Thursday, April 18, 2013

Coffee Region of Salento, Colombia!


Bryan made some friends while waiting for the bus in Armenia, the city an hour away from the coffee village of Salento, Colombia. Colombia’s national team was playing Argentina or something like that and a bunch of guys were watching it on a little TV in the station. I was on the van watching the luggage so Bryan could join the excitement. They loved having Bryan there, and cheered even harder when they saw I was taking a picture of them all.
We were only on the mini van/bus for a half hour or so before arriving to the beautiful village of Salento, Colombia. The drive was absolutely gorgeous with green luscious mountains and hills surrounding us. All I could say was wow, Colombia is amazing.
We did not book a place before arriving, but on the way there we read about a hostel called Plantation House and decided to trek our way over there with the backpacks after the bus dropped us off in the center. The hostel was located near the village but far enough away that it felt like we were in the middle of the jungle. Luckily, they had a spot for us for a night.
I knew we had finally made it to the coffee region when I learned the hostel had delicious coffee 24 hours a day. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
We woke up to beautiful weather and decided to make our way over to a breakfast joint we heard was really good. The guy who owns it was actually from Portland. He traveled to colombia several years ago and loved it so much he ended up going back to stay permanently. I don’t blame him. Bryan had biscuits and gravy for the first time in a long time, and I had the best granola and fruit. Seriously, all the good fruit was there. He also told us he had a mini theatre with thousands of movies that we could use whenever. We were definitely going back.
The rest of the day was spent exporing the lovely village, playing cards, and drinking a lot of coffee. Aah, life was good there. Oh, and we went back to the mini theatre and watched Quentin Taratino’s Django Unchained with a british guy from our hostel. It always nice to come across places like this while traveling.
The next morning we met a couple from Norway who were also doing the same hike we were, so we teamed up and make the trek together. So, this region of Colombia is known for having wax palm trees. They’re like palm trees but not. They grow a completely different fruit and they grow to be really really tall. The trek we went on had several of these scattered throughout and it was absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m pretty sure these trees are only found in Colombia. We had a blast hiking with our new friends, and thankfully, I did not get peed on by a monkey. Sometimes things just go your way, you know?
The following days included exploring Salento and relaxing at the Plantation House. At one point, the owners at Plantation House told us they didn’t have any room at the inn and if we wanted to stay we’d have to stay in the actual coffee plantation which was a pretty long walk in mud from downtown. We were pretty upset, but as soon as we got done packing, the owners told us they had two beds after all and moved us to a different room. A day later, we went on the coffee plantation tour and learned a lot about the process of growing and sellling beans. We visited the coffee planation house and learned we should have been staying there the whole time. It was in the middle of nowhere, but it was surrounded by beauty. People who get to stay there can pick all the fruit they want from the trees, inlcuding bananas, mango, and pineapple and it was so quiet and peaceful. It was a place I could have stayed for weeks. Not to mention, the Colombian man in charge of taking care of the beans made fresh roasted coffee every morning for the backpackers there. Why oh why didn’t we stay there?!?!?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Cali, Colombia

The bus ride from Quito to the border town in Ecuador was one of the longest even though it was one of the shortest bus rides we made in South America. I could not stop thinking about my camera…if only this and if only that. We finally made it to the border town of Tulcan, Ecuador at about midnight. Luckily, our hostel was right across the street where we crashed for the night.

