Monday, June 3, 2013

Salento and Santa Rosa de Cabal

The next day I left to go to Salento. This included another seven hour or so bus ride to Armenia then an hour on a local bus. Why did I choose Salento next? Mostly cos the Swiss guy in our room in Bogota told me it was good and his photos looked nice.

After working out how to get to Bogota's bus station using the overly complicated bus metro system, I arrived and went for the best bus I know about: Bolivariano. This bus probably cost me twice as much as a normal shit one, but I didn't care. The bus chick told me it had WiFi and aircondtioning and it would only stop once for lunch. As a bonus, it also had entertainment systems in the back of the seats. Money. Well. Spent.

By the time I got to Salento it was dark. I was debating whether to stay in Plantation House as recommended by Bogota Swiss boy, or this one, which attracts hippy vegans. I went for the hippy vegan one. However, it is a good 2km out of town so I needed to get a jeep taxi there, which added to the cost. Nice views though.

However, this hostel didn't have WiFi. That was a deal breaker for me. The next day I left and went to Plantation House.

So I literally arrived at Plantation House at about 9am and this French girl in my room dragged me along to some coffee appreciation course that was happening 'right now'. I don't normally drink coffee at home, but when in Rome... 

The guy basically brewed the same coffee using four different methods to show you the differences in taste. It was quite remarkable how the flavour changes. The professional expresso machine was the best. And he gave us a bag of beans which I'm now carrying around wondering what to do with.

I don't know what was going on with Salento, but I met so many people from Brisbane there. It was really strange.

It is raining a lot in Salento at the moment, since they are having their mini wet season. So half of each day was pretty much taken up by doing nothing.

Here are some photos I have of the town, between showers. The lighting is therefore quite crap. But I really liked this town. It had a good, relaxed vibe and I ended up staying here longer than I thought I would originally.

This is a beautiful bird that lives in the area.

The owner of Plantation House is from England and he also owns a coffee farm. He runs daily tours, which I did.

One of these berries is from traditional coffee trees and one is from modern coffee trees (not GMO but they have enhanced the tree in a lab). Almost all commercially available coffee today is from a modern coffee tree since you can plant them closer together and they don't need shade.

I forget which berry is from which tree. However, once you remove the outside shell, the bean is exactly the same.

Tim (or Don Eduardos by his Colombian coffee name) is growing both kinds of trees cos he is doing some experimental stuff with his traditional trees. He's also in the process of setting up a website so you can grow your coffee. When it's ready he'll send it to you (except probably Australia since nothing gets through quarantine).

Apparently the best coffee is from volcanic soil, hence Java and Jamaica Blue coffees. This doesn't really explain how Vietnam has become the second largest exporter of coffee though after Brazil. Maybe everyone is used to drinking Nescafe or something?

Then some dogs got a in a fight and had to be removed.

This machine separates the outer shell and the bean. Every coffee farm has one, although some of them are hooked up to a generator so some poor sucker doesn't have to stand there turning the handle.

Then you have to wash the beans. The export quality ones sink. The floaters are what the Colombians drink. Hence, coffee in Colombia is not that great.

Next you dry it out, which is difficult cos the beans are ready for picking in the wet seasons.

Once they are dry, you can either plant the bean and new coffee will grow, or remove it's skin (ready for roasting) and no new plant will grow. 

This guy is removing the skin using a grinder.

Then you roast it.

Then you grind it.

Then you drink it. It was pretty good (export quality beans for us).

These are the various stages of the coffee bean.

New coffee plants.

This is Tim's farm, which had other fruits and vegetables growing on it and was just really nice to walk around.

This tree has some flower you can make a rohypnol style drug from, which is good for robbing tourists!

The next day I went to the lovely valle de cocora, which is a half hour jeep ride away. All the jeeps are called willys, which is funny.

There's a bunch of walks you can do here, but given all the rain, you need gum/ wellington/ rubber boots at the moment, and there were none in my size that I could rent from the hostel. So I just walked to where the trees were, where the soil was mostly dry. It was quite a beautiful place. The trees were cool.


Then I got to this river overflowing onto the road.

And that was the end of that.

The next day I left and went to Santa Rosa de Cabal, a smallish town outside of Periera. I wanted to go here was mostly because I heard it had nice thermal baths. 

It did.

I had to catch a bus from the main square in town. 

The hostel chick told me where I had to specifically wait for the bus. No buses came except a chiva bus. I held my thermal baths flyer up to the driver and he said "si" so I got on. The hostel chick also said it would take about 20 mins to get there. This means about 30-40 in actual minutes and I was never really sure I was on the right bus since this went on through farming countryside and not past anything that looked remotely like thermal baths until the road ended and we were there. Another exciting bus adventure in Colombia!

On the ride back the driver stopped near the market and then reversed parked. I have never seen or been on a bus that reverse parked before. As you'd expect it was not easy and it took him about 15 goes to get in the space. 

I very much enjoyed Salento and my brief stopover in Santa Rosa for a dip in some hot baths.

Next stop: Medellin - my favourite city so far.