A Travellerspoint blog

I Picked a Bad Time To Give Up Coffee

A relaxing day at Finca del Cafe

First time on the trip sleeping without ear plugs - yay! Such a beautiful, restful place.

Really enjoyed our coffee tour today. It was just us and a wonderful young man named Sebastian. He walked us all over this traditional coffee farm, and provided a lot of useful and interesting info about the coffee plants and a lot of companion plants, and had us pick a few beans that we put through the grinder to remove the seeds from the fruit. Later, we enjoyed the wonderful finished product (yes, I drank the high test and even chewed on a roasted bean). At the very end we tried a new and VERY refreshing drink - lemonade with coffee. I think I found a new business venture - yum!

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Posted by Flemings2 12:43 Comments (5)

Off to the Coffee Farm

Nothing like a jolt of java to start your day. This morning we jumped into another shared Jeep Willys to go to El Ocaso Coffee Farm, one of the biggest and most well known coffee farms with tours in the area. This tour is unique in that they put you to work picking beans and see them go through the whole process. The cup of coffee at the end was a nice way to finish, although a little strong for me, not being much of a coffee drinker - they wanted us to try it without milk or sugar. Learned a lot, and a great, funny guide, Jasmine, who put us through our paces.

After lunch it was time to be picked up and driven to our next stop, Finca del Cafe, a beautiful coffee farm. It's so nice to have peace and quiet after many days of noise from traffic, people, dogs or a combination of all three. Looking forward to a good night's rest. (We have found it interesting that nowhere do we have screens on windows, air con, or fans. None of these are necessary as it cools down in the evenings, enough to have a jacket on, and there are no mosquitos!)
Will rest up tonight for another coffee tour at the farm tomorrow morning.

Ocaso Coffee Farm:

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Planting the beans:

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Almost ready:

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Some down time at last at Finca del Cafe:

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Posted by Flemings2 14:51 Comments (1)

Hiking the Andean Cloud Forest!

Awesome day. The big draw of Salento is its proximity to the Cocora Valley. The day started in the town plaza where the Jeep Willys await. These are old American WW II military jeeps that fit up to about 12 to 15 passengers crammed in to either two side seats in the back, two seats (really just one) up with the driver, and 3 to 5 people hanging off the kick board out the back. A half hour drive leads to a magnificent trail up through a valley to the cloud forest and culminating in fields of wax palms. These palms are the tallest palms in the world, and second tallest tree on the planet, next to the California Redwoods. They are found in only a few places in South America and are the national tree of Colombia. For centuries they have been used for palm fronds for Palm Sunday, and for their wax, which is in the bark. The ancients even used the wax for gold molds. After reaching the endangered list, they are now sort of protected. It's not all good news, but we'll not get into it here. Anyway, we started hiking at 2400 metres, and climbed overall to 2800 metres, over 12 kilometres. It was an amazing day helped along by our guide Blaney, from Colombia Eco Travel. Won't say any more as a picture is worth a thousand words.

The Jeep Willys:

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An impromptu flute session by Blaney (incredible):

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On the trail (just one of many bridges):

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And of course the palms:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:18 Comments (3)

Coffee Anyone?

A one-hour flight and we arrived in La Cafetera (the coffee zone). We got picked up at the airport and driven through the gridlocked city of Armenia, gradually giving way to lush rolling hills covered in bananas, mangos, and coffee. The intermittent torrential rains were with us most of the way until the sun came out as we rolled into the pretty little puebla, with a bohemian vibe, Salento (backpacker heaven).

A couple of pictures from Salento:

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Posted by Flemings2 17:25 Comments (2)

Last Day in the Capital

Another day, another bicycle.... Today was our day with Bogo Travels, a tour company offering small group cycle tours of the city. A little hair-raising at times but our whole group, including our guide Felipe, returned in one happy piece. He was always very cautious considering some of the areas we were in, but he kept a close eye on us, and the only incidents we had were when my chain fell off and stuck in a strange double-twist configuration (something he said he'd never seen before - of course - which ended with a very sore finger for him) and his helping out a couple of our comrades when they inadvertently disobeyed a traffic instruction and he had to 'bail them out' with the police.

In the afternoon we made a stop at the Botero Museum to see the interesting paintings and sculptures by famous 20th Century Colombian artist, Fernando Botero.

Tomorrow is another travel day as we fly into coffee country - Don will be in his glory! As fun and interesting as it has been in Bogota we are very much looking forward to getting out of the city.

