On the Coffee Zone

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November 22nd 2013
Published: November 25th 2013
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During the trip so far, we have spent 342,97 euros on coffee, and the figure is rapidly going up. So, it suited us well to visit the source of significant share of the world’s coffee: Zona Cafetera in Colombia. To reach the region, we gave up our principle for Colombia to avoid night buses due to their assumed dangers. Dangerous or not, at least in this case everything felt secure, and at dawn the bus had reached the gorgeous lush green mountain scenery of Zona Cafetera.

Our final destination was probably the cutest little town of the trip so far, Salento. At least one of us didn’t get much sleep on the night bus, but it was nevertheless impossible to feel lame for long after seeing the sweet colorful houses lining the streets of Salento, and of course after having our first coffees at the Coffee Zone. We managed to climb roughly 250 steps up to a viewpoint to see the town from above, and after that we still took 45 minute walk to an organic coffee finca (=farm) and back. The coffee farm was run by an elderly white haired gentleman, who for few euros gave tours to see how the farm works. Our tour in the middle of the coffee plantation was cut short by pouring rain, but we saw the coffee bushes, the two different colored berries of Arabica and Colombian coffee, and got to taste the berries too, which btw taste nothing like coffee. Then he showed us how the coffee beans are separated from the berries, dried and peeled. The tour ended with a sample cup of their organic product, which was a small disappointment as they had made it with too little coffee, so it was kind of watery. Should have given us a decent cup, then we probably would have bought some to take with us too. The taste as such was soft and can imagine would have been nice had it been stronger.

The next day we visited a place which partially inspired us to come to Colombia in the first place after seeing its pictures online – Valle de Cocora. And we were not disappointed, it was a fantastic day. There was jeep transportation early in the morning from Salento central square to the Valle de Cocora entrance about half an hour away. From there we started hiking, first five kilometers through forest to reach a café whose yard is inhabited by humming birds. On the way we had to cross multiple suspicious looking bridges, some of which were just few trunks and a wire crossing a stream. It was also quite strenuous uphill hike, but it felt worth it once we reached the café. We had to pay to enter the yard, supposedly to help finance maintenance of the hiking route, but a drink was included and we got to observe the tiny colorful humming birds at close distance. The place is feeding them with sugary water, so the birds kept flying back and forth while we were taking our break. We ended up having also hot chocolate with cheese – interesting but surprisingly good combination, and talking to a nice couple from Munich, the guy had lived in Helsinki for a short while and recognized us as Finns for that reason. As a curiosity, the same evening at the hostel we met another Dutch guy who had been studying few months in Kitee (very small town in Eastern Finland). He had been under the impression he was going to Joensuu (a bigger town), but ended up in a place not even in Kitee, but somewhere near it with 8km to the nearest grocery store, and no access to a car :D. He said he enjoyed it, though.

But, back to Valle de Cocora..after soft drink, hot chocolate, cheese and humming birds we continued the hike to reach the actual valley. You can rarely see such lush green scenery, but what made it amazing were those wax palm trees growing in every direction as far as eye can see. We have seen palm trees before, but this was something special, almost a surreal view. If we’re not mistaken, the wax palm is the highest palm tree there is, and that’s not hard to believe. You could also see cows pasturing on the bright green grass in the midst of palms, and a few pigs too. All in all a great hike, and even though at times the air was so misty it almost felt like it was raining, it didn’t actually rain during the entire hike, so the fact that somebody had forgotten the raincoat at the hostel didn’t matter at the end. When we were sitting at a restaurant having trout (popular fish in the region) a bit after returning to Salento, it was already pouring. In the evening we still had a meeting with representatives of one tour company to get information regarding a two day hiking trip to Los Nevados national park, but ended up deciding against it. It just didn’t feel tempting to set up alarm at 6am the next day and go hiking again, also we weren’t sure how much different views compared to the Valle de Cocora hike we would see. Instead, we would head for the (previously) notorious city of Medellin.

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