medellin

One of my highlights for Medellin is getting to catch up with my cousin Zane twice after not seeing him for eight years. Zane has been studying Spanish in Medellin and I feel really lucky our paths crossed and we could reconnect after so long.

Me and Zane

Lowlights

Eaten Alive By Sand Flies in Minca

My God, the sandflies were bad in Minca. We did a hike to a coffee and chocolate plantation through the jungle on our first day in Minca without knowing about the sandflies so we came back from that covered in bites. I had many a sleepless night when I was so itchy that I could barely stand it.

The weird thing is that when I first visited Minca 9 years ago, I don’t remember any sandflies at all so I don’t know why they are such an issue now.

Jungle views in Medellin

Crazy Crowds Over Christmas and New Year

It was so busy on the Caribbean Coast over Christmas and New Year that we ended up booking our accommodations for two straight weeks – something I don’t like to do because we like to be more spontaneous with our travels, but necessary when everything was getting booked out.

Prices were high, we had to book into dorms in numerous places because that is all they had, and there were a lot of international and Colombian tourists around. I don’t love crowds so it wasn’t ideal and I couldn’t wait for the festive period to end.

Missing Out on Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas and it just doesn’t feel the same when we are on the road. I watched Christmas movies in the lead-up and on Christmas Day but I just couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit. Hopefully, we can spend it with my family in New Zealand this year.

I want to bake Christmas cookies, eat Christmassy food, have a Christmas tree, be with loved ones – all the good Christmassy stuff.

The Travel Day From Hell to the Rosario Islands

What was meant to be a one-hour boat trip from Cartagena to Isla Grande in the Rosario Islands turned out to be a crazy 8-hour travel day. We were waiting for our boat for about 2 hours before they told us it wasn’t coming (apparently it was broken down but I think they overbooked it), then we had to wait another couple of hours for a bus that took us to the super-crowded Playa Blanca on Isla Baru.

Playa Blanca Baru

Once there, we had to walk 15 minutes in the hot sun with our bags from the bus to the beach where they made us wait and have lunch before catching a small boat. Within 5 minutes we had run out of gas so we had to go back to the beach to get more, then we were on our way again.

Once we got to the island, we were told that they couldn’t take us to our hostel because the dock there is too small so we had to walk another 15 minutes through the jungle with no signs to find it. Phew – what a comedy of errors!

Underwhelmed By Isla Grande

Unfortunately, our day didn’t get much better after our unexpectantly long journey to Isla Grande. We had booked a dorm because the privates were full and our “room” turned out to be a fully open landing at the top of the stairs, outside an 8-person dorm, and we all had to share one bathroom. Not ideal.

Playa Libre on Isla Grande

Also, the island turned out to only have a few nice beaches, and all of them except maybe two were private so you either weren’t allowed in if it was too busy, or you had to pay lots of money on chair rentals and food to enjoy it. The whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth and I didn’t think the island was worth visiting in the end.

Feeling Sickly

I have had two colds this month which is unusual for me because I don’t usually get sick very often. Luckily they didn’t get really bad (and weren’t COVID – I tested negative) but I did feel under the weather and lacking energy for around 6 days this past month.

River park in El Poblano

Flight Delay and Turbulence

Our whole experience flying back from Bahia Solano to Medellin was very frustrating. Firstly we had over an hour delay in a hot and stuffy tiny airport with no information about when our flight was actually arriving, then we had a fair bit of turbulence during our flight in a small plane on the way back. I am glad I won’t be flying anywhere for at least the next three weeks.

My Face is Starting To Look My Age and I Hate It 

I wouldn’t usually say I am a vain person but now that I have started to see more prominent lines on my face… things have changed. In the past month I have brought anti-aging face wash and serum, have started wearing more makeup, and have been fretting about looking old. I didn’t think that looking older would have such an effect on me, but here we are. 

Taganga Views

I’ve also been trying to lose the weight I gained traveling in Greece and working events last summer and I am not where I want to be with that either.

Spending

A lot of these costs are my half with Toby paying the other half. I also don’t include international flights in my recaps.

Total: USD$1738

Not as low as I had hoped considering we are traveling in Colombia, but still not too bad. I imagine this will look pretty similar next month too as we will be spending the majority of the month in Colombia.

Accommodation $507

My 31 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of one night in Taganga in a private room at a hostel, four nights in a dorm room of a hostel in Minca, two nights in a dorm room of a hostel in Palomino, three nights in a private room at a hostel in Cartagena, three nights in a dorm room at a hostel on Isla Grande, one night in a private room at a hotel in Rionegro, five nights in a private hut at a hostel in El Valle, and thirteen nights in a private room at a hostel in Medellin.

Food and Drink $540

Not too bad. I have been splurging big time here in Medellin on international restaurants so this has definitely pushed my spending up.

Clothing $0

El Valle street

Transport $273

  • Taxi to Minca from Taganga $7.50
  • Mototaxi from Minca to La Victoria Coffee Farm $5
  • Buses from Minca to Palomino $7
  • Buses from Palomino to Cartagena $18
  • Boat/Bus from Cartagena to Isla Grande $18
  • Boat/Bus from Isla Grande to Cartagena $20
  • Taxi from Cartagena to Airport $2
  • Flight from Cartagena to Medellin $49
  • Taxi from Airport to hotel $1.50
  • Taxi to Medellin from Rionegro $9
  • Metro in Medellin $10
  • Flight from Medellin to Bahia Solano $45
  • Taxi to and from city airport in Medellin $2
  • Flight from Bahia Solano to Medellin $69
  • Collectivo from Bahia Solano to El Valle and back $7.50
  • Tuktuks in El Valle $2.50

Activities $101.50

  • Four Yoga classes in Minca $20
  • Tour of La Victoria Coffee Farm in Minca $5
  • River tubing in Palomino $14
  • Comuna 13 Tour with Tip in Medellin $12.50
  • El Tigre Tour in El Valle $25
  • Playa Blanca Tour in El Valle $25

Metrocable views in Medellin

Other $279.50

  • Hulu $7.50
  • Phone plan $35
  • Toiletries $54
  • One Month Travel Insurance $42
  • Laundry $15
  • Travel Umbrella $15
  • Notebook $1.50
  • Charity $14
  • Rosario Islands Entry Tax $5
  • Choco Entry Tax $7.50
  • Six months of Babbel Language App $45
  • COVID Test $38

Website Costs $12

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $12

Van/RV Costs $25

  • Van Insurance $25

Playa Almejal Sunset

What’s in Store for Next Month

We will be spending a couple more days here in Medellin then will be heading to the resort town of Guatape for a couple of nights before heading south to explore the mountains and coffee region of Colombia!

I don’t have an itinerary mapped out but I know I want to spend some time in the pretty mountain town of Jardin, Filandia and Salento in the coffee region, and maybe Termales del Ruiz or another hot spring resort for a couple of nights.

After exploring the mountains, we will be visiting friends in Bogota and maybe doing a day trip to the Salt Cathedral because I missed it last time, then we will be flying to what will possibly be our last stop in Colombia: The Amazon!

We are planning to fly down to Leticia and will then catch the public ferry to Puerto Narino where we hope to base ourselves and do day tours to different spots in the Amazon. 

Then after that, we don’t know. We want to be in Mexico around mid-March so either we head there early or we add another country into the mix for a month. Current options on the table include Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. It depends on the COVID situation, flight prices, and what we are feeling so we shall see!

To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here

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