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The Coffee Zone, Colombia

Written on: Wednesday July 23rd, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

No trip to Colombia could be complete without a visit to a coffee plantation.  This area is where most of the coffee is grown, and the dramatic valleys are filled to the brim with coffee plants and banana or plantain trees.  We made Manizales our base for a few days, and visited a coffee plantation about an hour away.  Our tour guide was absolutely fantastic with an intense passion for coffee, but even better was the coffee-addicted terrier dog who came with us and was practically jumping from bush to bush!   After 5 hours we were experts in the growing, pest control, preparing and tasting of coffee.  Even got a certificate. 

A Colombian coffee picker gets 300 pesos (15 cents) per kilo and one tree will produce US$2 worth of beans per year.  Most important to share with you, coffee lover, is that bug-infested coffee beans float in the washing process, and this is the stuff that gets sold to nescafe.  Waste not want not!!  Much like finding a perfectly oval kiwifruit in NZ, finding a good coffee in Colombia is pretty difficult.  We are all happy to have our fill of freshly roasted coffee.

Made it to the top of a volcano - Los Nevados at 5,325 metres.  OK, so we got a bus up to 4,800 metres but that walk to the sign at 5,150 metres still took us over an hour as the altitude made it really difficult.  It was freezing up there, but some hot springs on the way back down warmed us up nicely.

We also spent a few nights in the nearby town of Salento.  Its a cute town, and so quiet with all the shops closing up at 8pm. Kind of like Al´s home town in NZ, except for all the straw cowboy hats.   We did a great walk amongst the wax palms, the national tree of Colombia.  There are loads of Hummingbirds flitting about, and when we saw them we realised why they are called this - there is a really good ´hum´ they make with their fast-flapping wings. 
In most places we have had our own cereal and fruit for breakfast at the hostel, buy lunch which is the main meal of the day (usually rice, beans and meat) and enjoyed going to the markets to buy something to cook for dinner.  We have been craving brocolli and steamed veg to counteract the fried foods.  You can buy fruit salads and juices everywhere which is good, Colombian tap water is generally safe so we don´t have to worry about the sneaky ice cubes.  Bogota had lots of choice of western food, but the smaller towns its all about traditional food.  You usually always get a few slices of fried plantain and some yucca on your plate.  One day for lunch we had what I can only describe as one huge, platter-sized crisp with mince, beans and avocado on top - it was fried plantain, which was then mashed down flat and refried.  Good but bad.