Sometimes you arrive in a place and you instantly know that you love it. For the entire bus journey from Bogota into the Colombian coffee region, I felt myself smiling with increasing frequency for no real reason except that I was falling in love with Colombia.
The journey from Bogota to Salento was not the simplest. We took a bus at 08:00 from the main bus station and arrived in Armenia (the Colombian one) around 16:30. From there, we took a minibus for another hour to Salento. When we arrived in Salento we found a row a colourful jeeps in the plaza and hopped in one of those for the final leg of our journey to our Salento home, La Serrana, where we arrived at about 19:30. La Serrana is located just outside the town but it feels like you really are out on your own lost in the coffee valleys. There is a main house with the restaurant (breakfast and dinner), reception and the majority of the rooms. A 5 minute walk from there is another house part of the same hostal, with only 3 rooms (each with a bathroom) and a lovely kitchen and lounge. The entire house has huge clear windows looking out onto the lush green valley. We stayed here and loved the isolation and beautiful viewpoint for the rather dramatic storms that rolled in every afternoon.
Salento is really about 2 things: Coffee and Wax Palms (more on Wax Palms in Part 2). Before Colombia, we had been thoroughly disappointed by the coffee in South America. It seems that ‘coffee’ is generally Nescafe and creamer (if creamer is even available). But this couldn’t be the same in Colombia – this place actually exports the stuff and is famous for it so we must be about to have something good.
There are 3 coffee farms within walking distance from La Serrana. On our first morning we set off , full of confidence, to see the one that was a 2 hour walk away. However, after scaling a fence, climbing down a steep muddy hill, running away from cows and reaching a very broken bridge we couldn’t work out how to cross, we blamed the badly drawn map and headed back to the main road. (As an aside, those people that did make it to that farm said it was amazing).
Exhausted and dejected, we made our way to the closer farm (only a 40 minute walk away) and spent the afternoon learning about coffee (luckily our Spanish has improved as ur guide spoke no English). I particularly enjoyed wearing a basket and picking my own beans. Although, when I learnt how many beans are picked per day by the locals I realised I was far to slow to give up law for coffee farm labouring. We were well rewarded at the end of the tour with a delicious cup of Colombian coffee.