The bike tour begins:

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Felipe bailing our fellow cyclists (flight crew from Lufthansa) out of trouble:

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One of my favourite Botero's:

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Posted by Flemings2 18:58 Comments (4)

CICLOVIA

Just when you think your language skills are coming along nicely, someone throws you a curveball. The phrase "Cuantas cuotas?" really threw us (sorry all Spanish speakers - not sure how to do appropriate punctuation nor accentuation on iPad). Okay I understand "cuantas" as "how many", but apparently, when offered this phrase by your server in a restaurant you can choose to have your $40 bill paid now or in equal payments over months!

But I'm jumping ahead here. The event of the day was Ciclovia. EVERY Sunday part of a major freeway leading into the centre, and a major intersecting road are closed to all traffic (7:00 am to 2:00 pm). The users then become mainly cyclists, but also rollerbladers, pedestrians, baby buggies, you name it. The streets are jam-packed. Add to it buskers, impressionists (saw Michael Jackson!), street artists, even Tango dancers and old fellows playing chess. With the exception of the brave demonstrators at one end protesting the re-introduction of bullfighting, great fun was had by all. In a city of almost 10 million, we were told the number of participants averages about 1 million.

Me and my new amigo:

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Faces of Ciclovia:

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The protest has started:

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They made their point well:

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Posted by Flemings2 16:59 Comments (0)

A Very Special Day

If every day of the trip is like this we'll be happy travellers.

Bogota is one of the top 10 cities in the world for graffiti. A great thing to do is the tour offered by, of course, Bogota Graffiti Tours. A very knowledgeable guide named Jay led a group of about 20 on a fascinating 2.5 hour tour through the older, cobble-stoned streets area of Candelaria, starting with some amazing works of art with some fascinating stories, ending in a slightly newer area where one can find more of the political works.

Here's just one of many beautiful paintings that gave us a new appreciation and respect for this form of expression.

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Next it was off to the Gold Museum, with floor after floor, room after room of pre-Columbian exhibits dripping in gold.

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And what better way to finish up my birthday than taking the gondola to the top of Monserrate to watch the sun go down over the city, followed by some fine dining overlooking the city lights.

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The end of a fabulous day, if not a little tiring. But, gotta get up in the morning for Ciclovia! More on that tomorrow. 🚴

Posted by Flemings2 19:52 Archived in Colombia Comments (4)

Bogotá Begins

Made it! Not a bad trip down, with a overnight in Toronto.

Arrived Bogota in the afternoon. Weather perfect - t-shirt weather during the day but without a drop of sweat. The B&B owner, Rick, picked us up at the airport. His mode of transport was interesting. If you thought BMW with air con and tinted windows - WRONG! It was a very kitschy 1980 VW Bug. What fun 😎 I climbed into the back with all of our bags (including one on my lap) - now, many will know that being the claustrophobe that I am this would not be my thing...but it was a great introduction. Rick and his wife have been the best of hosts. The "house" is a 1930's gothic with turrets and secret passages-cum-bathrooms. Beautifully renovated. He took a lot of time taking us around the neighbourhood, getting a SIM card, and showing us his favourite restaurant, which of course none of us left for a while.

Time to get some sleep and catch up on some of that jet lag.

Photos with Rick at El Barrio restaurant.

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Posted by Flemings2 18:06 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

The New Colombia?

TRUTH: home of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar (long gone)
TRUTH: second most biodiverse country in the world (after Brazil which is 10 times its size)
TRUTH: the country's name is ColOmbia, not ColUmbia
TRUTH: it's hot! (true of some areas such as Cartagena on the north coast, but Bogota is almost at 8700 feet in the foothills of the Andes so can get cool with average low-high temperatures 7-19 degrees; Medellin is known as the "City of Eternal Spring")

MYTH: Medellin is the murder capital of the world (it used to be true, but the city has experienced a reawakening as a fashionable cultural centre)
MYTH: transportation is rough (Bogota has South America's largest network of bicycle routes, and both Bogota and Medellin close down major traffic routes every Sunday except for bicyclists, rollerbladers, runners and pedestrians; both cities boast efficient, clean, and modern mass transit systems)
MYTH: if you go, you're going to be killed or kidnapped by guerillas (again, might have been true, but in the major tourist regions they are all but gone as the country grapples with a new found, if slightly delicate, peace after decades of war).

While it has a reputation as a drug-trafficking, dangerous place, we are told that it’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world, now experiencing a re-birth as the tourism diamond of South America. In 2015 tourism grew by 12% over 2014 with 2.5 million foreigners visiting in 2015, and 87% over a decade before. It is anticipated to grow by 20% per year, and is listed as one of the 10 fastest growing tourism markets globally.

So...we thought we'd give it a try. We hope to experience a taste of the many things Colombia has to offer and develop a new appreciation for a previously 'much feared' country. Stay tuned!

Posted by Flemings2 16:36 Archived in Colombia Comments (3)

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