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Published: November 21st 2008
Gigantic wax palms
The road between Bogotá and Salento was a nightmare - not as a result of unsafe driving, but rather cockroaches and a million trucks on the road. We finally found out why bus drivers always turn the air con up high, this keeps cockroaches out of the bus! We coped by singing La Cucaracha!
Salento is one of the little towns in the Zona Cafeteria, the Colombian coffee zone. There are hundreds of coffee farms in this green, picturesque part of the Occidental Andes. The Andes split up into three ranges in Colombia and this range is the western-most one of the three. This area is ideal for coffee farming as a result of a perfect climate, the correct altitude for coffee and very rich volcanic soil.
We stayed in Plantation House, run by an ex Englishman named Tim with the worst Spanish accent we have ever heard. He is fluent, but he pronounces everything with a very intense British accent. Plantation house is quite a nice place, though. Tim has recently also bought a 15 hectare coffee farm of his own. This is quite large by coffee farm standards. We visited this coffee farm to learn
more about the process of growing coffee. The farm is a beautiful 15 minute walk from the hostel. Tim guided us through his farm, showing us the different types of coffee plants - he grows 3 kinds, all sub-types of arabica. Each coffee plant produces about 1.5 kg of coffee, once the beans have been roasted.
Most coffee farms sell their beans unroasted to a consortium of sorts, which in turn re-sells to the big coffee companies like Nestle. They obviously like to roast their beans themselves, as this gives their products a uniform taste and consistency. LM sampled some of Tim´s coffee which he had roasted himself and LM thinks it is good. Bernhard is still not drinking coffee.
We went on a hike to see the famous wax palms in the Cocora valley. We were a group of 7 guests from Plantation house that set out together. We climbed up through a forest with many streams and over many little bridges. It was a very relaxed hike. Half way, we went to a finca (plant farm) that served us some hot chocolate and home-made cheese. There were many hummingbirds around us; we managed to get a
few good snaps of them. The second part of the hike took us up along a cloud forest to a second finca, then a descent with breath-taking views of the valley, filled with wax palms.
These wax palms are quite special as a result of their height, these specific ones apparently can grow up to 60 meters high. We saw none that looked that high, but they are incredibly tall. They are called wax palms because the South Americans used to make candles from the wax scraped off their barks.
We went horse riding with two other guests. This was the most fun we had in Salento. The horses were amazing and in an excellent condition; you only had to click your tongue and they would gallop at full speed. LM had never before galloped on a horse, but surprisingly stayed on hers. The day was like Indiana Jones - we galloped along mountain passes, over an old train bridge, through old train tunnels and through rivers to a beautiful waterfall. LM did have one side-effect from the riding, as a result of wearing the incorrect underwear. We´ll leave it up to your imagination - it´ll suffice to
say that she was not happy sitting on the bus for the three days for the trip to Ecuador.
After 6 nights in Plantation House, we moved on to a place called Exotic Camping just below Salento. This is the weirdest place we have ever seen. It is run by a very animated Colombian. It is in a valley with a river running through it. The owner has built 5 large tent-like houses along the river, each with a special theme. One is Africa, one Amazon, one Americana, etc. These are all interesting, but the best two are the Hippy Hilton and Midnight. The Hippy Hilton contains a water bed, many Beatles posters and vinyls, a black light and many hippy paraphernalia like dream-catchers. The overall effect is quite good. We stayed in Midnight, a navy tent with glow in the dark stars, moons and planets pasted all over the walls and ceiling.
Each tent-house contains a full kitchen with all equipment, a toilet, couches or lounging area and an outdoor shower with hot water. The outdoor showers use spanish moss for shower curtains. Overall a very funky place.
We left this amazing place after one night
and travelled to Popayan for one night, then Ipiales for another. We visited an amazing cathedral (almost like being in Lord of the Rings) in Ipiales and then, sadly, left Colombia.
We will be back.
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