After spending some time in Bogota, we made our way to the small town of Salento, in the heart of coffee country.
After the hustle and bustle of the big city, Salento was a welcome change. It’s a laid back mix of locals, ex-pats, backpackers, and good food.
After arriving at our hostel and settling in, we ‘arranged’ a coffee tour for the next day. I put ‘arranged’ in quotation marks because we were really just told to show up at a certain time, and if people were there the owner would give us a tour.
The owner of our hostel (Plantation House) and of the coffee plantation we were to tour was himself a British expat, having gotten ‘stuck’ in Colombia some time ago, and deciding to make a go of it. His name was Tim Edwards, but he thought that ‘Finca Tim’, didn’t quite have the right ring to it, so when he started his plantation, he used his last name and translated it into ‘Finca Don Eduardo’. We were told it would be quite muddy, so the next day we geared up in rubber boots and got ready for our tour, “to see what we shall see” according to Tim.
The tour was very well done. Living in the pacific north-west has provided many opportunities to learn about coffee, so I figured I knew it all. However Tim was able to provide a wealth of knowledge about the different types of beans, plants, and plantations. We learned about the difference between arabica and robusto plants – robusto being easier to grow in large quantities, and pick, with generally more bitter flavour. The farm we were touring was all traditional arabica, which is slowly losing out to the robusto and modern arabica blends in Colombia.
Our guide showed us the entire process from picking the beans, to skinning them, drying them, and roasting them, finished by an awesome cup of freshly roasted coffee.
Our tour guide plans on opening his coffee farm for boutique coffee enthusiasts, allowing you to see your coffee growing, and eventually having it roasted and sent to you.
After the coffee tour we were able to arrange a ride to a waterfall on horseback. Horseback is not my favourite way to travel, but Victoria loves it. She agreed to a hike the next day with me, so a 3 hour horseback ride was a good trade off. Marriage is about compromise!
After some minor adjustments to Victoria’s saddle (via machete of course) we were off, down a steep, muddy ravine. We were cautioned by our guide to be careful, as the horses could slip, and we could break our legs. This had me seriously questioning my decision to get up on this thing to begin with, but onward we went. We eventually reached a stopping point where we got off the horses to walk to the waterfall. We made our way through a forest and across a rope bridge:
At the waterfall I was able to take a quick dip, after which we made our way back.
The next day we decided to hike Valle Cocora (Cocora Valley). This hike is most notable for two reasons: the solitary palm trees that dot the valley, and awesome rope bridges going over the multiple river crossings.
Besides being a beautiful hike (other than starting around 2000 metres above sea level), the forest makes you feel like you’re searching for the lost ark and running from boulders. Victoria wasted no time in testing the vines to see from which ones she could swing, and we took turns humming the Indiana Jones theme song while running across the bridges.
After that excitement, we wound up at a hummingbird sanctuary with a cup of hot chocolate, and cheese. This combination was actually amazing, and allowed us to grab a seat for a nice rest and a lunch break. While we were eating, we were joined by some fellow forest travellers, which (google tells me) are called South American coati. These guys were quite fearless, and I’m pretty sure they wanted our leftovers. They didn’t get them, but we did get some good closeups.