We woke up early the next morning to cross the border to Colombia. It was a piece of cake. We heard that most Colombians are kind and welcoming to foreigners, and we knew this would be true after being graciously welcomed by the border patrol lady. “Welcome to Colombia” was the most common phrase we heard.
Colombian women are ridiculously good looking by the way. They have it all really. Good skin, hair, nose, boobs, and butt. It’s like I said…ridiculous.
We spent most of the day on the local bus. Buses are a whole other beast in South America. Peru and Argentina had the most luxurious buses, but Bolivia and Colombia had the best local food vendors. Basically, random people pop onto the bus and various time selling their food. It’s awesome. Bryan and I have eaten everything from fried bananas to cornbread to meats on sticks throughout our S. America bus adventures. While we were on the bus enjoying our not quite ripe mangoes with salt and lime, the police stopped bus and made all the men get off. Bryan got off with all the others as
Our first stop was Cali, Colombia. It was a pretty nice city if you’re into cities, but overall, we wanted to leave as soon as we found another camera. Of course, we couldn’t buy a nice Nikon DSLR, so we opted for a small little Sony Cybershot. It’s hard going from a camera that takes such nice looking photos to one that really doesn’t, but I survived. I just told myself I’ll just have to go back to Colombia another time with another DSLR. It will happen, right…RIGHT?!?!
Our hostel the first night was okay, but we found another one we really liked the next morning. Everyone was so nice and, more importantly, it was clean. Yay! One of the ladies who worked there did it all. I think she was bossed around a lot, but she was really the one who kept it all together. She was also one of the sweetest ladies in the world. There was a lot of non-verbal communication as it was hard to keep up with her fast talking Spanish, but that is one of the best parts of traveling. Learning to communicate in various ways.
We spent most of our time in Cali exploring the streets and neigborhoods, playing card games at a nearby cafe, and of course, finding another camera. After a couple days, we were ready to leave the big city and head to one of our favorite spots in South America, Coffee Region.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Banos, Ecuador – Volcanic Encounter

I was sitting on the swing on top of a mountain next to an overly active volcano in the beautiful city of Banos, Ecuador as Bryan was taking pictures of one of my favorite moments. I took a couple pictures of him on the swing and then we hitch hiked our way back to the city with our new Australian friends we had met while sitting in a treehouse. Little did I know my camera would be stolen a couple days later, and we would never see those pictures again.

We had heard about Banos from several backpackers and decided to stop there on our way to Colombia. Getting from Cusco to Banos is a whole other story, but let’s just say we were ready to not be on a bus anymore. Luckily, we found a place to stay that was exactly what we needed. This was one of the friendliest and cleanest hostels we’ve stayed in and the private wasn’t that much more expensive than the dorm rooms. Perfecto!
We spent the next day exploring the cute little city and hiking up one of the nearby mountains. We weren’t quite ready to make the full commitment of hiking to the top to see the volcano, so we made our way back down to relax and watch a couple movies in the hostel. Comfy bean bags, hundreds of movies, and a big flat screen TV was a luxury we simply could not resist any longer.
The next day we packed our daypack with yogurt, salami, a bottle of wine, and mangos in hope that we’d find a cool place to sit at the top and admire the volcano. We decided against climbing the actual volcano as it would be considered suicial, so we opted for the nearby mountain to climb instead. The trip included incredibly steep stone stairs, narrow and muddy paths, and several hours of walking up before we reached the “best place to see the volcano” spot. Unfortunately, our view consisted mostly of clouds and some green in the distant that sort of resembled a volcano. We decided to wait it out for a couple hours as the local guy was saying it’s usually pretty clear in the late afternoon. We sat in the treehouse and ate our travellers lunch before making our way to the swing. The swing was attached to the treehouse that swung off the cliff. It was a great place to snap really cool pictures of the green mountains in the background and discuss how many active volcanos there are in the world with our new Australian geologist friends. Fortunaly, it started to clear up a bit when we heard a “Bang” in the distance. At this point part of the volcano became visible and we could see volcanic smoke rising up. I wish we could have seen more of it, but what we saw was pretty cool. The pictures were some of my favorite of the trip.
After hiking back down to Banos we all decided Mexican food was exactly what we all needed, and fortunately, Bryan and I had come across one the previous day. It was amazing considering it had been awhile since we had really good Mexican food. We said goodbye to our friends and went back to the hostel to crash.
We were in Banos for a total of three nights, but I’m sure we could have stayed a lot longer in the colorful little city. However, the time had come for us to make our journey to Colombia. I remember telling Bryan as we were leaving Banos that we forgot to backup photos. I thought it wasn’t a big deal and we would just back them up as soon as we made it to Cali, Colombia. My camera was stolen directly from my backpack at the Quito, Ecuador bus terminal, and we didn’t notice it was missing until we were already on the bus heading towards the border. If only I could turn back time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

We’re alive!

Hi everyone!

We’ve been a bit behind on blogging, partially due to being places that don’t have internet… or electricity.  We’re now on the Carribean Coast of Colombia and will be working to catch up stories soon, but wanted to make sure everyone knew we were okay. 
Much love!