Next up was Minca, a small jungle town with just enough tourism to support a few nice restaurants, a chocolate shop, and a microbrewery, without sacrificing its quaint, local charm. We stayed in an “Ecohab,” which was an octagonal thatch-roofed hut with mesh walls. Their aim was to immerse us in nature, which they accomplished by surrounding us with birds, trees, and bugs. Playing cards in our room on the first night, I had to dive off the couch to avoid a giant yellow spider that was swinging for my face. I escaped to an anxious night’s sleep.
I awoke the next morning feeling like a survivor, ready to tackle the jungle. I got dressed - an easy chore when you only have one pair of shorts and two t-shirts to choose from - slipped into my only pair of shoes, and was ready for the day. I thought my blisters from Colca Canyon had healed, so it seemed strange that my toes were hurting inside my tired Nikes. I didn’t think much of it, however, until the pain got worse after a couple minutes of walking around our room. When I removed my shoe to investigate, I found a small, unhappy scorpion, fresh out of venom.
It would be fun to write about Geoff sucking the venom out of my toe, a hurried trip to the hospital, and a last minute antidote. In reality, my toe felt tingly for a couple hours while we went on a pleasant hike through coffee plantations and rappelled down a waterfall.
The next day we drove to the nearby Parque Nacional Natural de Tayrona, where the jungle abruptly meets the Caribbean Sea. We made a three day trek of it: day one along a well-worn trail to a popular beach; day two past giant boulders and ancient ruins to an empty beach with waterfront cabanas and hammocks; day three through more dense rainforest to the park’s southern exit. On the second day, after completing the strenuous climb to Pueblito in half the time allotted, Lauren - ever the wordsmith - said we’d “boomed it.” She wasn’t wrong.
Epilogue: 10 days later, while I was relaxing in Bogotá, Geoff was back at work in San Francisco when he fell seriously ill. His temperature reached 103.8˚F, and he was diagnosed with Dengue Fever. Still in the gestation period, Lauren and I spent the next few days nervously awaiting symptoms, which never came. Geoff spent a week and a half in bed and lost 15 pounds.