Monday, 18 May 2020



16/08 - 19/08


We caught our four hour bus to Armenia where we had to change to a local bus for 45mins before arriving in Salento. The roads were quite busy as the next day was a public holiday so everyone from the surrounding areas had flooded here for the long weekend. There were plenty of hostel choices in and around the town. Some were even coffee farms but those were a little more pricey so we found a cool little hostel near the town square. Tralala hostel seemed to tick all the boxes, it had good WiFi, a computer we could use, hot showers, a lounge with a huge selection of dvds and most excitingly, free tea and coffee all day! Yay! This was going to be awesome!

Upon checking in, we were given an information pamphlet which gave us all we needed to know about activities and coffee tours in Salento. We spent the early evening perusing our options for the next few day, while enjoying a cup or two of freshly percolate coffee. Manuel, a doctor from Austria, joined us at our table. He had also just arrived in town so we discussed what we were interested in getting up to while in this quaint little town. The receptionist had informed us that there was a band that was to play in the main square later that night. We were quite keen to check it out and invited Manuel to come along with us.

The square was buzzing with people enjoying the extra Saturday night, drinking, eating at the weekend market stalls and dancing to the music coming from the different restaurants framing the centre area. We decided to venture a little way off the main square to a little bar located up one of the side streets. It had a fire burning in the garden area and the most amazing huge wooden tables and chairs - you needed four herculean type men to move just one chair. 

Outside the door was a sign promising live music from 9pm - this was exciting although the style was unfamiliar to all of us... 
Nonetheless, we were intrigued to hear what this revolutionary new music style would sound like so we took up a seat near the stage area and ordered a drink. 

Like true boeremeisies (and because it was the cheapest thing on the menu), we ordered a beer each while fancy pants Manuel ordered a Martini.

Ooh Manuel, you are so fancy... Pinky up! 

We sat sipping on our drinks and chatting about life until the band came out... Ooh,  the show was about to start. There was a guy on a violin, one on a cello (which he later switched for a guitar) and another on the drumbox thingy. They were surprisingly good and the instruments worked together well in combination with the vocals. We were all rather impressed and enjoyed the rest of our drinks to the sound of symphonic rock or whatever it was trying to be. 

Once the band retired, so did we so that we could be fresh for the adventures of the next day!


We had decided to do horseriding that morning. We had skipped it in San Agustín, it was cheaper to do here and Manuel and his friend, were keen to do it with us so it seemed to be the perfect opportunity. The program consisted of a four hour ride to and from a nearby waterfall on horseback.

We had arranged for our tour to start at 09:00 and at promptly 09:45 (right on time as expected), our guide arrived with our gallant steeds. To be honest, they were a little rough around the edges but we were sure they had hearts of gold. Both Manuel and had never ridden before or only very little so they were given the 'calm' horses. Roxy, having the most expertise, took the big white male.

Once we were strapped in and were given absolutely no safety briefing or instruction whatsoever from our guide, we were apparently ready to go. 

We started walking down the road, a nice way to ease us into the experience and get acquainted with our new transportation vehicles. Manuel was rather nervous of the new power between his legs. He did seeme to have one of the more dominant steeds. Roxy's and his were constantly competing for the leading position while the other two just brought up the rear.

 Our guide was right at the back and we had to continuously ask him for directions as we had no clue where to go, the horses seemed to know - guess they do this every day. We turned off the road of town and onto a gravel track. 

Impressive selfie capturing the whole crew!

This is when things got was quite incredible how these huge animals could manipulate their way down these narrow, steep, slippery paths. Joy would definitely have tripped and fallen on her face numerous times, the clumsy gene is strong in this one, but these quadrapods gracefully descended whilst carrying big humans on their backs! Pretty majestic!

Once we had survived this treacherous piece of the track, we had to continue for a bit on the main road. As it was a public holiday, the roads were extremely busy with cars streaming down the twists and turns of the windy road. It definitely wasn't that safe and our guide wasn't the most helpful in stopping the traffic so that we could pass safely. 

