Casa Elemento and being a badass in the jungle

Nov 22, 2014

Santa Marta is a small little town with not a whole lot happening. There’s an interesting black-market area where you can buy cheap booze and electronics and a very old church (supposedly the oldest in South America) but overall it’s just a typical medium sized Colombian city. That being said, it is a nice base for adventures elsewhere, specifically the coolest place in the jungle, Casa Elemento.

Above: A view of the clouds blanketing the hills. Where the couds begin to break a little, you can see the Carribean.

Casa Elemento is in the Sierra Nevada mountain range about 1.5 - 2 hours from Santa Marta. It’s a hostel of sorts perched high in the mountains and surrounded by a 100 hectare (~200 acre) coffee farm in the middle of the jungle. I say it’s a “hostel of sorts” because it’s more than just a place to cook and crash, it’s a destination all by itself. The views, the waterfalls, the hikes, and the relaxation you find at Casa Elemento are unique to the region. To top it off, the staff is awesome and a ton of fun to hang out and chat with.

The place is run by four friends Andrew, Jack, Ed and Jean who like to build things, hang-out, camp, play in the woods, and take guests along for the ride. They are like the lost boys (no offense Jean) from Peter Pan; never growing up and always having fun. Staying at Casa Elemento makes you want to buy a place in the jungle and start building awesome tree forts like back when you were ten.

So what is there to do at Casa Elemento? Lots… or nothing at all; whichever you prefer. Take a hike through the jungle, visit the coffee farm, build a fire, sleep in the HUGE hammock (the worlds largest) or just hang out and have a few beers. The real adventuresome types looking for a challenge will surely be at home as they attempt to acquire jungle points. What are jungle points? Put simply, a measure of your badass’ness in the jungle. Reach level five and you will join the ranks of some serious jungle badasses who can live off the jungle for days, start fire with wet wood and traverse any jungle waterfall with ease. You’ll even get your name on a plaque, that’s how serious they are about these jungle levels.

Accommodations at Casa Elemento are quite good. Dorms with comfy beds along with private rooms and plenty of hammock space make for some excellent nights of slumber. Showers are cold (no hot water yet) but the showers and bathrooms are good. The dedicated shower/toilet area is actually pretty cool because one wall is open to the jungle. You have privacy of course but your view is unobstructed allowing you to look out over the mountains and into the valleys in the distance. It probably sounds a little weird and I'll admit that at first you feel a little exposed but that quickly fades and it's actually quite enjoyable.

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Elissa to the rescue! Andrew tending the earth oven. The fruits of our labor, dinner.

As for food, breakfast, lunch and dinner are all provided at very reasonable prices. If you're a backpacker who wants to prepare their own meals to save money you might be a little dissapointed; that is, until you try some of the delicious food prepared by the gang. If you're lucky, Andrew will fire up the Earth Oven and you will be in for a real treat. The earth oven is a clay oven dug out of the hillside and used to prepare all sorts of dishes. You basically start a fire in the oven and tend it until you have a stable temprature and a good bed of coals. Once the heat is right, the coals move to the side and dinner moves in taking in all the smokey flavors of the wood. What comes out is nothing short of amazing. We were fortunate enough to have a turkey and a pork roast from the earth oven and let me say that both were outstanding. Forget your grills and smokers people, we all need earth ovens.  

Above: The whole crew riding up the mountain with Pablo at the helm. Beers in hand of course. 

If I were to stay at Casa Elemento again (which I will someday), I’d probably bring a tent. Keep in mind, however, that it’s a rainforest in the mountains so nights get cool and it does rain pretty regularly. Bring a raincoat, a sweatshirt and don some “wellies” to fight the elements. Not only will you be sporting the newest in “finca fashion” you’ll also be comfy and dry.

Above: The jeep that took us up in style. This was our 2nd tree which had to be hacked to pieces with machetes.

How do you get to this home of awesomeness in the jungle? Well, you have some options. You can hike up which takes about 2 hours from Minca (catch a bus or taxi here from Santa Marta) or from Minca you can catch a moto. A moto is simply a dude with a dirt-bike/moped who will drive you up the mountain no matter what conditions the roads are in. If you want to travel in true style though, get in touch with the crew at Casa Elemento and ask them to arrange a pick-up in a Jeep. Get some beers and a few of your closest mates and enjoy the wild ride. We were lucky enough to go up during a nasty little storm and had to fight our way through three downed trees and one landslide. It was awesome! 

Above: Enjoying the sunset and views below from the worlds largest hammock.

So if you like hanging out in a cloud/rain forest in the mountains, partaking in debauchery of all sorts, hiking, climbing, exploring and waking up to some of the best damn coffee in the world, then you need to get to Casa Elemento. Just bring some snacks and a sense of adventure.

Category: Accommodations

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