Myself and my buddy Juan Valdez.
We set off from Cali yesterday headed for the coffee region. By we, i mean myself, and two guys from England i met in Cali and hung out with the past few days. Neither of them speak Spanish and so i took charge and got us there. It was hectic. Neither of them had much money and none of the atm´s in the bus station were functioning. It took nearly an hour of walking about the bus station with all of our belongings on our backs to verify this.
Armenia was a scenic 3 hours away. Not bad compared to the 15 hour ride from Bogota to Cali. Once in Armenia, we transferred to a smaller bus for the hour ride to Salento, where we are staying now. But not before my wandering eyes spotted coffee soda…pretty gross.
We arrived at the Bombero Station (fire station)
and were talked at non-stop by the hostel owner for the next hour while the three of us were eagerly wanting to order a plate of trout which Salento is famous for. It was an early night after dinner because there is not much to do here at night besides wander.
If I could describe Salento in one word, it would be “classic”. It has an old feeling to it and makes me feel like I am living in the 50’s. Even the town’s gas station is classic and probably dates back to the 50’s.
It rains. Every day.
Today we set off for a 5 hour hike through the cloudforest. But about halfway through the ride in our dodgey, 30 year old jeep, a tire went flat.
Meanwhile, the heavens started pouring and we made an easy decision to postpone the hike for tomorrow. We made it back into town after an hour of walking through the beautiful coffee region.
Just an hour later we boarded another jeep, even doggier this time. The jeep looked like it was falling apart with the trunk rusted and nearing its end. Its not hard to imagine why the jeep is in this condition if it drives the rocky dirt roads every day that I just experienced.
The plan was to tour 2 different coffee plantations. A larger and smaller one. We began at the larger one with 30 employees who pick the coffee by hand. The coffee is ready to be picked two times a year in May and in the September. You can tell the ones which are ready if they look yellow or red.
Green ones are still growing. Once the coffee is collected they clean it, dry it, and send it off to the next town as part of a coffee cooperative that roasts some and packages it to be sold locally. They send the rest off, unroasted, to other countries. At the end of the tour we received a few cups of coffee. The coffee tasted good but nothing exceptional.
At the other plantation, a smaller one, we received a tour by the owner. He, his family, and two employees pick and process the coffee beans themselves. They even roasted beans in front of us to serve a half an hour later. But they are also part of the cooperative and so most coffee they sell is unroasted.