We did however survive and then headed along a wider gravel track... It was now our chance to see what these babies could do. Our guide may not be good at talking but he knew what noises to make to get the horses moving. 

He whistled and clicked and they were off!  We were loving it whilst the other two were more terrified than delighted. All the bouncing around caused Rox's bag to unzip itself and all her things came flying onto the road. Luckily she was in the front so the rest of us were able to shout for her to stop and pick up her belongings. If only we had caught that moment on video, just picture it playing out in slow motion... 
Roxy bouncing up and down with the biggest smile on her face, wind blowing through her hair and totally unaware of the chaos be falling behind her - hilarious! 

The trail was quite beautiful and there were a few parts where we could try get our horses to gallop but unfortunately the straights weren't really long enough to allow them to let loose. Thus most of the way was trotting which can cause one's bum to go numb. 

We went through little rivers and tunnels and along the edge of hills. Stunning scenery!

We have often observed butterflies huddling on the ground, flapping around - they apparently love manure and urine! If that what it takes to be beautiful...We are happy we were born with such perfect features!

After we had paid a small fee to enter the waterfall, we continued on to the horse parking area. While our noble steeds enjoyed a drink and a well needed break in the shade, we went through the foresty trees and arrived at this narrow foot bridge.

Bravely crossing the treacherous one-at-a-time bridge.

Roxy being way too daring!

Across the bridge, the waterfall was revealed. It definitely was not the most impressive cascading water we had seen on our trip, but it had a big pool beneath it.
A few brave souls stripped down and took a dip in the rather refreshing water.
On this rare occasion we were unprepared for this swimming option as we had forgotten our cossies - we were not overly sad about this lapse in preparation as the water was too frigid to take the plunge anyway.
This guy knows how to spend his public holiday...on a rock, in the sun, besides a running river, beer in hand! Winning!

Joy may be smiling in this pic but if she had held her fingers in there for just two more seconds, she would have undoubtedly developed frostbite and lost lost fingers. She is lucky Roxy is such an efficient photographer. 

Dragonfly catching a tan.

Our guide indicatied that we could climb to the top of the waterfall along a path that ran alongside it. We were up for it so began the quick climb manipulating our way over roots and between trees.

At the top we could spy over the edge of the waterfall at the people below.

We thought about about jumping off but then recalled our last waterfall jump at Mindo and immediately decided to give that idea a skip.
No Joy...remember Mindo! Don't do it!

We continued walking up stream through the jungle. Jumping from stone to stone to cross the little stream or dense jungle along the shore

Manuel being a gentleman and giving his mate a hand.

Make a wish!

At our furthest point we came to a tranquil pool. Manuel, obviously lead to insanity by the jungle air, devided to take the polar plunge and go for a swim. His swim was very short lived and he did not even dare submerge his head.

Already regretting his decision.

Eek...every fibre must be frozen!

What a pretty ankle butterfly tattoo.

Once Manuel had thoroughly thawed out and we had finished our banana energy snack, we made the return trip to our horses who were patiently waiting for us.

Mauel and his horse were clearly experiencing a personality clash so Joy agreed to swap horses with him. 
She was sad to part from Galileo (they had developed quite the rapour), but she could see the desperation and despair on her fellow traveller's face.

Off we went...back to town.

What is that figure on the other side of the tunnel?

A quick snack break

As it was now later in the day, more horse tours were making there way along the track. This meant that we had to dodge the oncoming traffic as we made our way along the sometimes narrow roads. Many people riding did not know how to control their horses so many times we had some close calls, nearly bashing into other riders or walkers. one we were out of the narrow bits, we were excited to drop the reins and allow the horses to take off and gallop. We were able to take off once or twice but were often soon met by another group and ha to return to the painful trot.
Second snack break...

Manuel much happier on his new horse.

Once back in town we returned to the hostel where we hopped off and said farewell to our living transportation organisms.
It was a fun filled morning of adventure!

