Category: Colombia

Colombia: Coffee In Salento

By , November 1, 2010 5:00 am
A Cow Greets Us

A Cow Greets Us

Salento is a small village in the mountains 300km south of the city of Medellin. It is becoming more and more popular with travelers because of all the coffee farms and the famous Valle de Cocora.  We wanted to take the time to enjoy this little village so we spent 3 nights here, even if we were spending more time than planned in Colombia.

Lush Hills Of Salento

Lush Hills Of Salento

The first night we tried this awesome specialty dish called Patacon. It is basically a pizza on fried Patacon dough. This was very good and we kept wondering why we couldn’t find this anywhere else. We give props to the young entrepreneurs running the place.

Patacon Con Pollo, Tomato y Queso = Yum!

Patacon Con Pollo, Tomato y Queso = Yum!

On the second day, we toured a coffee farm 10 minutes away from the village. It is owned by an Anglo-Colombian couple that bought the farm 3 years ago. We spent one and a half hours talking with the husband and he explained everything to us from buying the farm to selling the roasted beans.

The Coffee Farm We Toured

The Coffee Farm We Toured

He told us that, at the coffee trade market in Colombia, the bigger the coffee bean, the higher the price. This is one of the reasons why most of the coffee producers are now using man-made coffee plants. They give bigger beans, need less shade, and can be planted closer to each other. The drawback, according to our guide, is the taste.

Small Coffee Beans

Small Coffee Beans

His farm is basically a big experiment where he is trying to do things people don’t usually do with coffee. Coffee is sold in bulk with no distinction between the different beans from the same region. What Tim wants to do is sell his coffee by the bean type. Just like wine, he wants to label the origin of his coffee and the type of plant. I think this is a great idea since the producers will make more money and the consumers will actually know what they are drinking.

How Pineapples Grow

How Pineapples Grow

Plantains And Its Flower

Plantains And Its Flower

During lunch at El Rincon de Lucy, we met a wonderful German couple, Elli and Jan, who we ended up hanging out with during most of our time in Salento. It turned out it was Elli’s birthday so we celebrated with her at a local bar, getting tipsy on Aguardiente liquor while playing pool.

Aguardiente, A Local Alcohol

Aguardiente, A Local Alcohol

On our last day in Salento, we went to visit the Valle de Cocora. This park holds an incredible landscape. You are literally surrounded by hundreds of unnaturally tall wax palm trees (tallest palm trees in the world and Colombia’s national tree) and green hills. We decided to rent horses for the beginning of our hike. It was amusing to see Mui ask the horse to slow down.

Elli, MuiMui, Boris, and Jan

Elli, MuiMui, Boris, and Jan

The horses brought us to a farm in the middle of the park where we can observe four different species of hummingbirds. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to see the “smallest bird on earth”. It was pretty cool to be able to see them just inches away. We also met Jo & Ryan here, an inspirational couple finishing up their two-year globetrotting. We were all welcomed at the farm with a local specialty, chocolate con queso (hot chocolate with cheese). It is gross.

Hummingbirds Are The Only Type Of Birds That Can Fly Backwards

Hummingbirds Are The Only Type Of Birds That Can Fly Backwards

Chocolate Con Queso

Chocolate Con Queso

Valle de Cocora With Our New Friends: Boris, MuiMui, Jo, Ryan, Ellie, and Jan

Valle de Cocora With Our New Friends: Boris, MuiMui, Jo, Ryan, Ellie, and Jan

For our last night in Salento we decided to splurge on a 9-course dinner. Read about it tomorrow!

