Salento: Finca El Ocaso

Today is my first full day in Salento Colombia. I am in a coffee growing region so it is natural that I visit an coffee farm or a finca (Spanish word for farm). Finca El Ocaso Salento seems to be close to town and highly recommended for a coffee tour.

I skip breakfast and head out early for my 45-ish minute walk knowing well that I walk slower than most and will need extra time. It is 4.5 to 5 km from my hotel to the coffee farm. The walk is mostly downhill but there are some up and downs. I notice some unfortunate people biking uphill on the rocky road. I could have arrived by truck but it is my first day in town and I am not familiar with how to hire a ride. Walking is a great way to explore the countryside.

On my way out of town
On my way out of town

I travel to the edge of town until I get to the road that will lead me to my destination.

I love the views on my journey.

Finally I have arrived. I head down the path to the main building to check in for my tour.

I arrive slightly early for the English speaking tour. The cashier is confused when seeing my Spanish last name because I do not look like a native Colombian (I still carry the last name of my ex). She tells me that traditionally women in Colombia do not take their husband’s last names.

I wait on the beautiful grounds for my tour to begin.

We meet our tour guide. Our guide gives an introduction on growing Colombian coffee. Coffee is actually not native to Colombia but introduced by Jesuit priests arriving from Europe in the mid 16th century.

We look at the different stages of growing.

We are given baskets and instructed how to find berries ready for picking. I wander through the bushes trying to find ripe red coffee berries. I am having a hard time spotting them but I do find a few.

We are told to try the berries (or coffee cherry pulp) and it doesn’t seem to have much taste to me. Most berries have two beans (or seeds) inside. Some come with only one seed inside, those are used for peaberry coffee.

Our guide points out companion planting and that the coffee is mostly shade grown.

composting

We take our berries back for processing. We are told about a couple different techniques for this. The grinder separates the beans from the berry pulp and skin.

We go indoors and view equipment used for larger scale processing.

A german actually invented the modern day coffee peeler.

The most recognizable man in Colombia (besides that drug lord) is Juan Valdez. We learn that he is not a real man but a marketing feature that has been represented by different men throughout the years. It is a highly successful campaign.

We head back outside to see the beans drying on racks

Our guide tells us about the different coffee types produced on site.

In Colombia the beans get sorted by quality. We are told that lower quality beans float to top of water and are typically sold as supermarket beans. Meaning the worst of the beans get sold in supermarkets in Colombia. To get good coffee one has to visit a finca or a cafeteria. A great deal of the good stuff is exported to other countries as well.

Finally we are taken to the kitchen where we learn how to roast. It is a delicate process. In the USA we burn the heck out of our beans and that is not how it is done in Colombia. Colombians actually prefer their coffee lighter (but not necessarily light in caffeine). As I spend more time in the country I learn to love my coffee roasted lighter as well.

Grinder

We learn about different brewing methods but brew some fresh coffee using a pour over method.

I am very satisfied with my cup of coffee at the end of the tour.

I’ve skipped breakfast this morning so I head over to the café on site to order a coffee and a ham and cheese pastry. I sit back and enjoy the view.

When I decide to head back into town I contemplate the long uphill (and hot) walk to town. This seems to be the best time to take the red truck back to town. These trucks are very handy for getting around. The drivers like to pack them full as seen in the picture below.

Sorry for the crouch shot but I wanted a picture to describe where you’ll be riding if you aren’t the early ones on the truck.

The red truck drops me off at the town center. It is still early and a beautiful day so I take a stroll around town.

I browse through a couple of shops and cannot resist buying a colorful hammock. It is such an irresponsibly large item to buy while backpacking but I tell myself I only have a couple weeks left to carry it. If I ever have a home of my own again it will look lovely in the backyard.

Salento is a beautifully colorful town as well.

I find a nice terrace to have a sunset drink at Quindú Restaurante. Fortunately they have Colombian chicken soup (Ajiaco) on the menu, something I’ve been meaning to try.

Back to my hotel to rest because tomorrow I plan a long hike.

Jardín to Salento

Jardín

My last hours in the town of Jardín are nice. I spend my time wandering around and relaxing at tables spread out in the square. I’ll grab a beer or two and people watch during the day but this behavior doesn’t seem to be normal. Not many people are day drinking and the ones who do are mostly males; most people drink coffee or other beverages during daylight hours.

