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Published: December 4th 2014
What's the thing Colombia is most famous for....? Why the worlds best coffee of course! :P Located in the centre, it is similar to an axis and thus is best known as the coffee triangle. There are many beautiful towns and villages in the region but I decided to go to one in particular that had not only an amazing backdrop but also beautifully coloured buildings that compliment each other perfectly... Salento. Interestingly I've since been told people closer to the equator are predisposed to use more colours in their architecture while those further away are more shape orientated (Paris, London). I was only in Salento three days but it was such a nice place, I decided to give it a blog of its own.
Consisted mainly of travel as I set out at nine on the bus and arrived in Salento around 4. The first thing that popped into my head while driving toward the village was the theme music to the film Raiders of the Lost Ark as the landscape was that surreal and exotic, it had to be seen to be believed - my camera aint the best for doing landscape and
nature shots justice. And the town itself was a variety of colours, it was like a law had been introduced that all houses, shops, churches and bar must be painted with bright colours or get out of town! :P Marc and myself decided to go Masterchef for that evening. We bought so much fruit and veg for our chicken stir fry that the lady in the grocery insisted we accept a packet of oranges aswell free of charge. Mark insisted on a homemade ginger-garlic stirfry he knew and I was happy to go ahead with it on his guarantee it wouldn't be too spicy... Low and behold 40 mins later, Marc tastes it and goes Jesus I put in too much chilli peppers
! Did he fock - sure enough one bite and my mouth felt like it was on fire! That said, 90 mins later we'd finished the pot between the two of us... me however looking like I'd just popped out of the sauna :D
Up at 6.30, we somehow crammed 13 of us into a six seater jeep with typical South American efficiency, and out to Vallee de Cocora, a
valley within the Andean Mountains. Famous for its gigantic wax palm, hummingbirds, green landscape, rickety bridges and towering surronding mountains. We were lucky with the weather as the rain stayed away and when we caught up with a group in front of us who took a picture, we strangely noticed we'd subconciously colour coordinated without realising! The hike was an unstrenous five hours with plenty of stops along the way. The highlight was an ascent up into the forest where at the top tens of hummingbirds of all different types around around our heads. They were also quite tame so I was able to snap a few closeups as they drank from the birdfeeders dotted around the place.
Back in Salento we went to an Indian restaurant for a quick lunch (apparently one of only five Indian restaurants in all of Colombia) before myself, Marc and Vince a French guy we'd become friendly with in the hostel went to the Spanish speaking only tour of a coffee farm 15 minutes walk out of town. This was the highlight of my Salento trip and from talking to other people of their tour experiences, it sounded like we struck lucky.. the
Worlds tallest Palm trees
benefits of Spanish eh! Surprisingly the coffee farms in the region grow not only coffee beans but also bananas, plantains *similar to banana but bigger, bamboo, pineapples, oranges, lemons, tobacco, lulo and tomatoes to name but a few. As we munched on a few free samples the farmer explained the reason for this was twofold. 1. Different plants help keep the soil fertile and work in compliment to each other 2. If coffee yield is low they have plenty other crops to fall back on. The bamboo were huge and are used alot for building in the local area while a Spaniard in our crew tried unsuccessfully to smoke a rolled tobacco leaf! Then we went through the whole coffee process starting from ripening the bean, picking and removing the skin, letting it dry and crushing the other shell to remove it, roasting the bean and then crushing it again to have ground coffee. It was really really good seeing all this done start to finish and of course getting to sample the wares at the end.
Third day I was awakened by a monster of a rainshower, we do rain in Ireland but
our worst would be like a light drizzle compared to this. Myself and Vince had made plans to visit the local Kasaguada nature reserve project and not wanting to miss out, I grabbed a black bin bag (No Rain jacket! and off I went. The nature reserve is actually 12 hectares of mountainous cloud forest purchased by two enthusiastic gentlemen by the name of Carlos and Nicolas. We had Carlos as a guide and not only was he kind enough to give me a lend of a rain-jacket but also his knowledge of each and every plant, tree and bird was really interesting and he was able to explain how the forest intercoopdepends with each other to work together. One of the most startling facts was a tree that actually grows around another tree stealing its nutrients and eventually leaving a hollow in the middle. We also spotted a cool red and black woodpecker but my camera wasn't quick enough for him! The overall plan is to eventually build an ecolodge within the forest where the two guys will live fulltime.
The rest of my day was mainly doing a bit of Spanish self tutoring, duolingo you are great
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