Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
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I took a local bus for 30-40 minutes from Armenia to Salento into the heart of the coffee region. I sat in the front with the
driver for the journey so that I could take some pictures out of the window more easily. The countryside along the way is beautiful and green
with rolling hills and lots of trees. Salento is located inside Los Nevados National Park to the east of Armenia and Pereira.
The Plantation House
I had read online that The Plantation House
was a good place to stay. Their website offers a lot of information about the Salento area also.
Arriving in Salento
We decended into the Salento valley down a winding road lined with tall thin trees and great views and passed through the village of Boquia and crossed
over Rio Quindio (river) where camping areas are available, one is called 'Camping Monteroca'. Their is art and coffee stalls along the side
of the road before the road wound back up to reach the main township of Salento where I got out beside the fire station and walked down the
street on the right for 100 meters to reach The Plantation House.
What To Do In Salento
Soon after arriving at the hostel, a
group started talking about going in a short while to Valle de Cocora National Park known for the wax palm trees that grow up to 60 meters tall and
to Acaime to see the hummingbird sanctuary. One of these people had a jeep and there was a spare seat for
Valle de Cocora and Wax Palms
From the Plantation House, we set out on a rough road for about 40 minutes. Along the way seeing
the tall Wax Palms on the green hills in the distance. Once there, I saw many horses on the dusty road for hire and groups of people beginning a
ride through the park. People were also walking the track but I would definitely recommend taking a horse. The sight of the Wax Palms up
on the hills with the clouds down low amongst them gave this place a ghostly sense. From the horse area and road which also has several
restaurants selling fresh trout it is 2.4kms to Cocora, 5.7kms to La Montana, 8.4kms to El Bosque, 4.8km to Acaime and 9.1kms to Estrella de Agua.
The rocky and gravely path heads down the hill past a trout farm on the right and across a bridge over a small river at the bottom. After
this point if you are walking you will wish you were on horseback because the track is so rough and awkward to walk on. After 12kms of
walking crossing several bridges we arrived at the hummingbird sanctuary. It's a nice place to relax and watch the hummingbirds dart around in nature.
I say again take a horse up here! Afterwards we travelled back to Salento but this time we drove on a beautiful tree lined road which was sealed and smooth,
over rivers and past farm houses and animals grazing.
That afternoon in Salento was busy with many people in town during the
weekend from surrounding cities enjoying themselves in the plaza and streets - shopping and eating while the kids played on push around toys and
sidewalk games such as target shooting. The plaza itself is nice with mainly white houses with colorfully painted doors and windows surrounding it.
The church and clock tower dominate one side of the square as well as the skyline of the town itself while in the center of the plaza is a statue of Simon Bolivar and Pedro Vicente Henao. The plaza usually is surrounded
by parked Willys Jeeps which is the main means of transport in town. At the end of one of the streets leading off the plaza
is a long blue and yellow staircase leading up a hill to Salento's Mirador lookout.
Coffee Farm Tour
Later that afternoon it was time for a
tour of a coffee farm. The Plantation House has it's own coffee farm 10 minutes walk from the lodgings and costs $5,000 pesos ($2.60USD), it is
called Finca Don Eduardo. I had been looking forward to this part of my visit to Salento very much. The coffee farm also has a bamboo forest,
waterfalls and a lookout point to see the great views into the valley. The group of about 14 plus our guide / owner Don began the walk through the
finca and walked amongst the coffee plants. We got a detailed explanation of the various stages of coffee growing from coffee cherries on the
plants themselves, through to the drying process and the dried and roasted beans. Finally ending with a cup of a freshly produced hot cup of
coffee! First part of the tour we saw some very young and small plants planted in the soil and shortly afterward some larger plants producing coffee
beans. They are green at first, then turn red and finally rippen to be orange. It was OK to pick some of the ripe beans from the trees and chew on them
which I did a lot. They are a sweet flavour with only a hint of coffee in the middle when picked straight from the tree before they are dried. The
coffee plants were not huge but many were covered in green and red coffee beans growing in the sun while being shaded by banana trees planted specifically
for that purpose. Shade is a very important factor. After the beans are picked they are put into water, the ones that float are not good and removed.
The rest are dried in the simple (made from bamboo) outside drying room on the ground and also on the sliding rack up on the roof. When being dried,
the dark colored beans are removed. We saw trays of seedlings growing before we all settled around the large wooden table for a drink of fresh
Relaxing Evening in a Hammock
That night was spent by people socialising at the house and having a beer while I lay in
an outside hammock playing my acoustic guitar before getting a good nights sleep in my dorm. I'm glad I did because at 4am the next morning I awoke
and decided I needed a break from overland travel for a little while and booked a flight online for late that afternoon from Cali
up to Santa Marta
on the coast.
Bus to Armenia
I left Salento at about 8:30am to Armenia and caught another bus for 3hrs back to Cali and made my way
to the airport for my flight through Bogota
to Santa Marta.
2nd Time in Salento
The 2nd time I came to Salento was in late 2014 and I spent just an hour or so in the center of town,
this was during a 3 day visit to the whole Armenia area where I saw a lot of things like the Coffee Park and Panaca