Continuing on from my last post, Sovio, Juan Pablo and Catherine made their way back to Cali that evening and I found myself a nice place to stay in Salento. With a private room, shared kitchen and about 100 cats outside it was a bargain at 25 000 pesos (£6.50!)
The following day I met up with a friendly Mexican guy who we had befriended in Cocora whilst hanging on for dear life to the “willy” jeep. We walked an hour or so to a nearby coffee farm through the green and vibrant countryside of Quindío. There are loads that you can visit in the area and, after all, it would be fairly ridiculous to have travelled to the heart of Colombian coffee production and not learnt how it is they make the stuff. The process from plant to cup is a very complex and lengthy one indeed and made me realise how much I take for granted that I can just have coffee whenever I feel like it. After an unsuccessful attempt at dinner (ketchup can never be a pasta sauce substitute) which I solved by eating everyone else’s food, we went to watch the game in the main square.
The next morning I left Salento and made my way to Armenia, the capital of the department, where I was met by my lovely Couchsurfing host Camilo. I was slightly apprehensive as it was both my first time couchsurfing in Colombia and my first time doing it alone… My fear were proved unnecessary as I had THE BEST time. The thing I most love about couchsurfing (and there are many things I love) is discovering random, off-the-beaten-track places you simply would not have come across of your own accord and being able to slot yourself momentarily into someone else’s reality. Barcelona was one of those places. As you can probably tell, Colombia has its own version of many European countries and cities. Unlike Barcelona (Spain), Barcelona (Colombia) is a tiny village outside Armenia where Camilo’s dad lives. I got a tour of his vivero as well as my first try of mate – a typical Argentinian tea – which was surprisingly bitter. We went back to Armenia in the evening where I stayed with Camilo and his girlfriend in their lovely little flat.
The next morning Ivan arrived in Armenia. His aunt and uncle live nearby and had very kindly offered to host us for a few days in their beautiful home, so we said goodbye to Camilo and hopped on the next bus there! After a week of hostels and sofas, a real house hidden away in the gentle hills of Quindío, with a swimming pool and incredible views of the green fields and distant mountains, was nothing short of paradise. Ivan’s aunt all but forced me to have my photo taken (under the pretext of reassuring my mum that I was alive and well) so here’s me looking awkward as per.
We stayed with them for the weekend and had a very chilled time hopping from pueblo to pueblo. One of my absolute favourites was the town of Pijao (pronouned pi-how). We got a rickety bus through the hills from Armenia one morning, arriving in Pijao just as the heavens opened. After taking advantage of the rain for a quick bakery pit-stop, we set off on a walk up into the mountains surrounding the town. It felt quite adventurous as we weren’t quite sure where the path would lead us, but having strolled round the town a few times (it’s really not that big) we needed something else to do! The walk itself took us a few hours, up into the forest-covered hills, where we happily discovered about a million guayaba trees. With our pockets, bags and hats overflowing we made our way along the most beautiful path until we arrived at the top and could look out over picturesque Pijao below.
We also visited the nearby towns of Montenegro, where we enjoyed a nice cup of coffee in main square, and La Tebaida and generally had a jolly good time. The Eje Cafetero is, without doubt, one of my favourite places in Colombia.