I tried to connect to the public WIFI a number of times but I am never successful.

I finally wake up early my last morning to take pictures in town. My photos aren’t the greatest but at least I don’t have all the shadows of the daytime. I enjoy watching the town wake up. The garbage collectors are out and they have a trail of dogs waiting for trash to spill out along the way.

I make one last stop at a cafe to get a coffee and a pastry before it is time for my bus to leave.

I loved my stay in Jardín but I must be moving on. I have one more small town to visit before I go to Cartagena to meet my friend in a couple days. Right now I am heading to the town of Salento.

When I booked my bus ticket I was under the impression that I would be taking a fun chiva part of the way. However the bus company I chose uses regular coaches for the journey. I am disappointed but I did learn that the chiva buses are quite uncomfortable so maybe I did make the correct choice.

chiva bus
chiva bus

This is my actual ride….

The bus ride is relatively comfortable. I mostly have the row to myself but occasionally have to let another passenger sit next to me. A man enters a bus with a burlap-like sack tapered at the top. I hear a loud qui-qui-ri-qui coming from the bag (Spanish for cock-a-doodle-doo). We are sharing the bus with a rooster – well a rooster in a bag. He is very vocal today, as heard in the video below.

One of our rest stops

Today is a long journey of two bus rides. The first bus travels from Jardin to Riosucio on a 3-4 hour journey (with a couple health stops).

We have a bit of a layover in Riosucio. Luckily there are other friendly travelers taking the same journey. I am able to leave my bag with them to go buy a snack. It is nice to have a few people to trust enough to leave your heavy bag with; I of course return the favor. From the nearby café I pick up some empanadas, cheese bread, and the most amazing pastry called Pasteles de Arequipe (Dulce de Leche Turnovers). Sounds like a healthy lunch to me!

Bus number 2

The second bus ride is another long journey (3-4 hours). I nap a bit but I do enjoy the scenery on the way. There is no rooster on this leg of the journey!

I finally arrive in Salento. The bus station is at the bottom of a hillside. According to my map my lodging is not too far away. I walk a little uphill and a couple blocks over to my hotel Casa Olier Hotel which is more like a bed and breakfast that has its own chocolate factory! I picked a great place to stay. Again it is a little more than I would normally pay but since it is my last month traveling why not?

View from my window

After my hotel check in I walk to the town center. The town is built on hills so there is much walking up hill during my visit. I head to the town square and order dinner. I have a dog companion waiting for his share.

Salento, Colombia
The signature dish of Salento, Colombia, is trucha con patacones— trout with mashed, fried plantains
Feed Me Please!

I wander around the lively town at night. I tried to have a cocktail at one bar but some rude dog is hogging the seats.

It is a long travel day so I head back to my hotel. Tomorrow I visit a finca or coffee plantation.

Salento Streets at night. Things seem pretty safe here.

Jardín: Gallitos de Roca (Cock of the Rock)

Where are all my ladies?

This afternoon I am heading to the Parque Natural Jardín de Rocas where I can witness the Gallitos de Roca (rare and unique birds). They come to this reserve looking for female birds to mate with. The English translation is Cock of the Rock (I’ll just leave that there with no further comment).

The reserve is located not to far from the bridge I crossed previously for another hike .

The park doesn’t open until the late afternoon because you will only see the males performing in the early evenings.

The lady who runs the park is very nice. She tells me of all the great places to go for bird observation.

I don’t have to go far because there are already birds hanging out in the tree right next to me.

I find a place along the observation boardwalk and wait.

I am glad I brought my telephoto lens with me because while the birds are close by, they aren’t close enough to get decent photos with the diffused lighting.

We sit quietly and wait for the males to fly in and start singing for a lover. They are loud. I can’t see how the females would be attracted to that but what do I know.

Don’t you think I’m cute???

After viewing the birds I chat with some other travelers outside the preserve. They give me some helpful advice on my next town. The Colombia traveling community is small but very supportive.

I head back into town and have a nice dinner at Óleo Bistró Restaurante.

Tomorrow I head to Salento. I love my time in Jardin and would stay longer but for once I scheduled just the right amount of time in a city. I definitely would not mind returning some day.

