Day 6 – 8. Manizales and Salento

Day 6, bus day to Manizales

Time to move again. Today we are going to Manizales where we will spend the night at a coffee plantation.

We start fairly late and the transit it self was uneventful, we had lunch along the way and arrived at Hacienda Venecia around four. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the hostel, relaxing in the hammocks and eating great oranges and other fruits from the garden.

We got dinner served there and again we got some great local dish. This time it was Tamales a mix of chicken, banana and corn flour cooked for a long time in palm leaves. Served with the traditional rice and arepas.

During dinner the skies opened up and we had some very close thunder followed by a torrent of rain. Luckily we had some protection over our head.

After dinner I decided to go to bed, however the the hammocks looked to tempting so I got my silk sleeper and a blanket and decide to spend the night in one of them.

This is my first time trying to sleep in a traditional hammock and getting in with the sleeper and blanket took a few tries. The first hammock I tried was hung a bit weird and after a while I decided to try another.

This one fit me very well and after another trip up to go to the toilet I finally went to sleep around 11. Before falling to sleep I got some visitors on the roof that was eating something it sounded like. And a whole lot of foreign noises in the night.

When I fell asleep I slept very well until til the sun stated rising and some of the other travellers started moving around.

Day 7, Visiting the coffee plantation and on to Salento

After my breakfast it was time to pack our bags ready for the trip to Salento and then we got a guided tour of the coffee plantation.

Starting out at the reception we got a nice cup of coffee and a lecture in the history of coffee and how the process is done in Colombia today. Colombia exports around 7% of the coffee in the world and most of it is farmed in small farms in the steep mountain sides. The climate is well suited for this and the coffee plants are harvested every 20 days. Producing coffee all the year.

The farmers them selves sorts and dry the coffee to green beans. These beans are then collected and shipped all over the world where local coffee manufacturers do the roasting to suite the particular market.

In the high season a average coffee picket could pick around a 100 kilos a day. And the farmers them selves decide when they want to sell their beans. This makes it possible to save and get the best prices.

After our little lecture we had a walk through the coffee fields where we saw the different types of coffee plants and stages of maturity of the beans.

At the factory we then got to see how the sorting process is done. Colombia only export the highest quality beans. Beans of lesser quality is used in the internal market. From sorting the beans go to cleaning and fermentation before they are dried and ready to ship. Because of the humid conditions in Colombia the beans here to through a longer process in order to get rid of the fruit and be left with only the dry green beans.

The last part of our tour was to look at how the process of roasting the beans alter the smell and taste. Same bean different roasting time and a completely different smell and taste.

In the end we went back to the main buildings for lunch before heading on to Salento. I also picked up some of the local roasted beans and are looking forward to try those in my Aeropress when I get back home. Even managed to pick up som brewing tip from the current Colombian Aeropress champion.

The drive to Salento was also an uneventful drive. The rain came pouring down after a while and I guess in this part of the country that happens every night. When we came to our hostel I had a quick shower, got my dirty clothes sent to the cleaners and we went to the restaurant downstairs for a quick dinner.

Three hours later and I just got my food. It seem the kitchen had it´s hands full last night and lots of mistakes were made.

However in the end the food was great and we were in not hurry.

Tomorrow we´ll do some more exploring of the Cocora Valley and Salento it self.

Day 8, walking in the Cocora Valley and Salento

A great night sleep is over and it´s time to get going again.

After a nice breakfast at the hostel we were picked up by our guide and driven in old Willys Jeeps to the start of our hike.

The hike today was a easy three hours roundtrip with a very good guide. We got to learn a lot about the workings of the rainforest in the area and even planted a few palm threes on the way back. The wax palms that used to make up a lot of the forest around here was mostly destroyed for the wax they provide and there are now work being done to try to restore the forest.

However the growing rate of a palm three is very slo so it will take ages.

After the walk we had lunch at a restaurant near the start of our walk. We got to taste some of the famous trout that has been introduces to the area and are breed in the river near there. A great meal of fish, even if my hunger wasn´t really there.

Back in Solento we got a guided tour of the little village. Salento got the first street that was created in Colombia, other than that it´s a small cosy town with small shops and restaurants dotted around.

I guess dinner will be at the hostel again tonight as the rains came pouring down again in the afternoon.

It´s also time to pack our bags ready for some flying tomorrow.

Our next stop is Palomino on the north coast. That means we will be up early tomorrow, drive to the closest airport and then fly via Bogota to Santa Marta and the by road to Palomino. A long travel day, but we´ll then finally see the sea again.

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