Colombian football, coffee and tall palms

On my last day in Medellin I met up with Tali and Caryn who had just arrived from San Gil. I spent the day, in the rain being their tour guide – well for the tiny area that I knew!

I took them to the Botanical gardens, on the metro – I felt like a pro by this point and actually the metro is so easy to use.

We walked around the gardens, Tali admiring how many black cats there were and me admiring how similar this park felt to England. We got to the duck pond in the drizzling rain and other than the ducks seemingly being a lot larger than European ducks, I felt like I’d been transported back to Dunorlan park – a park in the town I went to school in. As we approached the pond we saw that there was a huge iguana and turtles in the pond – not very English ha.

As the weather had turned on us we decided against going up one of the cable cars as we would have limited visibility and the possibility of being stranded up in one of the Barrios whilst the weather cleared. This happened to a friend the previous day who went up in the sunshine and got stuck up there for 3 hours whilst their was a storm (they stop the cable cars FYI). Instead we went to the Museo de Antioquia in Botero Plaza. Via of course the amazing empanada place and cheese balls (awfully I can’t remember what they are called) that id been taken to on the walking tour.

I am not usually one for an art museum, in fact I would say I know nothing about art – I know what I like but that’s it really but I really enjoyed this museum. I always thought Botero only made sculptures ( apparently there is one outside Liverpool St. station in London which I must remember to go find when I’m home) but he sketched, painted and donated whole exhibitions worth of art work to the museum. It was very interesting to read about him (in English) and attempt to understand the rest of the museum (in broken Spanish!) Luckily for me the girls know far more Spanish than me so I could ask when I needed help.

After the museum we walked through the plaza and back to the metro. I pointed out all the highlights of walking tour and I began to feel like I knew this tiny part of the city. It still amazed me however how few tourists/gringos there were. Very few major cities, that feel this cosmopolitan/westernised ( not sure what the right word for it is really) have so little tourism. And the few people you see walking around are backpackers, not holiday makers. Maybe on the 3/4 days I was in Medellin I happened to not notice/see the tourists.

I really liked Medellin, the city felt welcoming and flourishing – on a comeback and I hope to visit again in the future to see it’s progression.

That night Colombia was playing Paraguay – don’t ask me what football tournament it was as I can’t remember and don’t usually take any notice. However the atmosphere was electric. We found the Medellin Beer factory and watched the game with mostly locals or Paisas as the residents of Medellin are called. Proud and very friendly people. Unfortunately although we were cheering them on as though they were our home team ( with some of us wearing yellow and the rest making sure not to wear Paraguay colours) they lost in the final extra time minutes. A loss you could see on the very sad looking locals standing staring at the TV screens in disbelief. As Tali said, she wanted to give one guy a hug as he’d looked so sad. We didn’t let it ruin our night and continued to a tiny Cuban bar to find the rum!

As last nights go, it couldn’t have been a more perfect way to say goodbye to the city.

The next morning I journeyed to Salento in the mountains to see the coffee plantations and infamous tall palm trees. It was a 6 hour drive away but in reality took 8 – like everywhere in central and South America.

I nearly had a heart attack, in fact it felt like it when I jumped out at Armenia bus station to find a bathroom and came back to the where I’d left the bus and it had moved – with all my belongings on it! Pretty freaked out and trying not to panic, I used my google translate to attempt to ask someone. When that didn’t work. I went back inside to see if I could see anyone I recognised from the bus – nope! So I found wifi, and luckily messaged Ella, a girl I’d met at the hostel who was on the same bus who explained the bus had moved round the back and was parked at the terminal. Phew! Panic over and bus found. Now I am extremely careful when I get on and off buses and check they aren’t planning on moving.

When I arrived in Salento, the Aussie girls I’d met in Medellin were kindly waiting for me to eat dinner in one of the local restaurants. Erin, Steph and Maddie would kill me if I didn’t mention them by name 😊. After a huggge dinner, we went next door to the infamous Brunch to try their equally infamous peanut butter brownie, we had one each and probably should have shared one between 4 of us!!! We ended up giving them away. The restaurant was full of people we’d met in Medellin as Salento is normally the next stop for backpackers. Feeling so full we could barely move, the owner called us a Jeep to our hostel. I arrived in the dark but when I say hostel I feel like I’m doing it an injustice. The views were beautiful and the buildings did not feel like a hostel. I actually happened to have a 6 bed dorm to myself, as the girls had a three bed private dorm in a separate building further up the lane. I would definitely recommend staying at La Serrana, it was beautiful. A 10 min jeep ride out but very easy to get to.

Day 2 in Salento and it was time for coffee farms and tall palm trees! We decided to do the coffee farm first as we’d woken up to rain and a very misty mountainous scene. Still beautiful but in a much more eery way. We hitched a ride in a jeep down to the plantation – we chose El Ocaso but there are a few to choose from. When we got there, we were the only ones. We were told if nobody else turned up the tour would be in English, otherwise all in Spanish. We kept our fingers crossed and waited with baited breathe, but alas we were out of luck. About 6 other people turned up right at the last minute – all native Spanish speakers.

So the four of us embarked on a Spanish tour about the production of coffee in Colombia. I have to say I understood more of it than I expected and the lady was kind enough to every now and again explain in English when we looked confused. Two things I didn’t know about coffee. Before it is roasted it looked like a peanut and on the trees when it’s picked it looked either red or yellow. We got a chance to try picking our own – I really enjoyed it, not sure the others were as enthused. At the end we got to taste the coffee, it was medium roasted and almost light brown like tea. I liked it but to me it didn’t taste like coffee – to be honest I’m not the right person to ask as I love a coffee but usually with a lot of milk in it. The guide explained that the Colombians actually export the coffee before it’s been roasted. It gets roasted by the buyers before selling it to consumers – also it’s pretty hard to actually get served a Colombian coffee in Colombia as they export and sell all the good stuff I found out.

At the end of the tour we headed back into Salento, to the main square. The jeep was full so I had to stand out the back and hold on, using my arm muscles and my non existent core. It was actually really hard holding on around all the twists and turns and when we arrived 20 mins later back to town my hands were red and sore. It was most definitely an adventure!!!!

We’d decide that night we fancied a cheese and wine night – very sophisticated! Not before, however, finding Valle de Cocora and the palms! Which was easy enough to do, another jeep ride 20 minutes up and we started seeing ridiculously tall, narrow palms. At first there was just a couple, lots of horses ready for the tourists and then a short walk up and loads! I’ve never seen anything like it. It was pretty spectacular and that was before we walked up to the view point to look over the valley. The trees tower above the cloud forest and it is an almost hallucinatory site. After fooling around taking photos with the tall wax palms ( I tried to do a handstand and failed – obviously!) we just sat and watched mesmerised. None of us wanted to leave I don’t think. I could have sat there all day. Partly because it took quite a lot to get there for me. I’m going to blame the altitude for my shortness of breathe but who knows.

After a wonderful day we headed back to La Serrana for cheese and wine – feeling that it was well deserved.

I had planned on staying a couple of days in Salento and then making the long two day journey down to Quito in Ecudor but as the girls were heading of the next morning and it’s much nicer to travel for 48 hours with people you know I decided to tag along. I’d seen what I had come to see in Salento so I was happy.

Next stop/blog the journey to Quito


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