11 October 2012

Dear Brad and Lindsay

Thank you for making the walk back down (well, first up then down) the hill from La Victoria to Minca as painless as it could possibly be. It was a pleasure to spend what miraculously seemed like too little time with you.

Mickey, regaling us with one of his many tales
We hope you guys found Mickey, the owner of the finca, as fascinating as we did. Imagine having the courage to attempt to take back your family's coffee estate from armed insurgents and actually managing to do it, or successfully negotiating with paramilitary assassins for your mother's life with nothing but your wits! Meeting people like him is one of the main reasons I decided to trade in my former life for this one.  And even if he never gets his spring water in biodegradable, pyramid-shaped bottles project, or his free-range egg project, or his fresh fruit project, or any of those other money-making schemes of his off the ground, even if, in the end, he is nothing other than the owner of a 120 year old coffee plantation, the only water pressure driven one in all of Colombia, he will still be one of the most interesting people I've ever met.

I apologize if I forgot to ask what you thought of Minca, or of Colombia so far in your travels. (We were kind of jumping around from topic to topic a lot.) Although, you may not really have an opinion yet of the tiny village nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains you'll be spending the next few days in, or of Colombia at all for that matter, since you're just beginning your year long, South American adventure.  I wish we'd met a little later on in your travels. You could have swapped more hostel stories with my traveling companions. Not with me, though. Casa Loma is the first hostel I've ever stayed in. It's not that I've done all my traveling first class; I've just done very little traveling at all before getting on our boat.

Us on the balcony of our Presidential Suite
Hostels are...interesting. At least this one was. I was especially enamored of the two block straight-up-a hill, hairpin turned walk to ours. And that shared bathroom just off the common area surrounded by a distant relative to walls with a prohibition on flushing toilet paper concept.  Huh. Our Presidential Suite was like nowhere I've ever lodged. The mosquito netting did a good job of keeping out the cigarette lighter sized bugs, that were, earlier in the evening clinging to the underside of the floor boards adjacent to our room and the view... How romantic to see far off into the distance, down the mountain, the all night lights of Santa Marta twinkling with such brillance through the cracks in the door.

I hear some hostels have really good food. Has that been your experience by and large? I wish I'd remembered to ask you. Casa Loma's, I'm assured by my traveling companions, has lots of room for improvement. Fortunately, Pizzas Chiqui makes some of the best pizza we've had in many a mile and I've stumbled on an unforeseen benefit to traveling with other people. Jane became pizza buddies with Arjan over a Hawaiina pizza and Maia and I went in together on your basic cheese and sausage model. I try to like "compote" pizza, as Maia refers to it, for Jane's sake, but it's a happy day if I don't have to.

Santa Marta de Sierra Nevada mountains
Spending time in Colorado, you must both appreciate the mountains here. I'm kind of nature deaf, myself, but Arjan had mentioned wanting to do some mountaineering while he was here (not that I really know what that is). Did you guys get to chat about that at all when you were walking together? I know you were discussing skiing strategies with Maia. Jane loves mountains, though not interacting in any way with cold ones; I'm still a city boy from a flat city. I'm not fond of going downhill fast figuratively, much less literally. I do my coming alive while sitting or standing still on level surfaces, in museums, restaurants and the like.

You missed out on a unique brownie with ice cream experience by not coming with us to the Tienda Cafe de Minca when we made it back to town. Jane and Maia ordered the brownie; Arjan and I each had tastes of our spouse's and none of us could identify the flavor of the ice cream. It wasn't bad, just unidentifiable. That had never happened to any of us in our collective 170 years of ice cream eating. But then, that's the point of traveling, isn't it?

Of course, you came up in the conversation, since you weren't there. Maia said she didn't envy you because you're still at that age when you'll have to decide between making for yourselves lives that you can't wait to live every day and lives that you can't wait to retire from. She's got a point. We've already made our decision. Jane and I, we could stop cruising at some point, stop traveling, and go back to work. If we had careers to go back to that really fed us, we'd consider it. But nothing either of us can imagine will bring us as much pleasure to look back on as the stories we're now collecting of the unimaginably beautiful places we will have been and the indescribably interesting people we'll have met.  All because we chose to be at a right place at a right time.

Jaimie, (r) our tour guide and Lindsay
That's the thing about leading an interesting life, I think. People who make up their lives as they go along, building it around what brings them joy, people who, like Mickey says, see life as an adventure, become interesting. They have stories to tell. Speaking of which, Brad I really enjoyed hearing about your travels through Southeast Asia. I'm sure we'll be a lot more prepared when we get to the beach towns in Thailand because of your description of them. And 1492, the book, is on my reading list. Thanks for that.

They say (and when I say "they say" I really mean I thought this up just now), the true measure of a successful life is being able to think back on it and realizing that you'd make the same decision again. Only next time you'd have a blog so that people you met on a coffee tour could keep up with you.


  1. I got lost with the pizza but hey you seem to have fun, was this written after bitting on weird leaves? Or those brownies? Which i could bite on life with you!

    1. Oops, my bad. You know the old joke, "The food here is awful and the portions are so small." Lunch at Casa Loma was a snack-sized quesadilla and by 4 p.m. we knew we'd never make it another four hours until they served dinner. So we hiked back down the steep hill to a place in the center of Minca called Pizzas Chiqui. Lucky that we did, too because dinner was no bigger than lunch. We would have starved.