Jardín: Hike to Christ

Another day in Jardín (Antioquia, Colombia) so I decide to take another short hike but this time to a Christ statue on a hill.

The town looks beautiful this morning as I head out for my hike.

Where I am going today is up the hill to see the large statue of Jesus (Seen as the little white thing in the photo below).

See the Jesus on the middle left.

The path is straight ahead and not clearly marked. I only know it is the correct path because of website that created a great guide to the area (fortunately I found the link to their website intentional travelers – they are so helpful).

The trail begins as a steep decline downhill on a rock trail. I am glad I am wearing my hiking boots again.

A kitten comes by to greet me before I start my hike.

I don’t really see many others around once again today. Traveling in Colombia is quiet compared to visiting other countries. Normally the isolation would have me worried about my safety but for some reason I feel safe here.

I come to a large moss covered tree. The tree is beautiful and reminds me of home.

I come to a little wooden bridge and cross a stream.

The area around the stream looks like a nice place to picnic during the day.

It is not clearly marked but I notice a rough path going uphill. I am thankful that it is both dry and that I am wearing my hiking boots. The steps are challenging for my shorter legs.

Looking down below. I see other hikers!
Town off in the distance

I arrive to a gate. There is no sign but it is not locked. I open the gate and walk through, hoping I am not tresspassing.

I am at some sort of summit. I stop and take in the views. There are large beautiful black birds flying to and fro.

I walk past banana trees. The path I am on is clearly used but very rough. I see another couple hiking around so I know I am in the right place.

Eventually I arrive to the area that contains the statue. There is a restaurant or café that appears to closed but a gate is ajar. A tour guide has entered into the viewing area with some tourists; I assume since he is there then it is ok to enter. I grab a seat and enjoy the view for a while.

At some point it looks like the owner shows up. I pack up my things in anticipation of getting asked to leave but he doesn’t seem angry we are there. I don’t stay long anyway.

restaurant up top
seating with view of town below
Finally the view, from below it looks like there used to be gondola system. It doesn’t seem to be operational.
A directional sign! Don’t see many of these.

I think there are other trails up here somewhere but I end up just heading back the way I arrived.

Trail goes on? Who knows?
The Moss tree again

It doesn’t take me long to arrive back in town. It is still early so I take the time to visit the inside of the beautiful town church.

I love the tiles and the ceiling colors.

I head back to my hotel to freshen up and rest. I’ll head out later to see some birds at dusk. More on that later.

Medellín To Jardín

Town of Jardin

For the next part of my Colombia travels I want to experience small town Colombia. In the interest of time I have chosen two towns to visit: Salento and Jardín. Today I am heading to Jardín.

As I stated previously I attempted to follow the usually very good RometoRio app for directions to the town of Jardín. However the app this time tried to send me to the wrong terminal in Medellin and on a bus to the wrong city. My hotel concierge helps me determine there is a direct bus to Jardín from the south terminal of Medellín.

The journey is three hours and the roads vary from highways to bumpy and curvy mountain roads. Early on the ride there are many stops to pick up additional passengers. Vendors also periodically board selling plantains, chips, cookies, beverages, fresh cut fruit and ice fruit – this is totally normal for Colombia. I can’t resist buying some plantain chips.

People get on and off our bus at various points. At one point we picked up about 15 school kids catching a ride home.

View along the ride

Once I arrive in Jardin I am greeted by colorful buildings with large hills as the backdrop. The town definitely has its charm. I walk a couple blocks to my hotel Hotel La Casona.

Hotel La Casona

My hotel is adorable and I enjoy the included breakfast in the courtyard that my room overlooks.

View from my room
View from my room

Rooms are simple and contain an ensuite bathroom.

I spend my first afternoon wandering around town. I find a café to order a drink (or two). I want to order food to dine al fresco but it appears they have rules about dining outside. My waitress instructs me to go inside once my pizza is ready to eat it. I never had the reason explained to me but I am assuming there is some sort of no outdoor dining ordinance. The town center is full of lovely colorful tables; they must not want the clean up and mess for the courtyard.

I hang out here my first evening
Main town church

Colorful buildings on my walk around town.

Views of the hillsides…

I once again sit at an outside table and people watch as the sun sets.

I have a moment of bliss. This town and this travel style is exactly the type of travel I love. I am glad I booked multiple days here.