Colombian Coffee and Hummingbirds.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Plantation House Salento

Flag of Colombia  , Quindío,
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'"You must go to Salento!" the Australian backpackers we met in Popayan had said. "There are coffee plantation tours and a beautiful hike in the Valle de Cocora, where you can see hummingbirds". "Salento should be on everyone's list no matter how short their trip" trumpets the Lonely Planet". 

Well, we had planned to see the Coffee growing landscapes anyway, Colombia being the third largest producer of coffee in the world (after Brazil and Vietnam) and now we had the sweetener of seeing hummingbirds as well!  

From our last stop at the village of Pisembala, we caught an early 6.15am bus to take us the 6 bone jarring hours to Popayan. The slippery muddy road twisted and curled around impossible mountains, with huge drops to valleys below. A new road is being constructed which actually made conditions much worse. Rain had fallen the night before too. Sitting next to the window on the right hand side meant that it was all too easy to see that sometimes there was bare centimetres between the tyres and the drop off to the valley below - and of course no guard rail! About an hour out of Popayan we blew a tyre and when they removed the spare, it was flat also. A truck was hailed, whose driver pumped up the spare with his compressor and we were away again.

After arriving in Popayan, we transfered straight onto another bus, that took us the 3 hours to Cali, an ugly urban city where, as it was by now late afternoon, we found a hotel close to the bus station for the night, so we could continue our journey quickly in the morning. Up early the next day and on a bus for a 4 hour trip to the city of Armenia and finally a one hour bus to Salento. 

Salento lives up to expectations. 

Salento is a sort of ¨cutesy pie¨ brightly painted small village with farmers going about their business, old men sitting in the sunshine in the square, and lush jungle clad hills surrounding the village as far as the eye can see. The valleys and steep sided hills are planted to coffee. Underfoot is mud and more mud.

We stayed in Plantation House, in a little bamboo cabin with a shared bathroom. Avan entertained himself with a days hike into the Valle de Cocora to see the hummingbirds, but I wimped out due to having a cold and feeling not as fit as the hike required. Avan hired rubber boots from our hostel to better manage the mud and was glad he did (horse riders shared some of the track, with shitty evidence). We had heard that a Western Australian was running a bar called the "Speak Easy" in town, so that night we went there for a real Aussie home-made hamburger and thoroughly enjoyed "Western Australian" style english conversation. 

Still following in the coffee culture, we caught 3 buses and a taxi to our next place, Hacienda Guayabal, a Lonely Plant recommendation to stay at and do a Coffee Plantation Tour. It was a fantastic 24 hours! As their only guests we were treated like royalty and fed like royalty. Our accommodation was full board and included a 3 course lunch as soon as we arrived. After lunch we ventured out on a most comprehensive walking tour of the whole working plantation with our lovely guide, Luisa, who spoke quite good English and was passionate about her subject.   

The hacienda was surrounded by mountains and huge trees full of birds. It was so peaceful sitting out on the covered verandah watching the bird life and seeing the workers high up on the mountains, attending to the coffee plants. A 3 course gourmet dinner (including quail eggs) for just us followed, but then it wasn't a perfect night's sleep after that, as all the wonderful coffee tasting had us pretty buzzed up on a caffeine high!

A large and tasty breakfast (tomato, eggs, ham and cheese presented in a hot pot each) saw us just about roll out of the Hacienda and into a taxi, to take us back to the town of Chinchina, to catch an onward bus to the city of Medellin.
Travel Tip: We thoroughly recommend staying at Hacienda Guayabal and learning about the process of coffee from plant to cup if you are ever in Colombia.

Footnote: Coffee Cultural Landscape of Columbia is UNESCO World Heritage listed. 
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