A Small Street Off The Main Plaza In Salento

A Small Street Off The Main Plaza In Salento

When There Is No More Room Inside The Jeep

When There Is No More Room Inside The Jeep

Males Need To Be Pretty To Attract Females For Sexual Selection

Males Need To Be Pretty To Attract Females For Sexual Selection

Social Hummingbirds

Social Hummingbirds

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
– Bus from San Gil to Armenia: 9 hours 38,000 21.11 15.20
– Bus from Armenia to Salento: 1.5 hours 3,200 1.78 1.28
– Private Double Room with Private Bath 40,000 22.22 16
– Breakfast 4,500 2.50 1.80
– Lunch 6,500 3.61 2.60
– Dinner 15,000 8.33 6
– Coffee Farm Tour 5,000 2.78 2
– Jeep to Corcoro: one-way 3,000 1.67 1.20
– Boot Rental 5,000 2.78 2
– Horse Rental 25,000 13.89 10
– Hummingbird Farm Entrance 3,000 1.67 1.20

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Colombia: The Fat City Of Bogota

By , October 29, 2010 9:24 pm
People Of Colombia At Museo De Oro

People Of Colombia At Museo De Oro

We didn’t know what to expect from Bogota, the largest city in South America. Upon our arrival, we took a local bus to our hostal. Trying to get on the bus and remain on the bus was quite chaotic since it was rush hour and the bus was jammed packed. One of the first things I noticed about the city, besides the large number of people, was how young many of them were, maybe because we were staying close to the universities.

Archbishopric Cathedral

Archbishopric Cathedral

As the Lonely Planet suggested, one of the first things we checked out was the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum). Upon our entrance, there were lots of guards walking around and a large vault door you usually see in banks. From the amount of precious gold artifacts we saw, we understood quickly the need for the doors. We stayed at the museum for over an hour and it was gold after gold, but we enjoyed it all. Each artifact was unique and very interesting, such as the gold breastplates.

Breastplates

Breastplates

Pure Gold

Pure Gold

Museo de Oro

Museo de Oro

After our golden tour, we headed to Monserrat for sunset. We got to the top by paying a hefty price to take the cable car up and down (not safe to hike at night). It was a foggy night so we got what could have been a great view of the city.

View From Monserrat

View From Monserrat

We felt very safe as we roamed the city. There were new and old buildings at every corner. When we got lost, the locals were very friendly and helped direct us to where we needed to go. Randomly, we ran into a little outdoor market that was selling mostly pornography. It was very comical how most of the covers had big butts (“I like big butts and I cannot lie … “). Sorry no pictures.

La Candelaria Neighborhood

La Candelaria Neighborhood

Our favorite part of the city was the Botero Museum. It housed many interesting works of Fernando Botero and other international artists, such as Renoir and Picasso. Better yet, it was free! If you have never seen work of Botero, it is highly distinguishable as his subjects are usually fat: fat ladies, fat men, fat horses, and fat birds.

The Burglar

The Burglar

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

The Atelier

The Atelier

While our visit to Bogota was short, it was enjoyable and not as crazy (minus the bus during rush hour) as large cities can be. Thanks everyone who e-mailed us with recommendations, but we just didn’t have enough time to see it all.

We LOVE Colombian Coffee

We LOVE Colombian Coffee

Coffee On The Run

Coffee On The Run

Local Bus

Local Bus

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
– Bus from San Gil to Bogota: 7 hours 30,000 16.67 12
– Private Double Room with Shared Bath 45,000 25 18
– Breakfast 5,500 3.06 2.20
– Lunch 4,500 2.50 1.80
– Dinner 7,500 4.17 3
– Museo de Oro 3,000 1.67 1.20
– Roundtrip Cable Car for Monserrate 14,000 7.78 5.60

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Colombia: Local Aphrodisiac in San Gil

By , October 27, 2010 2:09 pm
Barichara: Kids Out Of School

Barichara: Kids Out Of School

We arrived in San Gil at night with roaring stomachs. With very few options, we walked through the main square to a nearby hamburger joint. The square was very quiet with only a few people out and about. The next morning, we headed to the same location and it was a completely different scene, with lots of locals hanging out, vendors selling drinks and snacks, and onlookers passing through.

Santa Cruz Cathedral

Santa Cruz Cathedral

Interior Of Santa Cruz Cathedral

Interior Of Santa Cruz Cathedral

Painting Inside Santa Cruz Cathedral

Painting Inside Santa Cruz Cathedral

Many tourists come to San Gil seeking outdoor adventure such as class 4-5 rafting, caving, and rappelling. We wanted this to be a relaxing visit so we headed to Cascadas de Juan Curi where there is a 180-meter high waterfall. Upon our entrance to the park, we had a 30-minute hike to do to. It was fairly easy however at one point I tried to shoosh away a few cows blocking our path. Instead, one cow moo’d me. When we reached the bottom of the waterfall, it was pretty wicked with the lush landscape and large natural swimming hole. We both plunged into the water and came out right before we turned into icicles.

