Salento: the coffee region heart, with the big palms
After coffee, we took our first bus of the day, a Chiva! Since it was open, it was quite cold. But it looked incredible, and we sat in the first row, so we saw everything: the birds, the landscape, the truck off the road that our driver brought back to the road with some chains... A great ride. No wonder that super short road took four hours, since the road was terrible and the chiva stopped for everyone and everything on the way, and we enjoyed every second of it. Next to Alex there was a nice girl from Belgium, and we chatted with her until we arrived to Riosucio and we split up super fast to take our next buses. We got the tickets for Salento, bought some snacks and got on the most gringo bus ever: only tourists and with a safety advice video in English.
We arrived at 3pm (it should have been at 4.30pm!) and it was raining hard. A guy told us how to get to our hostel, Hostal Vistaguila, and we walked there. The cleaning lady of the hostel gave us the key and was not so kind, and the room had a balcony... to an inner courtyard. So even with the common area so nice it didn't feel as good in the beginning. I had a coffee, talked a bit with a guy who was staying there, and then a much nicer lady arrived, the owner. We wanted to go horse riding for Alex's birthday, but discovered that the Cocora Valley is not the most pleasant place for the horses, so we decided to take a tour. Alex preferred the second operator we saw, Cabalgatas San Pablo, and booked online with them. I was afraid we wouldn't get an answer in time, so I wrote them in Whatsapp... We had a coffee at Jesús Martínez, recommended by a woman in the first tour operator we visited, and had dinner at a Venezuelan restaurant, with a very funny waitress. Then we went to Los Amigos to play tejo, which was not as cool as we imagined, and returned to the hostel.
After talking to a girl bitten by a dog, Mathilde, we went back to the main square to have a beer, but it was a bit boring and we came back. So, Salento... bigger, but more boring, and with people trying to lure you to restaurants / sell you things. The first impression of the day: I wished we would have stayed in Jardin (or to have done it the other way around). We'll see.
While we were having breakfast, the horse company wrote me that there was a trip to Santa Rita Waterfall at 9. Yippee! Alex's birthday present was going as expected! We rushed there, and they told us they'd already left. Huh? We talked a bit and the lady realized she told me the wrong time, at 9 they were doing the river crossing tour. It sounded great, too, so we asked her if we could join them, and just tagged along! It was a lot of fun! We were with a French couple, two Germans and our amazing guide, Oscar. He was kind, patient, made jokes and took great pictures. W
hen we got back, we went to the hostel and picked up Mathilde. We went for lunch, trout, which was too much and walked to the viewpoint. My period had just arrived, 2 weeks late, and I felt like shit, sadly for poor Alex on his happy birthday. So after a coffee, he decided to stay for a beer in town, and Mathilde and I went back to the hostel. When we arrived, I realized I didn't have the key! So I went back to look for Alex. He wasn't at the bar he wanted to go to, but I found him anyway. I tried again to stay out, but I felt very bad, so we went back to the hostel.
So after writing to Laura in whatsapp "No problem with the Coronavirus here" as soon as I woke up and saw her message, I opened the email app... and our flight, which was flying in 3 days, had been cancelled. Good morning to you, too!
We got a little scared, but since we had organized a full day coffee tour in Luger with Mathilde, we sucked it up and went there. The tour, with Leo, our guide, was great, even with the crappy weather. We dressed up as coffee pickers, learned all about coffee and recollected a little while tasting different fruits on the finca. We had lunch and went to another place to a river. It was cold and rainy, so we couldn't swim, but the views were great. Obviously we skipped the steps clean/ferment/dry the coffee beans, for reasons of time, so we took other beans and peeled, roasted and grounded them... And basically we had coffee made by ourselves from scratch! It wasn't bad at all!
Then we went back to Salento and bought an avocado, sweaters, organized another horseback ride for the next day and had dinner. And then, we went back to the hostel to try and find our way home. Iberia did not respond, in any language. In Spanish the calls ended immediately. So we ended up sleeping very late not knowing what to do.
