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Published: April 17th 2017
Was difficult to pry ourselves away from our perch in Medellin, but the coffee region was calling. Salento was the first destination. This small town is surrounded by fincas, once only producing coffee, but now growing a range of crops including avocados, plantain, and more. The town itself is a tourist draw for its look as well as what’s to see around it.
Jairo and I took a 6 hour hike in the Valle de Cocora, a striking landscape that includes a cloud forest and grasslands. The first part of the hike is uphill, making the return trip a welcome downhill walk.
The second day in Salento was a shorter 3-hour walk from the town itself through a number of coffee fincas to Boquia. From there, a bus back to Salento. It’s possible to keep well caffeinated on the walk with a stop at all the coffee farms along the route. Most provide tours as well as coffee. We had a couple of “tintos” along the way, but skipped the tours.
Tinto seem to be the fuel that keeps things going here in Colombia. It’s basically an Americano or just filtered coffee. In general, it
is relatively week. Though in my frequent cups a day, there was a wide range. The Starbucks of Columbia is Juan Valdez, once the brand of Columbian coffee abroad. The brand has lost it’s value abroad, but has retained it’s value at home. With all the apparent consumption, maybe the weakness of the brew is what keeps Colombia from ranking as one of the top 50 countries in per capita coffee consumption.
In Salento itself, we had a couple of really great dinners, both at the same restaurant off the main drag. Surprising for this town which seems to attract more backpackers than fine diners. Wonderful place to lay back and just relax. While I don’t generally call out specific dinners, the two at Rennable were really memorable.
The region is beautiful and the weather wonderful year round. It’s an area I can easily imagine spending more time in. We went from Salento to Pariera, the capital of the district. We stayed downtown, which is non-descript and has no attractions, but is a center of transportation for the region. The city has grown a lot in recent years and a friend of Jairo’s showed us a more modern,
more fun side of town that we probably wouldn’t have found on our own.
The next day was full, from a short stop in Finlandia, a pleasant town similar to Salento, but without the concentration of tourists, to Santa Rosa de Cabal for the natural hot springs. After a night there, it was back to Pariera for a bus onto Cali. Cali
Cali was not in my original travel plans, but time allowed and it was a convenient stopping point for a return to Bogota.
About the only thing I knew about the city is that it is considered a center for salsa. On arrival, the city of about 2.7 million feels small and accessible, at least the tourist center. We stayed in the San Antonio district, the center of old Cali. From there, most sites are an easy walk. Smaller and more manageable than Bogota and Medellin, Cali feels like a laid-back place. San Antonio comes alive at night with a collection of good restaurants, but it’s a quiet neighborhood compared to any I walked through in either Bogota or Medellin.
From here it was back to Bogota. Unlike my first few days in
the city, Bogota was quiet. It’s Easter week, and the city pretty much closes up and residents travel away leaving us remaining a wonderfully empty place where traffic moves easily and buses aren’t jam packed. If Bogota were like this all the time, it would be a great place to live.
Returned to the same area as when I was here last, the center of Chapinero at about Calle 79 and Carrera 17. Easy access to good restaurants, shopping and the Transmilenio to the mast tourist sites. Walking now was fun the prospect of taking a taxi not as frustrating as it had been before the great exodus.
Spent more time in La Candelaria, the historic heart of Bogota. Enjoyed walking the streets and seeing even more Boteros at the free Museo de Arte del Banco de la Republica. While most come for the Boteros, there’s much more to see as well.
Just another few days before my return home.
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