Coffee zone, Colombia

Exploring the coffee zone, Colombia

I had a five day trip to the coffee zone in Colombia, which I had booked through an agency.  I arrived in Armenia, one of the three main towns in Colombia’s coffee region and was immediately enveloped in the famous Colombian hospitality.  My driver for the next few days was Luis Eduardo. Words cannot begin to describe him! He needs his own TV show. He’s full of life, enthusiastic, gregarious, talkative and very eager for me to see and experience all that the region had to offer. This means that, amongst other things, he will stop in the middle of road when he sees a fruit vendor to buy some kind of fruit I’ve never tried before, and make sure I get into the Rio Verde and not just look at it from the banks.

Coffee zone, Colombia

Coffee zone, Colombia

Obviously being in the coffee zone I was keen to visit a coffee plantation, so off I went.  Unlike most of the plantations you can see in the countryside, this coffee farm was competely organic and only grew shade coffee, not to mention it was run by a woman.  She gave me the tour was extremely passionate and proud of her little organic farm, which has been in the family for generations.

Coffee zone, Colombia

Coffee zone, Colombia

I visited the cute little town of Salento, which is in the heart of the coffee zone and as such attracts a lot of tourists. It is gorgeous, tiny but really lovely. However Luis also took me to a number of other typical little villages in the region, which was interesting. Every Colombian town has a Plaza de Bolivar at its heart, plus numerous churches. It was interesting to see all the farm workers biking home after a long day’s work, and the villagers enjoying their days drinking coffee in cafes and hanging out in the squares. I had the best cup of coffee I’ve had in a very long time in one of these little villages for the princely sum of about 50 cents. I told a group of old men in one cafe what I would pay for a cup of coffee typically back home and this caused much hilarity in the cafe.

We also visited the famous Valle de Corcora one day.  The countryside is just spectacular, with coffee, plantains and in this particular valley, a particular type of palm tree that only grows in Colombia. Apparently they take hundreds of years to grow to their height, maybe 50 or 60 metres tall. It is really quite spectacular.

Coffee zone, Colombia

Coffee zone, Colombia

Another day I went mountain biking, to get a better view of the scenery.  Then another morning I went horse riding. It was a lot of fun, and again, an opportunity to truly experience the gorgeous scenery.  One of my favourite things though was a hike in the mountains, Peña Blancas, also known as La Teta de la Bruja. Luis and I drove up a very steep, narrow little laneway until we finally reached the ecopark and Finca Buena Vista . And it certainly does have one of the best views in the region. First up was a 20 minute walk up the hill until we reached the Finca, and then after a refreshing drink of Agua Panuela , my guide and I set off to the summit, through dense forest, thick with bird life, and at times extremely steep. I wish I could say that the view from the top was worth it, but unfortunately it was pure white as we were amongst the clouds. Me and my guide sat there for about 45 minutes, and she told me stories and legends about the site. Despite the clouds, it was stunning.

I had one day left, so Luis offered to come to the Finca, where I was staying, in the morning and go with me by bus into Armenia, as I hadn’t spent any time there at all. It turned out to be one of the best days I had. He was absolutely fabulous, and I was very lucky to have him as my personal tour guide and bodyguard for the day. He took me to the Plaza de Bolivar (every town has one of course), showed me the Catedral, surprisingly modern following a devastating earthquake a few years prior, then after walking through the town a bit more, to the Museo. He wanted me to see Armenia and how the “real people” lived. What a great experience!

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