Cascadas de Juan Curi

Cascadas de Juan Curi

Interesting Butterfly

Interesting Butterfly

Another popular attraction is a short bus ride away to the town of Barichara. It is a tranquil colonial town, where the steep stone paved streets are lined with white washed buildings and tiled roofs. Boris couldn’t help from taking pictures of all the small windows made from organic construction with lumber across the top. We did the hike along the Camino Real trail with the sun beating on us the entire time. At the end of the trail, we arrived in the tiny colonial village of Guane. The highlight was when we found out we just missed the bus back to Barichara so we would have to wait a few hours for the next bus or hike back. We decided to hitch a ride instead and ended up being in the truck with two females who worked for the extremely popular telenovela (television drama series), La Pola.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception

Street View

Street View

Cute Window

Cute Window

Back in San Gil, there are very good restaurants to try and the central market is wonderful if you want to get experimental. You will find mostly fruits, meats, and vegetables there, but there are also lunch and juice stalls. For only a few cents, there are people selling coffee and hot chocolate outside in the streets. Boris liked the hot chocolate and I stuck to trying all the fruits I had never seen before.

Annona Squamosa Or Sweet Apple Fruit

Annona Squamosa Or Sweet Apple Fruit

Our highlight of exotic foods was when we tasted the fried fat-bottom ants called hormiga culona (literally “fatass ant”). The ants are harvested for about nine weeks out of the year during the rainy season when the ants make nuptial flight. The locals believe that the ants are aphrodisiacs and often referred to as Colombian Viagra. Boris convinced me to try one and surprisingly, they were quite crispy and tasty.

Fried Fat-Bottom Ant

Fried Fat-Bottom Ant

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
– Bus from Santa Marta to Bucaramanga: 10 hours 50,000 27.78 20
– Bus from Bucaramanga to San Gil: 2 hours 15,000 8.33 6
– Taxi from terminal to center 3,000 1.67 1.20
– Private Double Room at Santander Aleman Guesthouse:
fan only, shared bathroom, wifi, super sweet owner, cheap breakfast, highly recommend
(did NOT like rooms at Macondo Hostel)
35,000 19.44 14
– Breakfast 3,000 1.67 1.20
– Lunch 5,000 2.78 2
– Dinner 11,000 6.11 4.40

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Colombia: Lost In Tayrona

By , October 25, 2010 5:00 am
Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park

It seems wherever we go the rain comes with us. We were hesitant about going to Tayrona with the bad weather, but our friends who went before, convinced us it was a must-see. We stocked up on some snacks and on the local bus to Tayrona we went.

Through the jungle we hiked in our sandals. It was wet most of the way so we had to walk in mud. There were many moments when the mud actually reached our knees. We quickly realized we were better off wearing nothing on our feet. Over time, I still did not get used to stepping in the wet mud but I got good at it. There were so many ants, especially large red ones, and when we weren’t watching where we stepped, those suckers bit hard. Worse than that, there were many thorny branches so we had to be super careful not to step on or bump into one.

Hiking In Mud

Hiking In Mud

After two hours, we were finally rewarded with sun, soft sand, and sounds of waves crashing. It was a beautiful moment and all we wanted to do was to jump in the water but unfortunately we had to hike 30 more minutes to a safe swimmable area. Along the way, I kept seeing scenes from the television series, “Lost”.

Backdrop Of Palm Trees And Jungle

Backdrop Of Palm Trees And Jungle

Feels Like Paradise

Feels Like Paradise

Our final stop in Tayrona was El Cabo. It was truly a postcard shot with the beach, large rocks, and a backdrop of palm trees and jungle. In the middle of two beaches was a two story wooden bungalow. On the first floor were just hammocks and on the second floor were four private rooms. We rented two hammocks and had a great sleep under the star lit sky.

