is a reasonable sized city in the central east of the country – about 500,000 people. It was supposed to be nice and it's known for its coffee. Enough said – sold. The trip there was another trip on another bus, and on arrival the hostel – once again – didn't have our booking. Luckily, they were excellent and moved us to one of their sister hostels which ended up being a great place to stay. The city itself was built in the mountains, so the streets had some serious incline to them. It was a pretty modern place with some nice touches – one day, I wouldn't mind living in a place where the public transport is cable cars.
But we were here to see some coffee, so we arranged a trip to Hacienda Venecia
. The price was pretty good, and included pickup from the hostel in a truly uncomfortable stripped out Jeep. Still, we'd travelled in worse, so it would do. Down the long hill from Manizales, past any number of Tour de France wannabes, then up a rough road to the plantation.
Beautiful, simply beautiful. An impeccable plantation house was fronted by well maintained
lawns, complete with a pool. From there you looked down on the coffee – acres and acres of green plants with the imposing Andes foothills as a backdrop. We started with a coffee.
Then one more for good luck..
And the coffee was good, real good.
From there we had a quick course in coffee roasting and how to identify good beans. A massive box of stenches, from sugar, to cinnamon, to burnt tyres, against which the coffee is compared. A quick lesson about the plantation (among other places this plantation exports their coffee to Japan for use in those excellent cans you get from vending machines). Then straight on to how to find the dunny coz you drank too much coffee just before. Immediately after, straight to gumboots and a walk of the plantation itself. Surprises for me: the raw coffee fruit actually tastes quite good, and mounds of rotting coffee smell really bad. Well, the last was not so much a surprise as unexpected.
We had a chance to have a look around the original plantation owners house. Now the caretaker's residence (which I must say pleased my anti-imperialist bones), it
was surrounded by lush gardens, complete with a a koi pond and a strategically placed gobbling turkey (stupidest bird in the world, the turkey). The house itself was immaculate. High set, with massive verandahs all around. At least 8 bedrooms, the hammocks hanging from the verandahs afforded a fantastic view across the valley. It would have been the perfect spot to while away an afternoon watching your slaves and indentrued indigenous labour pick your coffee beans.
You could also stay in the rooms in the house, and the rooms were lovely. Old world ambience with all the modern conveniences. Of particular interest to me was the use of lantana. Here, in its native habitat, it was a lovely plant. Used to great effect its verdant green foliage contrasted nicely with the red of the bamboo balustrades, and the bright orange flowers added that touch of tropical colour. I still checked to make sure I had so seeds or plant material on my shoes, and had the urge to get the glyphosate out.
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