12.07.2016 - 20.07.2016 15 °C
After our time in Cali, Zoya and I caught a bus to Pereira and changed to get to Salento, in the Zona Cafetera (the coffee region), a sleepy little town with pretty colourful houses. Did you know that Colombia is the third largest coffee producer in the world? Brazil is the first, followed by Vietnam and Indonesia comes fourth. Together they produce 75% of the world's coffee.
So on our first day naturally we decided to go for a coffee tour. We did a nice 1h walk to get to the Ocaso coffee farm, with green beautiful landscapes along the way. The tour was super interesting, and we started it by picking our own coffee beans! Well actually they're still coffee fruits, before they extract the beans and leave them to dry. Coffee fruits produce more sugar under shade which is why you always need other trees to be planted around, usually fruit trees like banana or mango trees. The farm is located at 1780m above sea level ; optimal elevation for coffee production is between 1350m and 1950m, below it will be too hot and above it will be too cold. Coffee requires a lot of attention! We went through the whole process until we got to try the finished product. We then took a fun truck back to town where we enjoyed the first of our amazing and massive meals at Brunch, which quickly became our new favourite place in town!
The next day we decided to go for a hike in the Cocora Valley, famous for its giant wax palm trees that can grow up to 60m high. We jumped on a jeep and started our walk through a countryside landscape before going deeper into the cloud forest which felt a bit like the jungle, with lots of wobbly wooden bridges crossing the river and a lot of mud which made the path quite slippery. We assumed there would only be one route for this hike as it is quite famous. But there was no signage anywhere and as usual when we asked people we got told different things everytime haha... The hike was supposed to last 4h in a loop, but we got lost and started going up a complete different route which was a 6h hike... So we eventually gave up and got back on our steps as we had to get a bus to Manizales and didn't want to leave after dark. We still got some amazing views of the palms trees and got to cross the cloud forest, but we missed the viewpoint from the top of the mountain... oh well! It was a bit cloudy anyway, but it was still worth it. We went to Brunch for another amazing feast, which felt well-deserved after all that walking!
We only managed to get a late bus to Manizales so just went straight to bed when we got there. The next day we caught a bus to go visit the beautiful Recinto del Pensamiento park. The guided tour included a visit of the nice herb garden which inspired me to get my own, then we got on a telesilla, a funny little chairlift that took us to the other side of the park through an impressive collection of plants and trees. We went to an amazing hummingbird garden where you could observe a few of the 147 species of hummingbirds that exist in Colombia - they are beautiful and so fast, quite hard to capture in picture! Did you know that hummingbirds only feed from bell-shaped flowers, preferably with bright colours like orange, yellow, red or pink? Next we visited the Mariposario, the butterfly reserve where we saw this super cool translucent butterfly... We also walked through the cloudforest where we spotted several types of orchids. It is a gorgeous place that is definitely worth a visit! We had a nice menu del dia afterwards and went back to chill at the hostel since the weather was not great: a peanut butter brownie from Brunch and a girly movie was just what we needed haha...
That night we went for drinks and a bit of dancing at the Cable, the cool student neighbourhood in town but it wasn't as crazy as we thought it would be. We probably got too used to the amazing nightlife in Cali so it was hard to compete! So our plan for the next day was just to go to the Thermal baths to relax in the hot water (2 pools between 35 and 40 degrees!). The pools were outside in a nice natural environment so we definitely felt relaxed and refreshed afterwards. We enjoyed the few sights of the city including the Cathedral and yet another Simon Bolivar plaza. And I decided to keep my collection of paper bracelets as a souvenir haha... Later that afternoon Zoya and I parted way as she left for Armenia and I took my night bus to Bogota.
I met up with my friend David in Bogota where he is working as an English teacher - a very popular activity for travellers wishing to stay in Colombia for a while. On my first morning and after a good breakfast, I decided to go explore the city with 2 French girls: I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bogota felt more like a small town than a big mega city - that's probably cause we stayed most of our time in La Candelaria, the historic centre, which has pretty churches in every corner. We went to the Botero museum, a beautiful collection of paintings as well as a few sculptures. Some of them I really liked, he had an interesting approach. We then went to the Gold museum, with its impressive collection of different gold objects and artefacts, probably more than you've ever seen in one place! We also decided to try a few traditional dishes in a famous local restaurant: tamales (a corn-based dough filled with meat and steamed in a banana leaf), ajiaco (potato & chicken soup served with corn, rice and avocado) and chocolate con queso (hot chocolate with cheese and bread). The ajiaco and the tamal were delicious but dipping the cheese in the hot chocolate was just weird! That big local favourite did not work for me...
I spent my other few days there just discovering the city, realising that it was much colder than I expected, at 2,644m above sea level! I did a very good graffiti tour which took us to some super cool places in La Candelaria, with beautiful street art full of meaning. I treated myself to a nice French-inspired restaurant called Sant Just where everything was just perfect, from the lamb with ratatouille and mashed potato made in front of me by the chef served with French bread, to the glass of crisp white wine and the delicious dessert. I started realising then that I was looking forward to being home back to France!
One last thing I did in Bogota was to take the funicular up to Montserrate, to get that panoramic view overseeing the city and get some peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city. I also went for coffee with Emma, a super nice British girl, in a very cute pub haha: maybe that meant I was missing England as well? Since this was my last South American stop, I found myself wanting to go out on my own to wander in the streets, taking everything in, trying to remember it all: the beautiful houses, the smiling people, the delicious street food smells... Trying to take it all with me back home.
Next thing I know I was in Bogota airport waiting to board my flight to Frankfurt where I would then change to Marseille. I felt very emotional and couldn't believe that it was over, but most of all I couldn't believe that I had done it. 6 and half months travelling throughout South America, a dream come true...
This was the story of the last leg of my journey, which I think I delayed writing up to keep the journey going forever...
Stay tuned as I will be back for one last post to reflect on my South American adventure - my last blog post!