We were dusty, muddy, our legs were aching and we were starving so we went to the town square to satisfy the most important need first - hunger.
All around the square there were stalls set up selling all sorts of delicious food options. These stalls are not normally here but we were lucky as it was a public holiday. We found some seats and looked around at everyone else's plates to get an ideo of what we should order. Fish seemed like the dish of choice so we chose the cheapest option. What arrived was a delicious, fresh filler of fish lying in a creamy mushroom sauce. It was moist and so tasty. We also received a side dish of flattened and fried plantain - it didn't have too much flavour but when dipped in a tomato/onion salsa, it was not half bad. As we were in the coffee region, Manuel treated us to a heavenly cup of coffee before we went back to the hostel to take care of the other needs - shower and relax! That evening we bought some popcorn and made use of the TV room and dvd selection. We watched The Big Labowsky, which Manuel had recommended. The hostel had intensely strict rules and at exactly 10pm, the receptionist walked into the tv room to turn off our movie. We only had 15mins left so begged him to allow us to watch the end. He was not impressed by this request but reluctantly agreed but on the condition that we reduce the volume. We obliged but apparently our version of soft was not soft enough. He took control of the remote and put the sound sown to that of a weak whisper. So we sat there watching the last moments of the movie as they did when movies first came out...on mute. our lip reading skills were put to the test and once the movie had ended, we were happy to have an early night.


We were up before the sun in order to catch the first jeep of the day at 06:10. We were off to complete the Valley de Cocora Trek. It was said to take five hours and include walking through a rain forest and viewing the huge wax palm trees. We wanted to start early so that we could take our time and enjoy the nature. The jeep drive was about 30 minutes until we reached the little town where the trail began. There was an early morning chill in the air as we began but as we started moving, we warmed up a bit.

Misty morning

Trail Map

The views were awesome. The first part of the trail ran through the valley between farm lands. We could see cows and horses grazing in the fields and wax palms on the distant hills.

Roxy's fav...a white horse

After about 45 minutes we entered the forest

It was incredible how as we were shielded by the forest canopy, the ground below our feet became mosit and muddy. The damp, dead leaf smell filled the air - this ground clearly hardly ever felt the warmth of the sun.

The path ran parallel to the river. once or twice we would have to cross it by walking on the rickety foot bridges. Ruban suffered from an inner ear problem so his balance was not the best so these bridges were not is favourite part of the day.

Once deeper in the forest, we came to the point where we could follow a very steep hill to a hummingbird sanctuary. It was a 800m rise in altitute in only 1km was super steep but we were equally as keen to see these cute birds. 

A path  leading to another view point.

As we ascended we could feel the temperature drop. We reached the gate to Acaime, breathing heavily but excited to see some hummingbirds.

We had to pay COP 5000 to view the birds and this included a much needed hot drink.
While we waited for our drinks, we were captivated by the hummingbirds. There were bowls and bird feeders filled with sugar water (panella) which all the little birds were fluttering around. They darted in and out and all around the sugary treats. They were so quick and their wings moved like helicopter propellers. There were so many types. Long tails, short beaks, bright green, white eyes and shiny purple breasts. Roxy could not stop taking pictures and videos. Even when the camera started flashing 'low battery', she was determined to get a few more shots.

The arrival of our drinks forved Rox to retire and have her coffee. Joy had, rather unusually, gone for the more adventurous option of 'panella con queso'.

Joy's Panella con Queso

We had had panella many times and loved it but have never experienced it with a side of cheese. Joy assumed that the cheese would just be eaten separately but a German couple who was enjoying their dinner at the next table, advised that the proper way to eat it was a little different. The process was to break off chunks of the cheese, drop them into the panella and then eat them after they had soaked for a bit. Now, Joy was not the biggest fan of the cheese in these parts but was trying to be open minded and wanted to try the local dishes as they were intended. With much reluctance and hesitation, she broke off the first piece and dropped it in. Upon leaving for what she deemed an appropriate amount of time, she fished it out and began to chew it. If her guttural chewing noises did not tell her feelings, her squished up facial expression surely did. It was like chewing on a piece of seconhand bubblegum which had been left in someone's smelly shoe for a short, not delicious! She was determined to give it a fair shot and as to not be rude, attempted a few more pieces before completely giving up and enjoying the remainder of the panella 'sin queso' (without cheese).

