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Published: February 7th 2020
Me and Gnocchi
The first day we went out exploring Salento when this dog joined us on the walk, and stayed all day with us. A sweet, non-barking, well educated dog. We called him Gnocchi. At the end of the day he met another dog, they swap and we went back to the ranch with the other one. We felt a bit cheated, we thought Gnocchi had a genuine feeling for us.
Salento, the name of this town is the same as the famous holiday town in Puglia; a favourite of Roman citizens. Puglia’s Salento, is an amazing strip of land covered in centenary old olive trees, with sandy shores and crystal clear sea waters; without mentioning the amazing food, but hey this is not about the Italian Salento but the Colombian one, part of the coffee triangle known as the “eje caffetero” a mountain region around 1600mt above sea level, vast green valleys mainly coffee plantations and green pastures ruling the country side.
We decided not to stay in the main town but on an eco farm 3km from the centre to enjoy the country life. The idea was to find something similar to “Brisas del Campo” with a warm family and peace. The place we chose and booked via Airbnb is called Omoki; they weren’t that friendly, the place was as dirty as a proper farm; the stables I mean. The bedroom doorframe was 15mm separated from the wall, in between a cockroach got stuck last year, no one bother to take it out since there. The toilet had a door painted in yellow than got dirty and
they didn’t clean it never, from the day they paint it, the yellow wasn’t visible anymore, I got the colour thanks to my basic archeological skills. The door it’s just to let understand the level of dirt on the toilet, it was extraordinarily fourth world, I can understand that some people are poor and I respect that, but if you are renting out rooms and call your self an Ecofarm, it doesn’t mean that it has to be extremely dirty and unfriendly, as was the lady that was in charge of the place who didn’t have cleaning standards nor any teeth.
So the next morning we requested a refund and moved 100 meters across to a place named “namaste”; an other eco lodge, a family lived there, they had a pregnant pig, called Peppa and a German Shepherd called Sony. We went there to ask about accommodation and the wife Andrea showed Daria the space while the husband Cesar, told me, what I understood was that there was a lot of “aves” in the sky and of course I replied that I knew that there was a lot of birds in the mountains of Colombia, but actually
Foto by Angela, from left: Serjo, Sara, two friends of Sara, Daria and me. At the end of the night.
he was saying that there are a lot of “naves” in this area of Salento, meaning spaceships and he saw some and he got pictures of them too. Hhhhaaaa I like this types of freaks!! We decide to rent the space for the night, not because of the spaceship but because for the same price of Omoki’s dirty derelict we could have an entire casita with 2 bathrooms, kitchen, living room and an extra 2 beds and included a breakfast too. The space was a bit humid but we had a good sleep and a very good breakfast. Also Andrea in the morning made fresh cheese and sold us half kilo wrapped in banana leaf for something like 3£, was so good, the milk came from the cows in front of our windows. I had an extra chat with Cesar about Aliens and spirits while Andrea gave a session of Reiki to Daria for free. The afternoon of the day before we were having a late lunch in the town in a place called “el comedor de luci” sharing a bandeja Paisa (combination plate) with fried trout while we were approached from the other side, at the next table by
At the coffee farm
We join Sergio and Angela for a tour of a coffee farm, we had a walk in the plantation and the son of the owner explained us all process from planting the tree to roasting the coffee. It reminded me of when I was at school and we went of field trips. Flash back!
a couple from Spain/Italy who started chatting with us and than we were approached from the back too, an Italian lady get into the conversation from the table behind. We got on well and after walking around the different miradors (view points), Me and Daria decide to spent the next 2 days in the place where Sergio and Angela (the Spanish/Italian couple) were staying.
So we booked the 31st and the 1st of Jan there and decide to spend NYE with these lovely guys. Interestingly, Angela is from Puglia! But not Salento...
In Salento we were going for nice walks around, there the landscapes are very green, lots of tall trees and it’s famous for a special type of palm that grows at altitude especially in the Cocora valley. Some of the views was looking like the Alps pastures. Nice fresh air and smells of flowers mixed with horse shit, but Daria was happy even with the horse poo, so we were all happy.
Salento isn’t a very turisty place; most tourism is local from Colombia, at least at this time of the year, because Colombians have holidays from the 4th
to the 14th of January and of course a different tourism to the one you find in Cartagena. Here everything is more chilled and the people are not so keen on sell or making money with the tourists.
