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Published: August 8th 2007
So, of course we couldn´t visit Colombia without sampling one of its finest exports...
After spending our first week around the Carribbean coast of Cartegena and Tayrona national park enjoying our last rays of sun before heading towards the Andes, we travelled overland to the stunningly beautiful Zona Cafetera, the heart of coffee country in Colombia.
Simply rolling hills of small coffee plantations, and this is where we found the Hacienda Guayabal, a 65 hectare coffee finca in the heart of it all. A real family affair, a place where we could see everything we knew about coffee in one place, from the planting of the tiny coffee bean to the roasting of the end product. The family were amazing, we were made to feel so welcome and fortunately Miguel, Teresa´s son was good at English so acted as the translator. We were the only visitors so we all sat down for a family dinner together on the first night learning more about the finca, more about the family and in addition much more about local views and feelings.
The next day we went on a tour of the whole finca and followed the process of coffee. It
was amazing, the way that coffee grows is just stunning in itself. There are groves upon groves of coffee trees growing on stepped terraces whereever the soil and light are good. The finca is split into different sections as the trees are all at different stages in their life although they are all harvested at a similar time. The actual picking of the coffee cherry is a very manual process and at this time of the year all the locals in the villages around the finca will be employed and some even live on the finca. Hacineda Guyabal also wash, peel and dry their own beans on site, a long process which works 24 hours in day in the picking season. At the end of the tour we then took some of the dried beans and roasted them on a small manual roaster. It was fanastic, actually sipping a cup of coffee at the actual finca where the coffee was grown, with the family, for whom it is their livelyhood and has been for many years.
The hospitality of the Colombians then conituned at our next stop, a small sleepy, town with a cowboy and western feel called Salento.
After booking into the town´s main backpacker hostel and deciding after the first night that once again, we really couldn´t do this budget thing, we found a great tranquil B&B. Then after just a few hours we met a Colomobia girl called Paola and her Japanese friend Tomoko who were just on a day trip to the town and we ended up having a few drinks with them and the next minute we are are off back to Paola´s, an hour by bus away, with an overnight bag, about to embark on what turns out to be a mad night of drinking ´Ron Medellin´the local rum and salsa-ing, or attempting tom until 4.30am....we were wiped out for a few days...
And so we ended our trip in Bogota, a huge city once again but with some interesting sights and museums. Colombia was great fun, the people were so hospitable, although obviously frustrated by the picture that is painted and the reputation that it has. For us though it was great, not a lot of tourists and a chance to see a real country with a really strong identity.
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