The different type of humming birds

The birds were so excited about the sugar water and quite tame that if you left your hand near the feeding dishes, they would sit on your hand! WOW!

Roxy holding the bowl

This one was not as beautiful as the rest!

It's on Joy's hand! Excitement!

There is one on Rox's finger!

We enjoyed this little break at the hummingbird sanctuary and were then ready to head back. We had planned to go back to town via the Montana viewing point. The boys, however, were convinced by the German couple to continue climbing to the top of the mountain. Although it did sound like a nice climb, we were not prepared for the cold weather that we would experience at the summit so decided against this extra 1000m altitude climb for 4km. We split from our hiking companions and headed on our own way down the many stairs e had conquered earlier. our route lead us back through the forest and then up towards the viewpoint.

We were on the right track.

As we were huffing and puffing up the steep incline, a super athlete effortlessly strode past us. he was clearly out to prove a point to complete the circuit in the shortest time possible - no breaks or stops to take pics of the nature for this guy.

We reached the Montana Viewpoint which was a little house with the most exquisite garden. The colours decorated the entire area.

A hummingbird in the wild!

The garden was almost more impressive than the view

From there we continued along a gravel road towards the main attraction of the area...the wax palms.

Our guide book descibed them as breathtaking and having the ability to give one goosebumps. Needless to say we were excited for this moment to happen.

The walk was an extended steady downhill along whihc we had some great viewpoints over the vally and could see the wax palms on the surrouunding hills. After a long 1.5 hour walk we reached a clearing where the wax palms were revealed! We braced for our breaths to be swept away (as if Ryan Gosling were about to declare his love for us) but unfortunately we were not overwhelmed. Yes, they were indeed extremely impressive but not quite the life changing moment the book had built it up to be.

A brilliant stallion striding up and down the hills! So free and majstic!

Just to give a little scale...they are pretty tall!

Around noon we arrived back at our starting point in the little town. We found a jeep to give us a lift back to Salento.

Joy and our driver

Old school dash of our jeep...what does this button do?

Back in Salento we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and an included cup of coffee at our hostel. We had read about a coffee making course which we were keen to do. We wanted to know how to make the perfect cup of coffee and this course promised to teach us just that.
We wandered around town and after asking numerous people, we eventually found the spot. We asked at reception when the tour would start but we were informed that the coffee machine was broken and the tour was no longer running. We were gutted! This was one thing we were really looking forward to. This spot was also a restaurant which apparently made good curries so we decided to have a meal there anyway.
It was rather expensive but it was our treat so we order a mild curry and a started of humus and pita bread.

Hums treats!

As we were finishing off our meal, the owner, who usually ran the coffee making course cam over to our table to ask how our meal was going. When we expressed our disappointment at this class being cancelled, he was extremely apoplgetic and continued to explain all the processes to us. His passion exuded through every pore as he spoke and we were thoroughly entertained. After we chatted for a while, we mentioned our defire to try his homemade coffee liquor. He was eager to impress us with his unique creation and brought us two shots on the house. 

Coffee liquor shots - they were delicious and would go perfectly drizzled over some chocolate ice cream!

We had had a wonderful dinner and retired back to our hostel to see if Manuel had returned from his long day of trekking. He was back and quite grumpy about the extra strenuous trek they had taken. We were so glad that we did not get convinced into doing it! 


