Published: April 10th 2012April 10th 2012
Salento was next up after Medellin and with it being Easter a lot of Colombians were making their way to the same place as us which made for some traffic troubles. The weather had also took a turn for the worse and there was a massive storm going on with torrential rain, we arrived in Salento 9hrs after leaving Medellin due to a change in Armenia and also the traffic coming into Salento. After grabbing our bags myself and Jack asked the driver where the taxis are and his response was there are none and laughed so we had to navigate ourselves around although it’s not a big town. We did find the hostel but the owner said they were full and they had moved us to another called Plantation House so we made our way there....Daniella and Alex who we arranged to meet in Salento had already arrived and had checked into the room so we dumped our bags and took a walk around...the whole town was manic due to the holidays and there were people everywhere. We then looked into what Coffee Tours we could go on as we were in the Zona Cafetera...we arranged for one the next
day of the Coffee Farm nearest to our hostel and that is also owned by the owner of the hostel Tim. He explained that due to the holidays the normal tour wasn’t on but he could give us the explanation from start to finish about growing coffee then we could go to the farm and a guy can do the rest of the tour in Spanish.
We all got up early the next day (bit of a struggle for the girls) and met Tim at 8:30am. He took us and the others to his house nearby to explain how coffee has roughly 24 different procedures to go through before it arrives in our cup. It was interesting to actually see how much work goes into making coffee and also how it works in Colombia. We found out that Colombia is the 3rd
biggest coffee producer in the world behind Brazil (No1) and also surprisingly Vietnam (No2). The strange thing here is that the quality of coffee doesn’t really define how much money people can sell the beans for it’s the size! Meaning Colombian coffee is generally mixed. There are 2 types of coffee ‘Arabica’ which is supposed to be
the better tasting coffee but has less caffeine (all coffee in Colombia is Arabica) and ‘Robusta’ which obviously has the opposite, more caffeine and a worse taste. In the Coffee Farm we went to called ‘Don Eduardo’ Tim explained that they grow Traditional and also Modern Coffee in Colombia although not many grow the Traditional as it has less financial gain although tasting better. Traditional Coffee needs shade and to be grown in the right climate, although tasting nicer this way cannot produce the amount of beans the new Modern Coffee plants can which can be grown in the sun. When we got to the farm Freddy eventually turned up and seemed in a bit of a fluster not sure if Tim had got him out of bed for it as he was dripping with sweat and had brought along his son too...anyway he began explaining and showing (good job for the showing as I didn’t have a clue what he was saying) what
I believe was a similar explanation that Tim had given earlier. Freddy then showed us how the Coffee Beans are roasted then grinded before we got a chance to taste some of it...very nice it must
be said! We then all took a walk around the farm and found some pineapples growing as well as some blackberries amongst all the coffee plants. We made our way back to the hostel via the muddy path we had taken on the way down...most of us had wellies but Alex and Daniella didn’t with Alex struggling the most with flip-flops on (Thongs as the Ozzies call them) much to everyone’s amusement due to her getting stuck in the mud for a while. With us all buzzing off the coffee we took a walk to the main Plaza after having a shower and getting into some clean clothes, we took a walk up a load of steps where a lot of others were heading and had a good view over Salento before heading down and topping up the caffeine in a coffee shop on the main street. On return to the hostel we booked in for a trip to the Cabonera for the next day.
The majority of people coming to Salento travel here so they can go to the Valle del Cocora, it is part of a National Park and home to the National Tree Ceroxylon quindiuense
(Quindo wax palm) The Tallest Palm Tree in the World as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna that is protected under the national park status. The place we went to is less known and the reason for that is the locals want to keep it that way...in Valle del Cocora you will see hundreds of wax palms but in Cabonera you will see thousands and it is a striking site. We were told that they are different in their own way but Cabonera wins hands down. The trips are small and through the hostel we organised the tour for the 4 of us (6 is the limit), we got picked up early by our guide Omar who is from Salento and has perfect English and as we were to find out later on a strong connection to the Cabonera area. We made our way up into the Andes in Omar’s jeep (tight squeeze) and after 2 hours of driving on a dirt track we arrived. The altitude was clear to everyone minutes or more like seconds into walking with everyone instantly out of breath. Omar emphasised that we were lucky to be where we were as they
only take a limited amount of people around the area...the tour has only been going around 4 years due to the FARC drug cartel influence in the area where apparently 550 of them used to guard. There are no set paths or tracks and at times we were climbing over trees and weaving in and out of fallen objects whilst tackling the mud but it was all a great experience as you know the place you are in is unique and not a massive tourist draw. Omar told us to wait at a higher point while we went and stood by one of the palms...it was incredible to see how tiny he looked (he was quite short anyway) if you didn’t know someone was standing there then you wouldn’t notice, the palm was around 70m high which is ridiculously high to say they aren’t very wide. After taking a little jungle trek through the thousands of palms we stopped off at the only house in the area for some lunch. At the house there was a baby Toucan which was cute...I hadn’t seen one in Central America where I thought I would so I was happy to see one! We
also had some more Colombian Coffee before making our way back to the jeep slowly trying to catch our breath along the way. At the top of the hill where we parked was a small football pitch which was weird, Omar said that once every 2 months they have a game there but it doesn’t last long due to the altitude and also the massive drops either side of the pitch meaning all the balls go quickly ha. On the way back to Salento we stopped at an old school which used to be used by the FARC’s and hasn’t been touched since they left...Omar explained that the government want to pave the road and build Cabonera up as a tourist place but the locals are all standing firm and don’t want it done which I agree with...keeps it real and doesn’t spoil it! He went on to explain that only 3 years ago 3 people were killed on the spot we were standing on and were claimed to be FARC’s as the government give money out for each FARC member killed although they are lead to believe they used homeless people and put them in the FARC uniform...crazy stuff!
It has a strong connection for Omar too as his family used to own the land before the FARC’s took it years ago and he went into a story where they kidnapped and shot members of his family...all very heart wrenching! Crazy to think that all this happened so recent!!
On return to Salento we were advised to stay another night instead of trying to get the night bus as everyone would be trying to get back to Bogota and back to work due to the end of the holidays. We then went to our local restaurant and had a nice meal and shared a bottle of wine before going back to room and playing a game called 21 questions...exciting night...haha!
From small town to mega city....Bogota!
There are more photos below