Highland Adventures

Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2010

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Where I stayed
Someone´s House

Flag of Colombia  , Quindío,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

When we arrived in Salento Tuesday, John and I were headed to the main hostel in town when a woman came to ask if we were looking for accomodation.  This has happened several times to us before, and we typically end up in a much more economical hostel or hotel than we would have otherwise stayed at.  This time, however, when we went to check it out, we were a bit surprised.  It wasn´t a hostel or hotel, but a room in the woman´s house.  The price was right, and we´re up for an adventure, so why not.  As it turns out, I don´t even think this was a spare room.  The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom, all of which open into the living room (no hallways here).  There´s an extra bed in the living room, and when we woke up Wed. morning, there were 3 people sleeping in it, so I think we displaced a few from the bedroom we took.  The family is super nice, though, and even though we have a hard time understanding their Spanish, they´ve been extremely friendly!

Once settled into our little place in Salento, we set out to explore the town, and came across the beautiful displays of lights all around town.

On Wednesday, we spent the day exploring two of the main attractions of the area -- coffee and wax palm trees. 

We started the morning with a tour of a local coffee factory.  One of the cafes in town runs a small tour of their factory.  Departing from the cafe, we walked a few blocks and arrived at what appeared to be a garage.  We went in, and they showed us where and how they select the best and largest coffee beans, pick out any defected ones, roast them (only to medium!) and grind them into coffee.  To end the tour, John and I each sampled their espresso, and wow.  That´s strong!  (keep in mind, neither John nor I drink coffee anyway). 

Later in the day, we explored the earlier part of the coffee process by visiting a local coffee plantation.  There, a guide showed us the different plants and varieties of coffee, how they propogate the plants, and how they hand pick the fruit off the plant, remove the peel, and dry it in the sun to be roasted later.  The plantation was absolutely beautiful, set on a hillside with panoramic views of the area.  In addition to coffee, they also had plantains, bananas, limes, and pineapples.  For whatever reason, I found the pineapple plants to be at least as entertaining as the coffee!

In between our coffee tours, John and I piled into a jeep with waaaay too many other people and headed to the nearby town of Cocora.  Here, you can hike out into the surrounding countryside for some fantastic sights.  On the way there, we met up with a group of other travelers, so we hiked out together.  The first part of the hike passed through open fields with cattle and wax palm trees.  The wax palm trees are spectacular partially in the way they stand out.  They´re huge (up to 120 feet tall) and straight and leafless most of the way up, with a little palm branches at the top.  There are many of them here, lining the hills all around and standing out clearly from the other flora.

After about an hour, the hike abruptly entered into a cloud forest area.  Here, we hiked along a river, passing back and forth multiple times over tiny unstable "bridges" that consisted of two or three small logs tied together.  We passed a nice waterfall, and generally had a pleasant hike through the forest.  (Until it started to rain, at which point we opted to turn around and return to town).  In the return trip, the jeep was much less crowded, with only 8 passengers.  Unfortunately, there are only seats for 6, so John and one other guy got to stand on a little platform on the back and hold on to the roll bars for the ride home -- in the rain, at that!  Fun stuff!
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