Welcome To Cabo

Welcome To Cabo

Hammocks With Memorable Views

Hammocks With Memorable Views

We are so thankful the bad, turned to good, weather we had during our three days in Tayrona. Ironically, my favorite moment was when it rained. It was just a wonderful feeling to be swimming in the cool seawater and having raindrops fall on us at the same time. Also, it was kind of nice having the entire beach to ourselves.

Let It Rain

Let It Rain

Rainbow After Rain

Rainbow After Rain

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
Taganga
– Local bus from Taganga to Santa Marta: 20 mins 1,200 0.67 0.48
– Private Double Room at Casa Felipe Hostal:
fan only, private bathroom, shared kitchen, wifi, great staff, highly recommend
40,000 22.22 16.00
– Meals: DIY, supermarket in Santa Marta
– Bus from Cartagena to Taganga: 6 hours 40,000 22.22 16.00
Tayrona
– Park Entrance 34,000 18.89 13.60
– Shuttle Inside Park: Or walk 1 hour 2,000 1.11 0.80
– Hammock @ Cabo 25,000 13.89 10.00
– Breakfast 8,000 4.44 3.20
– Lunch 14,000 7.78 5.60
– Dinner 21,500 11.94 8.60
– Local Bus From Santa Marta To Tayrona: 1 hour 4,000 2.22 1.60
Tip 1: Buy Snacks in Santa Marta before going to the park
Tip 2: When leaving the park, there are lots of taxi’s who did a one-way drop off and would bring you back to Santa Marta for same price as the local bus

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Colombia: Strange Sensations In Cartagena

By , October 21, 2010 10:21 am
Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

From France, we made our way back to the Americas, to Cartagena in Colombia, South America. Maybe because of what we heard about Colombia, we thought everyone looked kind of sketchy at first. Luckily, first impressions are often wrong. We ended up staying in Cartagena for three wonderful days and every local we encountered was super nice. We got to try so many different foods and everywhere we went, there was always coffee! My favorite meal had to be good old fashion rice with beans and chicken. It was so yummy, almost as good as how my Puerto Rican best friend’s grandmother makes it.

Kite Flying Is A Traditional Past Time

Kite Flying Is A Traditional Past Time

The old town has a lot of Spanish Colonial buildings in more or less good shape. The colorful walls help bring life to even the most deserted alleys. There is tons of great food to try too. The trick is to ask for the lunch menu (almuerzos) and you will get a soup, an entrée, a drink, and sometimes even a dessert; all this for half the price of a regular dish. In one of the small alleys, I was so happy to find a street vendor selling sliced fruit with salt dipping (best with mango), just like we had in Vietnam.

Colorfully Painted Buildings In Old Town

Colorfully Painted Buildings In Old Town

Spanish Colonial Architecture

Spanish Colonial Architecture

We opted for an organized tour to see the mud volcano of El Totumo. Wow, what a strange sensation. Once we walked up the steps to the top of the volcano, we were looking down into a crater filled with people submerged in mud. When I finally jumped in, all I can feel was this thick and wet substance all around me. I even got a massage while in the mud. It felt nasty and nice at the same time. After hours of fun, we went to the beach for lunch and were served fresh fried fish. Cartagena is a great introduction to Colombia.

Mud volcano of El Totumo

Mud volcano of El Totumo

Mud Fest

Mud Fest

The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

The Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Tunnels In Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Tunnels In Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Dungeons Turned Into Shops At Las Bóvedas

Dungeons Turned Into Shops At Las Bóvedas

What We Paid: Colombian
Pesos
1800
USD eRate
2500
Euro eRate
– Local bus from airport to Getsemani:
15 mins, Price Written On Bus
1,500 0.83 0.60
– Private Double Room at Casa Tatis:
AC, private bathroom, shared kitchen, wifi, great staff, very clean, highly recommend
60,000 33.33 24.00
– Lunch 5,500 3.06 2.20
– Dinner 7,500 4.17 3.00
– Volcano Tour 35,000 19.44 14.00

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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