The first night we arrived we had no dinner and the people of the Omoki ecofarm didn’t offer us any, so they recommended some places (a lady’s house) where we could go and ask for food. We went at 7pm, but the lady told us that dinner was finished and they had nothing for us. In the end we asked to the only place that had lights visible from the unpaved bumpy dirt track where only jeep can go. It happened to be a coffee farm that during the day make coffee tours and explain the whole process of coffee production, in the evening it’s just their house. They welcomed us warmly and offered us a small dinner they could make with their left overs: Sancocho soup but just the broth because all the main consistency was gone at the party the day before, a thin slice of fried beef and some white rice. The food wasn’t amazing but
Daria with Big Flower
Salento and Colombia in general is a very flowery country, many spontaneous and many cultivated by the Colombians, you feel always surrounded by flowers. Daria love flowers, me, I touch plants. Every occasion Marco grabbed a flower for Daria.
they were happy to have some international guests and they told us about their coffee tour business and we chat about this and that, Europe and Colombia. The bill was cheap and they also gave me their last beer for free at 8:30 we were on our way back to the cave, happy of found a meal and some friendly vibes.
For the New Year’s eve we didn’t have big expectations. Me and Daria had a look for a restaurant where to go for dinner but all the places we went we have been told that for the 31st they’ll close at 4pm. We spoke with Angela and Sergio, they confirm that in Salento, restaurants, on NYE close the business at 4/5pm, they have been told that one place was doing dinner for tourist with an European menu or the option was to stay at the hotel because the hotel was a family business and they had in mind of having their NYE dinner there in the common area and cooking in the common kitchen, they will be happy to us to join for a small contribution. We opt for the in house solution. So we went
35kms in 3,5hours
I did it all stand up.
shopping for booze. The idea was to buy a bottle of the traditional Aguardiente, In Colombia this liquor is different from the Spanish Aguardiente that’s a strong alcoholic beverage very similar to the Italian grappa. Instead here it’s a kind of Sambuca, an anis flavoured liquor of low alcoholic percentage, around 24%. As all the types of Aguardiente we found were cheap quality we decided to go for a half bottle of the good vintage Colombian Rum. It was a good choice, it helped us to join the salsa/Cumbia dance floor on the main square of the town where a dj was spinning tunes one after another one. We dance for a couple of hours and then, very responsibly, we all headed back to the hotel to sleep ”felici e contenti”.
Our next destination from Salento was a little tiny place called Jardin 140km away. We had been advised that the journey to Jardin would be a bit arduous despite its proximity; including 2 busses, first to Riosucio (translation: dirty river) then a small chicken bus. The first ride was easy; we arrived to Riosucio within 2 hours to spend in the well named town before getting
Colombian Cows have big ears, it s a special bread. I think is the one in Italy they use it for “Bresaola”
the second bus for 35km through the mountains to arrive in Jardin. We arrived at the bus terminal, me trailhead to the toilet, Daria to luggages, when I got out of the toilet Daria tells me that there’s no more space on the bus, there are no other busses till manana! No way, the bus got full fast and was ready to go. I spoke with the driver, he told me: if you want you can stand up, people will get out on the way... so we got on the bus, we weren’t the only people standing up, there were another bus full of people just standing up in the corridor between seats and wherever was possible to fit a human being, and where the space was small they fit a kid in it. Difficult to believe but this 35km journey lasted 3.5 hours, the bus was going slow as walking on roads where just jeeps could go, imagine a mini bus overcrowded. Cumbia music was playing, the driver was calm and was changing gear every 10 second, was all about 1st and 2nd gear. Me and Daria were close to the door, standing obviously. During the travel, we stopped
This is the strange pepper that taste like a cucumber that we used to make our breakfast in Jardin every morning.
at different farms along the way, people left the bus, others got on; after a bit more than 1 hour Daria found a seat, I did all the journey standing. It was a good workout for my arms, 3.5 hours hanging from the rail trying not to be shaken too much means using your biceps and triceps all the time. It was an epic bus journey we’ll never forget.
