In the land of giants...and coffee


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South America » Colombia » Quindío » Salento
May 4th 2016
Published: May 4th 2016
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Being traditionally British we aren’t the biggest coffee drinkers (tea is our fave tipple), it’s safe to say that although Salento is a part of the zona cafeteria, we were not just coming here for the coffee. No, we were also coming here for the mountainous scenery and the nearby cloud forest holding its own little secret.



Salento, a smallish colonial old town with pretty colourful stripes lining most rows of buildings, the obligatory main square filled with locals predictably socialising and relaxing. The main stone church standing elevated over the surrounding buildings and a stunning lush green mountainous backdrop.

Coming from Bogota, Salento certainly had its charm - greenery everywhere you looked in this quaint and colourful town. All buildings were around 2 stories high and the surprise of a steep incline or decline around every bend.

Whilst in Bogota we received a recommendation to stay in a place here called Planation House. Located on the corner of town with plenty of land and its own coffee farm, we agreed this would be a good base during our stay. The night bus to Pereira was comfortable with near fully reclining seats. This was a nice change apart from the fact that once the person in front of us reclined their seat back, they may as well had been lay on our laps they were that close. Either way we slept through to Pereira and caught a collectivo onwards to Salento.

Still tired, we arrived at our hostel around 8am. Given we only intended to spend a few days here, we took a quick 45 minute power nap before setting off on a coffee plantation tour ran by the hostel itself. Accompanied by 2 other travellers (a brit and a kiwi) and the owners 2 dogs and later by Ipod (the owners 3rd dog).

We were shown different types of coffee plants, from the most popular robusta coffee to the pricier Arabica coffee to a modified version of both. After Brazil and Vietnam, Colombia is the 3rd biggest producer of coffee.

Due to this farm’s current point of production, rather than focus on the production of modern coffee beans which would equal “money money money” the owner instead, bought the farm opting for a different approach. They are growing rows of coffee plants that he later hopes to sell to various coffee drinkers who will own the row for a year and thus will be supplied with the coffee beans all year round. Not a bad deal if you like your coffee super fresh.

Along with demonstrating his plans and providing the background knowledge to different types of coffee beans, he also took us through the production process. Talking us through the moment the beans are planted to the point that we sip the coffee straight from our mugs. We were given various demonstrations throughout the process, watching in awe as we observed how the machine took away any effort required for peeling. We heard the beans pop like popcorn during the roasting stage and finally smelled the amazing coffee aroma when the coffee was grounded. Each step of the process aroused each one of our senses and was a pleasant experience. The final coffee was worth the wait, owing its rich taste without all the bitterness to the roasting process that was spot on. We actually drank this coffee without milk and sugar which is highly unusual for us. We certainly recommend this half day tour and because we stayed at the hostel for 3 nights it only cost 5,000 pesos
each.

For lunch, we ventured into the square, where many of the restaurants had established food stalls in the centre. After a quick look at some of the menus (technically the dishes are all the same) we decided on one of the first stands. P ordered shrimp with ‘sauce’ on platanos (cooked, battered, squashed, rolled and then fried plantain) whilst Chris ordered his usual corrientes (meal of the day) containing soup and the popular dish of rice, plantain, beans and a cut of beef accompanied with some fruit juice (not exactly sure what flavour it was).

After satisfying ourselves with as much coffee as we could handle at our hostel, our next adventure here was a hike; a trail in the nearby Valle de Cocora. Described by many as a 5/6 hour tour walking through a beautiful cloud forest, holding its own little secret… some of the tallest Palm trees in the world. Joined by the 2 others we had shared the coffee tour with, Kim and Alex we set about this beautiful trail. We were not disappointed. Starting the trail, you walk through the bottom of the valley with steep lush hills to either side, with lots of cows and horses grazing on the land. As we continued this trail we crossed many small little streams that meandered across the pebbly path. To either side of us were lush dense forest areas and a scattered collection of palm trees. This was our first glimpse of these giants, stretching out above the forest skyline and giving the area a lovely ambience with their calming nature.

To some extent the trail reminded us of the scenery straight out of the Lord of the Rings films. The different shades of green and the tall grassy mountainous walls to either side of us. As we left the open air and trailed the mossy forest, Chris was more convinced of this. The first part of the jungle trail was not too challenging as we criss-crossed streams and rivers. Some rivers with wooden bridges and the unusual looking cement based entrances on either side.

By midpoint however we were panting our way up to a popular stopping midway point, Acaime a hummingbird reserve. Enticed by the offer of hot chocolate (and cheese) on arrival and the attraction of the many hummingbirds at home here, we joined the many travellers also taking a rest here. The hot chocolate was great, the salty cheese not so much, although some people here enjoyed dipping it into their hot chocolate! The humming birds were very exquisite but very difficult to capture in a single frame as they hovered over the feeding points. Despite it being more crowded than we expected, it was a pit stop to enjoy the views, the birds and the snacks. We’d brought along our crisp butties (or ‘potato chip sandwiches’ for our non-British readers). You can take us out of Manchester but you can take the Manchester out us.

When reading about this trail, we had read that it’s easily enough to get lost and take the wrong trail. Over lunch everyone debated on whether it was the first or the second turn on the way back down the mountain. Thinking we had read enough about the trail in order to avoid becoming lost the 4 of us set about the trail again. After a 30-40 minute tough uphill climb we eventually realised were going the wrong way. How smart were we. All apart of the adventure I guess.

The highlight of the trek for the both of us was reaching the viewpoint at the top of La Montaña, high in the cloud forest watching the clouds circle the peaks and everything around it. We were treated to beautiful surrounds briefly before the cloud cover took it away a few seconds later. We liked to think it created a mystical look in our photos. From this point it was all pleasantly downhill and after a few viewpoints we found the perfect spot amidst the giant palm trees waiting for the fog to reveal the valley below and the mountains to either side. Wow, we must have sat there for an hour or so just taking it in. We have now been travelling for 11 months and still sights like this never fail to impress us.

After hanging on to the back of a small jeep, we quickly showered and the 4 of us made our way for something to eat. Since arriving here, all we had heard about was some delicious chocolate brownies with ice cream that were to die for. Before we treated ourselves to that delight however, P ordered a filling scrumptious veggie burrito whilst Chris devoured his tender ribs with the succulent meat that slipped straight off the bone. The portions were big and the plates delicious which made it hard for P to finish the “to die for Chocolate Brownie with ice cream” although for Chris this certainly was not a problem.



Bogota to Salento: 129,000COP for 2 ppl

Accommodation: Plantation House

Date: 14/12/2015


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4th May 2016

Coffee vs Tea
It sounds as if Columbia introduced you to some good coffees and you may be swayed to have a cup now and then. Welcome to the dark side. ha ha Love the pineapple. I would take that hike for hot chocolate and cheese. Oh yeah. A wrong turn now and then provides adventure.
6th May 2016

Re: coffee vs tea
Oh yes coffee has definitely found its way into our mugs since. The hot chocolate stop was bliss too in the cloud forest surrounded by trees, clouds and humming birds but Colombian cheese is certainly an acquired taste.
4th May 2016
Stunning views

Cloud forest
What beautiful scenery--that hike sounds exquisite though I must admit, the tall palms shooting into the sky look like beings from Dr Seuss. Love those coffee beans in all their different colors, and Solento looks adorable. It looks like a place to linger!
6th May 2016
Stunning views

Re: Cloud forest
We loved the scenery here, from the dense forested areas to the tall wax palms in the open fields. Surprised we didn’t get neck ache. The coffee plantation was really informative, we never knew so much went into making coffee. Salento was a lovely place, very quiet and relaxed.

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