After having seen only cities, we were very much looking forward to travel to Salento, a small village with roughly 8000 people living there, even if this meant driving for ten hours by bus. As mentioned before, we have felt very safe in Colombia, except for one incident so far. On our way to Salento we realized that the hotel reception is not open 24hrs, meaning that we had to find a fast way of getting to the middle of nowhere. Our original plan was to go via Armenia and to take a bus from there, but due to time constraints we chose to get off in Pereira instead and to take a cab for one hour, which is also where our dodgy experience occurred. The taxi driver said that he would have to get a permission from his boss for leaving the city so we drove to a gas station and in the back of that particular gas station was 'el patron' waiting with an antique shot gun around his waist, which for Europeans can be quite scary. Johannes had to get off in order to sign a paper, and there was no problem. I later asked Arturo, our taxi driver, why his patron had a gun and he stated that the reasons were his 'valuable cars', from a South American point of view of course (nothing compared to Porsche, BMW and Mercedes, we Europeans are truly spoiled).
Our accommodation in Salento 'Casa de Eliana' was really nice as Jesus, a Spanish guy who immigrated to Colombia after having lived in UK for many years, takes really good care of his hostel as well as the people. He loves IT gadgets, he is very much into sustainability, grows his own organic veggies which are used for his restaurant and is thinking about getting solar panels for his hostel. So should you ever come to Salento, don't miss out on staying with this friendly guy:) He also makes a really nice UK style curry!
Where the real coffee is grown
Salento is famous for his coffee plantations (which was also one task on my bucket list given to me by my old team) and for his fog forests and wax palm valleys. In my case, the fact that there are dozens of street dogs walking around Salento who enjoy joining your hike was something that I really loved about the village, I could hardly resist taking one home. Johannes on the other hand was suffering as he hates dogs (he would probably rather eat one than touch one, at least that is what he wants me to believe), so as you can imagine, the dogs and I were giving him a hard time;)
The good ones go into the pot the bad ones go into your crop - Cinderella
In keeping with the motto the good beans are exported the lower class beans are for consumption in Colombia. This is what we learned while visiting a coffee plantation. He didn't want to comment the questions whether the bad beans are also used in nespresso capsulars where they can easily be mixed with taste enhancers and other aromas.
However it was nice to see how coffee is made and while none of us drink coffee, the coffee beans /coffee berries taste surprisingly sweet and nice, which is something we found out when we got a chance to try them after having picked some ourselves. We also saw ginger plants and found out that coffee does not like direct sun which is why you can find other trees, such as banana trees, on the same plantation. Furthermore, the leaves of the other trees work as fertilizers and the ground has different nutrients, so the coffee also taste differently if there are other fruits around. At we end of the day, Johannes and I became true experts which is totally useless as coffee haters but at least we get to show off now:)
Walking under giant Palms and next to minuscule Humming birds
One of our favorite trips so far was the hike in the Valle de Cocora, which you can reach by taking one of the jeeps available. They surprisingly fit one person in the front, six in the back and then there is still space for three more standing on the rear end no need to buckle up. We hiked through the fog forest up to a hummingbird sanctuary and then to a peak from where we walked down through the fog to the valley full with wax palms. The difference, by the way, between a fog forest and a rain forest is: not much. It is basically exactly the same, except for the altitude. Whereas rain forest are usually on flat land, low altitude, fog forests start at 1500m above sea level. Instead of rain you get fog and another main advantage is that you can wear shorts and a shirt while hiking at 30 degrees...and you don't get bitten to death by evil mosquitoes which is usually the case in the low land rain forest (so not looking forward to experiencing that in Ecuador once we will make our way into the jungle). So most likely, if you ever got to chose between the rain forest and the fog forest, you better choose the latter. Another bonus are the mystical pictures you can take in the clouds 🙂