Colombia: The Capital and Coffee
It’s no secret that Colombia is a country that fascinates and intrigues me, so it’s no real surprise that I decided to make this stop a priority on my return to South America.
It will also be my final stop in South America with the remainder of our trip based in Central America.
To add to the excitement, Chris was flying in from London to be my travel buddy for the next few months. This, his first time on South American soil.
We both landed in Bogota and spent time catching up over scrambled eggs and coffee.
Bogota is a big, bustling city and we took a few days to find our feet and adjust to the Colombian way of life.
We explored the city, caught a cable car to the city’s highest viewpoint and spent some time in the capital’s overrated Gold museum.
In honesty, Bogota is a hard city to get to know properly in just a few days – I get the impression you’d have to live here to fully get the best of what it has to offer.
So the bus out of town was a welcome one as we headed to one of my favourite spots in the country, Salento.
Based in the heart of the Zona Cafetera – a triangular area made up of three towns which comprise the best coffee production in South America – Salento is as picturesque as it is enjoyable.
We arrived to a stunning sunset and we made our way to the highest point in town to take in the views.
We then spent a full day exploring the Cocora Valley, an area that is home to the tallest wax palms in the world which are scattered across the valley floor.
The day’s hiking is strenuous but it’s beautifully broken up by a hummingbird sanctuary where you can get up close to the world’s smallest birds and the views all day are stunning.
Any trip to coffee country wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a local coffee farm (known in the region as a ‘finca’).
Our hostel was run by Lily, who took it upon herself to become a mother to me and Chris while we were staying with her – always making sure we had everything we needed (especially a cup of coffee).
Lily recommended a particular family-run finca which was presided over by head of the family, ‘Don’ Elias. We took a jeep down to the farm and the Don himself greeted us and gave us a quick history of his farm, his family and their way of life.
Not only was this a welcome, it was also a clever stalling tactic as his son, who was to guide us around the farm was just finishing his breakfast.
With his eggs barely digested, the Don’s son (and presumable heir to the Elias family throne) came rushing out and took us around their small property.
The family produce their coffee in only traditional ways with machinery that pre-dates even the Don himself. Much different, as they explained, to the big coffee-producing companies that have moved in with industrial machinery which allows them to process coffee beans on an obscene scale.
The Elias family pick, dry, process, roast and package up the coffee themselves with each family member designated different roles.
They also only sell the coffee to the guests that visit their farm – you buy this stuff in shops.
The tasting at the end was of course a highlight and, after thanking the family for their time, we bought a couple of bags of coffee to take with us along the way.
The whole region produces amazing coffee, most people drink it black and it’s seriously strong too.
I can’t explain how easy it is to fall into a routine of having 3 or 4 coffees a day.
Needless to say we were bouncing off the walls for the few days we were in Salento but I wouldn’t have it any other way.