We still needed to book our flights around Colombia. We had tried, without success, to book them with our South African cards so were going to try another option - paying for them at the supermarket. joy had gone through the processes and thought she had clicked the right options (we even asked the receptionist to help us) but when we went to pay at the supermarket, they could not find our reference number on the system. We were stuck and had run our of ideas. Our final shot in the dark was to as Manuel if he could book them for us...maybe his Austrian card would work. his was our final chance. By some miracle, Manuel's card was accepted and our flights were booked. We were so grateful to this Austrian angel who had saved us! What a champion!

That afternoon we all decided to go to a coffee farm to see the coffee growing process. We started walking along the road in the direction of the farms. The road was extremely dusty and seemed a lot further than we had anticipated or then what people had told us. We were lucky enough to flag down a passing jeep that gave us a free ride to the farm!

There were many different coffee farms from which to choose but we opted for Don Elias Eco-Coffee Farm. We were greeted by the owner, a fairly old man and were then introduced to our guide, his younger grandson. This was a family farm and the property and skills were passed down through the generations.

We were immediately lead to the back where we were shown the first few plants. As this was an eco-farm, they used no pesticides or chemicals of any sort. They used natural repellents such as other plants. 

Coffee bush

Blossom of the bush where the fruit will grow.

Husks on the soil which act as a natural fertilizer.

A cross between a banana and plantain - this helps keep the bugs away from the coffee plants

The fruit is starting to form but is not yet ripe. We unfortunately did not catch it during harvesting season.

More plants and trees that are helping to keep the crops healthy

Roxy and Manuel wandering through the crops

All the plants are naturally fertilized so cross breeding is a common occurrence which keeps genetic diversity present.

Once the fruit is ripe, it is harvested and thrown into this machine to remove the skin and expose the soft bean

The plantain-banana hybrids

The seeds then go into this perspex covered drying room where they are left to dry out. This room was extremely hot as the roof just contained all the heat from the sun.

The dried seeds have a husk on them which is then removed

These dried, huskless beans are then taken to be roasted. They are placed in a pot over heat and cook away. The time of roasting depends on the desired strength of the coffee. The temperature and time are carefully monitored to ensure that the beans are not burnt.

The smell of these roasted beans was delicious. Joy couldn't help but stick her nose in and have a good sniff!

It was then grinding time...

Joy volunteered first which was fooling as the beans were whole and she had to really put her back into it to get it started.

Once ground using pure muscle power, the powder smelt even more aromatic.

Time to taste!
Whilst waiting for our much desired cup of coffee, Roxy spotted something equally as exciting...Coffee Arequipa!

Even though we were boiling hot...we loved our little cup of heaven!

It was so good that we even decided to buy a bag of beans for the folks back home!

We had had a fun afternoon learning about coffee and were not keen to walk all the way back to town so we hired one of the jeeps to give us a ride.

Clearly that coffee is kicking in!

Hmm...this looks kinda old, except for the pimped out sparkly steering wheel. Hope it doesn't break down, we joked!

Everyone looking positive

Our jeep did not sound like the healthiest machine but one thing that we had learnt in South America, and Colombia particularly, is that no matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they will keep them running until their last fuel pump stops working. Everything was going well until we started climbing up one hill. Our driver had to gear down and seemed to be struggling to keep the engine going. As we reached the apex of the hill, our 'ol girl packed up and cut out. Our driver tried to start it again but may have flooded the engine as there was no success. We sat there, worried but still optimistic that he would work a miracle and get it going. He jumped out, opened the bonnet but still nothing he did seem to make a difference and after 5 minutes of fiddling around, he admitted defeat and told us we would have to walk. We were not thrilled but he assured us it was only a few more minutes to town. So we started to walk along the dusty road...we walked and walked and walked. It was definitely not a few minutes! Why do people lie to us like that! After about 30 minutes, we arrived back at town where we went to have a quick late lunch at a very cool little diner type place before heading back to the hostel to have a shower before we left to catch our 6pm bus. We had truly enjoyed Salento. This little town with a lot of charm and good had been a real treat. We were sad to say goodbye to our new bearded friend with the magic credit card but would always cherish the memories made in the Coffee Region of Colombia.