We woke up, still not knowing what to do, so we decided to cancel our horseback ride to try and find a way home. We couldn't contact Iberia, waited for more than two hours on the phone, and in the end, I bought a direct Lufthansa flight from Bogotá to Frankfurt one day after our original flight. A thousand euros each. Alex misunderstood me and thought I was getting a cheaper, non-direct one a few days later and I got a little angry... Especially because I felt we wasted the whole morning on something we could have done the night before.
But at 12 o'clock we were ready to start, and when we left the hostel we saw Oscar (the horse guide!) with a girl doing a tour, and he even asked us if we could fix it! Spectacular! Such a nice person, genuinely concerned about us, not a bit angry about the tour being cancelled. Then we went to town to Bon Appetit, where the waiter gave us a Domino and a Uno to play with while we waited for our pizza, and a free aromatics afterwards. We walked a bit out of town to get some views of the city, went to Brunch for a shitty coffee and to Quindio for a good one with a mango cheesecake. Then we went upstairs to watch the sunset and from the viewpoint to check out a couple of Caravanya spots that were showing up nearby.
Then we went to the supermarket to buy spaghetti and tomato to make dinner with some of our giant but not so tasty avocado.
We woke up, Alex got some work done, and after breakfast we went to the main square. As soon as we arrived, we filled up the jeep to go to the Cocora Valley, so we sat in front and started immediately! We began walking the long trail counter clockwise (not directly to the palm trees), and saw a picnic spot, a cow cooling off on the way, and La Casa de los Colibríes, with tons of hummingbirds and the most pitiful chocolate with cheese. Then we arrived at La Montaña, where there were a lot of puppies! We knew it would start raining around midday, but we spent a lot of time with the birds and the puppies, so as soon as we started going down into the valley... it started raining. A lot. A couple lent us a raincoat to protect us and we waited a bit, and then we all started to go down.
At the first lookout point, the rain stopped shortly, so we split up, and decided, sadly, not to go all the way through the valley and took the shortcut down. There was already a great view there, and we would have liked to see more, but all the mud and rain would not have been so great, so we went back to the jeeps. In the jeep we met a guy who worked for Iberia, a small world, and even he didn't know if he would be able to fly with them back home in three days. Crazy... We ate a combo of trout, walked around a bit, and someone warned us that a 10 PM curfew had been imposed! We bought some arepas and beers for dinner, and went to the hostel to talk to the people there. Mathilde and the other two French were worried, but we decided to go horseback riding the next day together. We all drank with Una, the Irish, the German girls and the guys from Israel, concerned about how we would get home, and went to sleep early.
We woke up, packed our bags, and when we left our room for breakfast, we saw almost everyone ready to leave. All the ones who could get or change a ticket to go home immediately, got one! We checked out and went on our horseback ride to Santa Rita with the French. Our guide wasn't as great Oscar, but the ride was more beautiful and challenging (Mathilde was terrified sometimes) and it made us forget our troubles while we were there!
Once back, people started telling us that they would double the price of rice, that the new curfew time was 8 pm and that they would not let people in or out of the region. So we got some money and a couple of juices, and directly picked up our bags and went to the bus station, as I started to worry. Alex called Tobi, I was nervous, I heard people saying the airport was closing... Alex kept talking and I asked him if it was necessary when I only heard small talk... and he got angry. Our bus to Pereira went from 14:00 to 15:00, and we stayed angry. We got off, took a bus "to the airport", the driver forgot about us and let us out 30 minutes away on foot. We walked, had lunch and arrived at the airport around 4:45 pm, 4 hours before our flight. Still angry. Then, we had some coffee and sorted it out.
While waiting, we booked a nice hotel in Bogota, the Hotel Grand Park, on sale for 34 euros including breakfast. The flight was fine. When we arrived, we got a taxi to the hotel for 25k COP. He was asking for 30k, and ended up giving him 26k, but what made us happy was hearing at the hotel that the price they were charging was 35k. We checked in, explored the hotel, ordered some burgers and relaxed before going to sleep.