We had booked an semi horrible double room with private bathroom in a hostel in town, it smelled of damp and air freshener that had been sprayed to cover the other smell (by the way we enjoyed the stay there) we could cook our dinners, breakfast was included but it was make your own, where they left everything in the kitchen and all the guest could grab what they wanted and make their breakfast. As we like to have a good breakfast before going exploring we would cook a good meal every morning. I asked the receptionist what was the plant that was growing over the gazebo that looked like a big light green pepper and he told us that we could grab them, they were “pimiento de
agua” (water peppers) they are used to be eaten with eggs and we could use them for our breakfast. My adventurous food side was happy to experiment with this new vegetable. The next morning I fried some of this with garlic and chilly flakes then I put three eggs for frying on top, was a good breakfast on the terrace even if we decide that this fruit tastes like cucumbers and we repeat the recipe all the three morning we stay in this hostel showing off our breakfast skills. Daria with the rich fruit salads and me with the special fried eggs.
Most of the guests at the hostel are in their 20s/30s - many American, some German and a small percentage of all the other nations, only a few of the them give importance to food and spend time cooking so obviously they see us as food freaks.
Not just because we are food obsessed but because we were cooking and eating that much in the morning, the other reason was because we have to walk around all the valleys of the area. The first day we went for a long walk to some waterfalls.
Big Country, big tropical leafs
It took a few hours to arrive to a small ranch where we payed a small fee and a guide brought us through a little walk in the jungle to a cave where the waterfall was. We weren’t that impressed by the waterfall but I have to admit that it was a particular type, the water was a strong stream coming from a hole in the ceiling of the cave and going in a little pool, where if you wanted, you could go and wet yourself because the use of word swim is not appropriate for this surrounding, also the water was coming from the mountain and was quite chilly. Nonetheless an old Colombian lady went all the way to the main water jet; a very dangerous thing to do, especially at her age, the stream of water was so powerful that it could kill her. Anyway, even if we weren’t impressed by the waterfall, we really did enjoy the walk till the ranch. From the town we took a tuc tuc that brought us till the start of the trail and during the 30min journey there we saw 5 vultures eating a Locuace (a brown animal that looks like
a huge rat, highly spread in Latin America and eaten in most of the counties from Mexico till Argentina). A bird was flying with the Locuace between the beak and the other vultures were trying to steal from the lucky one got it pulling down to the floor in a messy bunch of black feathers and screams, they just land in front of our tuc tuc for a second and then fly away again with the prey in the beak of another vulture. Great nature scene, at the level of David Attenborough.
Then we started walking the trail, it was nice, amazing green valleys with cows. We stopped walking just to crush some macadamia nuts we bought in Salento and to play a bit with a cow scull. Walking back we decide to not get a tuk tuk and we arrived in the town passing through to banana fields, where we got free banana and aside a lot of jungle flowers, plants and many tropical birds. We have to admit that Colombia is a country of many birds, people also told that the tourism related with birdwatcher is growing massively.
We also spotted the
The sunset over Jardin
The main church has the towers folded in metal sheets that give an odd and fake looks, but apparently it s very traditional and characteristic.
plant Lulu; the fruit we were using to make juices in the morning in Barichara at the beginning we just stopped to have a look to this plant because it has very big and velvety leaves, and only did we later realise that this was the lulu tree with tangy fruits. We arrived at the hostel at dusk, we walked something like 7 hours with just very few stops. Daria was exhausted but the day after she was proud of all the strength we used and of what we achieved.
Jardin it s also famous for their skills on training horses, during the evening the youngsters are all going to the main square to show off the speciality of their horses, the “paso fino” something that at the first looks like dressage but actually they are just a type of pass that the poor horses are trained for. Theoretically the guys should have a huge sombrero type hat because in the traditional way, to show off that your horse is the best doing the “paso fino” during the special horse walking the hat of the owner should stay still and not move at all - this is
what shows the smoothness of the horse’s walk.
We spent just the time of a beer in the square, because it was a must as all the bars around the square put their chairs and table in the middle of the square all painted in bright colours, every bar has a different combination of colours and all people sit drinking their club Colombia beer or other fizzy drinks with their dogs (because it’s important to show off your wealthy status, and in Colombia they do it with pedigree dogs) could enjoy the “paso fino” show. Daria thought it was an animal cruelty making the horses move like that, but nobody else looks bothered by the thing.
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