Monday 21 April 2014

Soggy Salento

After leaving Bogota I caught up with the PeruHop gang in Medelline for Easter weekend in a finca.

There were 19 of us, one whole pig, about 9 litres of rum and 6 of aguardiente and too much beer to count. They butchered the pig for us and we are pork at every meal - we had the liver, leg meat, pork belly, ribs, random hunks of meat, stew, chicharron and crackling. Oh and the pigs head (although I don't think anyone ate much of that). I don't think I need to eat pork for a year now! 

So after a weekend of excess I headed on the bus to Salento via Pereira. On the buses you always get people trying to sell you stuff - sometimes just drinks and food, but sometimes it's like a condensed dragons den. They get 10/15 minutes til they need to jump off to sell you the product and possibly tell you their life story (not 100% sure as my Spanish isn't up to it). Luckily being gringo means I escape the hard sell mostly.

When I got to Salento the bus dropped me off at the firestation and it was a short walk to the Plantation House hostel, which had come recommended through my friends. I was lucky to find some fellow travellers to do the Corcora valley walk the following morning and grabbed some comfort food - chicken tikka masala!! (And it was good).

Corcora valley is renowned for its wax palms - these are the tallest palms in the world reaching up to 50/60 meters tall. They are also the national tree of Colombia and only grow above 2,500m. The walk takes you through the valley, then into cloud forest to a hummingbird sanctuary, crossing 7 different precarious bridges.

Not sure if this counted as a bridge - but it was precarious!

We were lucky to have sun on the walk through the valley

The walk was very muddy and in some points you had to walk in the river - so wellies were a requirement - luckily we could rent them from the Plantation House for the day.

Me being farmer Katie in my wellies

There were lots of cows...

After hiking through the valley and the forest we stopped at the hummingbird sanctury to refuel with some chocolate con queso and attempt some snaps of the very fast birds. Here's a couple I managed to get:

Then you climb a hill 'La Montana' and walk back down the track to the drop off point for the jeeps. This bit of the walk is usually pretty spectacular as you walk through the wax palms looking like something out of Jurassic park - however it was raining pretty bad by the time we got there so the palms were reaching though the mist :(

At the top of La Montana

Beautiful gardens at the rangers station

Wild strawberries on the way up

Wax palms in the rain & cloud

'View' over the valley

Wet selfie - shortly after I learnt that my water proofs weren't torrential downpour proof...

We were soaked through and happy to pay extra for a non scheduled jeep rather than wait half an hour for it to fill up. As soon we got back to the Plantation House hot showers were in order and they even lit the fire for us in the common roomto help us warm up (and dry our wet clothes!)

The next morning I joined the coffee tour that owner Tim Edward (aka Don Edwardo) runs on his finca. We walked down to his coffee farm - on the way learning more about coffee in Colombia (they export the good stuff generally) and his feuds with the neighbours.

Don Edwardo pointing out a local landmark - one cartel members ex house on the hill - complete with watch tour and lion cages.

The tour takes about 2.5 hours and after that epic you are gagging for the freshly brewed home grown coffee they give you. We learnt a lot about how to grow coffee, how to process it to get the bean out of the fruit, wash the sugars out, dry the coffee and then how to roast and brew.

Wax palms in natural state (no cows grazing below them)

Entrance to the finca

View from the top of the hill - the coffee is inter planted with bananas and palms to give it shade

How they harvest traditional coffee - bend it over!

On the table the process coffee goes through - from right to left green cherries, ripe red or yellow cherries (depends on the variety), beans from the fruit, washed and dried beans or parchment coffee, de husking the parchment husk and then the fine husk, roasted beans, ground coffee.

We tried 2 different types of coffee, traditional and modern coffee beans, black and strong! Both cups were good and I could feel the buzz after number 2 which I think was smoother. This was the modern coffee plant beans apparently.

That afternoon on a coffee high I decided to join the others for a horseback tour to the cascades. 

Unfortunately it was drizzling / foggy so the pics weren't the greatest. 

Pretty! Megan and the trumpet flowers

Low light shot of the cascades

We also ended up riding back in the rain in the dark which would not have been fun except for the numerous fireflies in the trees and fields - they were magical, like stars! Needless to say this was another night we needed the fire at Plantation House to warm up and dry out...

Sunny Salento on the morning I left! Plantation House terrace.

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