An Amusement Park Dedicated to the Coffee Bean
Trip Start Sep 09, 2006
113Trip End Aug 18, 2010
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Lacking an American style theme park, the Colombian government decided to build the Parque National del Cafe. In honour of the beloved bean, complete with Roller Coaster and Log Ride, it features a summary of the history, culture, and science of Coffee, the signature bean of Colombia. Too Touristy, you ask? Well....maybe just a bit, but we all need to have a little fun, and this educational amusement park set in a beautiful coffee growing valley was just the perfect thing for us!
Set between the two Cordilleras of the Andes, the theme park is on a beautiful hillside amidst a valley of coffee and banana plantations. On a 4km ecological trail through the park, we saw first hand the varieties of coffee plants grown throughout the world - Congo, Brazil, Libya, and the Arabico blend famous for Colombia. (A theme park that´s educational....what a stretch!!) Its dark green leaves, white fragrant flowers, and red and green fruit bearing beans all co-exist in perfect harmony in one single plant. Walking through row upon row, we inhaled their distinct aroma. Can´t imagine that the source of the world´s most popular addictions comes from such a beautiful tree.
Passing through shady bamboo forests and tiny nurseries and rivers, we learned about the complete process of obtaining coffee: from growing, to picking, to depulping, to drying, to de-husking, to toasting. Coffee snobs can be sometimes hard on Colombian beans, stating the coffee is weak, lacking flavour, and doesn´t pack a punch. In fact, Colombians prefer their coffee au natural, and very mild or suave in flavour. The Colombian bean is recognized world wide for its consistent, mild flavour. The best, and highest quality beans, however, are exported (of course...why save any of the good stuff for themselves??). In 2000, over 12 million 70kg bags of coffee beans were exported to countries such as the USA and England.
All these facts got us thirsty for a cup o' java, and we purchased two well deserved cups of Juan Valdez brand cafe, tinto style (black). Unlike the flavour of the cups we´ve been used to getting at breakfast thus far in Colombia, this one was flavourful, full and strong, and must have been the real quality stuff...the stuff that you can´t find so readily here! We sipped our CAFFEINE while gazing over the hills of coffee plantations below us that seemed to go on forever, all the way to the Andean heights far away in the horizon!
Stimulated and wired, we zipped through the 4 rooms of the Coffee Museum, and saturated our brains with tidbits about the culture, science, commercialization, and community of coffee in Colombia. (Note to Self: All museums are better visited after a strong dose of Caffeine...). Throughout our day, we bumped into scores of Colombian tourists with their families, walking the trails reading the signs, and learning all about the bean that stimulates them 6-7 times a day (children too). We sat together with throngs of them in the folkloric Show del Cafe. As they watched the lively, talented, and colorful dancers convey the history and cultural traditions of coffee, the crowd went wild in a refreshing show of patriotism and pride. In a country that only recently has attained safety levels that allow its citizens to move freely between cities, it was heart warming to see them so genuinely enthused and proud of their county and its treasures. "Vive Colombia!"
And what´s a Disneyland without the rides? We got our dose of modern thrills getting splashed and soaked in the log ride, and dizzying nausea inducing revolutions in the Cyclone. Why do we put ourselves through this torture at this age? Just to prove that we´re still spring chickens.
An enjoyable, educational, and all around FUN way to start our journey through the Zona Cafetera. Highly recommended.
DID YOU KNOW?
The history of coffee can be traced at least as early as the 9th century, in the highlands of Ethiopia.
NOTES FOR THE TRAVELLER:
- Park Attractions: Basic Admission ($6USD) or Package of 5 Attractions ($15USD), includes the Show del Cafe (highly recommended), 3 rides, and the Teleferico (skyride), which offers stunning views of the plantations.
- Minibuses from Armenia leave from outside the bus terminal (1200 pesos, 30 minutes) and run continuously back from the Parque, passing through the community of Montenegro on the way back to Armenia.
- You can buy cups of coffee near the entrance of the museum or near the rides. Definitely worth it, even if it's double the regular price of a cup here in Colombia, it´s still less than you would pay at home!
- Highlights: Show del Cafe, Ecological Trail, and the Coffee Museum. There are also some good artesian stalls outside the park. That's where Ashif found his Colombian poncho.
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