Salento is the heart of Colombia’s coffee region.
In order to get there we once again crossed the country from East to West. The journey there was via the scariest road we have driven during the whole trip. This is my opinion anyway.
The road itself was a major highway, well paved and well maintained. It was high in elevation and had many twisting and very tight turns. The challenge came when you added an abundance of semi trailer trucks that require a wide berth when taking the turns in the road. Add impatient drivers and cloud at the higher elevations and it was quite terrifying. Mike did really well negotiating the road conditions and the crazy drivers, but was really exhausted when we finally made it to Salento.
The coffee region of Colombia is magical. The rolling green hills covered in vegetation, and coffee plants provided beautiful vistas. The atmosphere of the region was relaxed and as the Sth Americans say “muy tranquil”.
We headed to Hostel La Serrana, about a 15-minute walk outside of the town of Salento. It provided camping in its garden area and had all the amenities. We loved having the luxury of a kitchen and a living room area. And the views were spectacular.
The other overlanders we met there and the travelers staying in the hostel were friendly and interesting people. There was a real sense of community as we shared meals; stories and every one took turns playing with Keira. I have never seen so many grown-ups succumb to the charms of our 5 year old. She had people playing monsters, princesses, music bands, and dinosaurs just to name a few of the imaginative games.
We did a lot of relaxing whilst there, and Mike did some graphic design work. We wandered into town a few days, really enjoying its atmosphere. Despite being quite touristy, the town had a certain charm and quaintness. We found a favorite coffee shop where we treated ourselves to cappuccinos with amaretto and baileys. With the help of the staff at the hostel we found Alcymaria, a wonderful Colombia lady who ran the best fruit and vegetable shop in town. We left there many days with 2 large bags of produce for the equivalent of $2 USD.
The other find was a restaurant called Brunch, ran by an expat from USA. The food was delicious and huge portions. But the real crowd pleaser is there chocolate peanut butter brownie served warm with vanilla ice cream! Word spread through the travelers’ grapevine whilst we were there, with daily excursions to town just for dessert.
Of course being in the coffee region we had to do a coffee tour. Not wanting to do a commercialized version we sought out a smaller organic family run farm, called Don Elias.
In order not to use pesticides, the organic farms grow bananas, plaintains, and citrus fruits around their crops. These trees not only provide shade for the coffee plants but are a deterrent for bugs. They also use natural remedies like garlic and hot pepper sprays to kill off and deter insects. The tour was really informative, and the coffee tasting at the end was delicious.
The other adventure we had in the area was completing a hike in the Cocora Valley. It is a 5-hour hike that follows a river with many river crossings on rickety bridges. The scenery is beautiful. The hike leads you to a hummingbird sanctuary, where you can see many varieties of hummingbirds. The highlight is hiking through an area of 30-60 meter tall palm trees. It is quite spectacular. We were so proud of Keira; she hiked well only needing a piggyback from her Dad for a short distance. This was quite impressive as many adults struggled.
I took an opportunity in Salento to take a mini “me” break, the first in about 10 months. I went for a wander around the shops, bought a few things and had a coffee. It is amazing what a little “me” time can do.
Unfortunately whilst in Salento, I got a really bad cold and felt unwell some of the time, but at least I had a great place to re-coup.
We were a little sad to move on from Salento. It was the longest we had stayed in one place for the whole trip. (Excluding the times we were forced to stay put for car repairs) It felt good to stop and we made a decision to do more long stops in Colombia.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION:
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- socializing with other travelers; Keira- having English speaking people to play with/seeing the hummingbirds; Riss- the hike and my “me” time.
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-trying to force myself to get some work done; Keira- wanting a brownie everyday; Riss- dealing with my cold.
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- hamburgers from Brunch, Keira- the chocolate peanut butter brownie; Riss- cappuccinos with baileys, and of course the chocolate peanut butter brownie
BEST CAMPING SPOT: La Serrana, Salento
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.