December 22, 2014
We got a late start to the day but decided to go explore the famous Valle de Cocora, home to Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm. One thing I have learned living in the Andes is to take advantage of good weather while we can.
We wound up taking a three-hour horseback ride through some spectacular scenery. The paths were muddy and felt abit treacherous at times, but it was all well worth the views. I was so happy! I felt like I was living my dream, yet again, of traveling the world with my kids and helping them have all of these great experiences!
After yet another yummy lunch at Iliana’s restaurant, we decided to go check out Don Alvaro’s coffee plantation, a small (4 hectare) organic farm owned by a humble and sweet man whose family has been dedicated to coffee growing for generations. And what a treat it was!
We were lucky because Don Alvaro was there when we arrived and we got a tour of the plantation from the man himself. On this farm, coffee is still grown and processed the traditional way, by hand, and it was great for the girls to experience the entire process – to pick the beans, rake them in the drying house, roast them, grind them and then take a sip of the final product. The views from the farm, across the valley with its meandering river below, where spectacular!
As a side note, coffee cultivation and production, a way of life in many parts of Colombia, seems to be slowly dying. As competition from cheaper coffee grown in places like Vietnam (where labor rates are even cheaper than in Colombia) grows, Colombian coffee growers cannot compete in this labor intensive field where each and every coffee bean is picked by hand. Most still do it for the love of the craft and tradition, while supplementing their income by growing other crops. Don Alvaro, for instance, also grows bananas, plantains, pineapple and avocado on his farm.
As we were leaving the plantation, it began to pour. We were completely unprepared and Don Alvaro was kind enough to lend us his umbrellas and walk us to the main road to flag down a jeep Willy, a refurbished old jeep which is the main form of public transport in these parts). Good thing because that jeep was moving so fast that we would have missed it. In the jeep, we careened over unpaved and potholed mountainous roads holding on for dear life but managed to get back to Yambolombia, our hostel, safe and sound.
After drying off, my husband and I dropped the girls and Marta, our baby sitter, off at Iliana’s for dinner and headed off to the Brunch Place for a date. The burger (for him), veggie burger (for me ) and salads were delicious! The food in Salento is such a treat for gringo palates.