Colombia, Part 5 Quindio, the Coffee Region

August 20 – September 28, 2017

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Real luxury is not about money, real luxury is about freedom!

What we like so much about our nomadic overlanding lifestyle is the freedom that comes with it! Freedom to stay somewhere as long or as little as we like depending on the vibe and the people we meet, the freedom to be able to show up somewhere without having to make reservations or to much advance planning, the freedom to go back to places that we really enjoyed. In this blog we will share with you the experience we had for six weeks in our favorite part of Colombia, the Coffee Region and more specifically in the little town of Salento.

When our grandchildren visited us in July, we spent a few days in Salento and we knew we had to come back, we wanted more … So after ten days in Bogota, armed with another 90 days on our tourist visa and a new Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Silver, we were ready to get out of the city and back into the country side, the Coffee Region or Triangle as it is also called, was the perfect place.

Our first stop was outside the town of Ibagué where we spent a couple of nights at the Ecological Reserve of Santafé de Los Guaduales. Then our first stop in the Coffee Region was the charming village of Filandia, we heard about a new hostel owned by a young British couple who fell in love with the area while on their own Overlanding trip through South America, so we had to check it out!

Filandia

Filandia is a lovely little town in the Northern department of Quindio. The area is  famous for the quality of the coffee plantations, colorful architecture and tourists landmarks like the Cocora Valley (giant wax palms), Los Nevados National Natural Park and quaint towns like Filandia and Salento. In Filandia, agriculture and tourism are the main economic activities. In the last few years it has grown in popularity with national and international tourists as a more authentic experience then its more popular neighbor, Salento.

Steel Horse is the dream of Yvette and Paul a couple from the UK who travelled for 18 months on their motorcycles. Take a moment to read their story on the Hostel’s website.

They have been welcoming travelers since Christmas 2016 and have totally restored the old Hacienda to it’s former glory and are now offering Horseback Adventure Trekking through the nearby central Andes mountain range.

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Steel Horse Hostel. They had the vision to buy a dilapidated property and with a lot of hard work turned it into this beautiful refuge for travelers from all over the world!

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We camped in the parking lot and enjoyed the amenities of the hostel. Hot showers, great meals, social area, laundry, Wifi and beautiful sunsets!

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The beautiful Yvette and I went to town in her vintage 1971 Nissan Patrol after getting a boost from Joe, on the way back we had to ask some guys to push us down a hill to get it started again!

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Getting some pig feed in town.

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Filandia’s Cathedral on the main square!

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Sipping coffee in one of the many coffee shops is part of the daily routine for the locals.

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The colorful buildings with wooden balconies, another staple of the Region

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Willys Jeeps are the main mode of public transport in the Coffee Region.

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Joe on BBQ duty for the evening. Sharing meals and making new friends. Brits Janette & Steve from Tiger 800 Round The World, Swiss Nadine & Sergio from Viva Panamericana and Swiss Cel & Daniel from Break-A-Way.

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Can you see Steel Horse? View from the Mirador (lookout tower) Colina Iluminada.

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Beautiful ceramic butterfly, covers the bottom of the water feature in the lookout tower.

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View of the little town of Filandia from the tower.

Yvette recommended this restaurant and it was a nice surprise. Not to be missed in Filandia is the eclectic restaurant Helena Adentro that serves innovative dishes in a cool decor.

 

Salento

After a week in Filandia we headed to Salento for the second time, little did we know we were going to spend a whole month camped at La Serrana Eco Farm and Hostel

Like Filandia, Salento is located in the department of Quindio, it’s a short 24 km drive from the department’s Capital of Armenia but a world apart. With less then 7,500 inhabitants of which half live outside the urban area, Salento has a real country feel. The main road used to pass through the town but when it was diverted the town became isolated and did not develop as rapidly as the rest of the region. For this reason, it has retained more of its traditional colonial architecture along with a quiet and relaxed way of life. At about 1900 meters above sea level, for us it offered the perfect climate, mostly sunny and warm days with fresh nights.

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La Serrana

A former Hacienda, La Serrana Hostel is a scenic 20 minute walk from the town and offers spectacular views on a well kept and landscaped property. It is very popular with backpackers from all over the world and is often sold out especially on weekends. It’s a well oiled operation and everything runs pretty smoothly, they offer private rooms, dorms, glamping and camping for tents and overland vehicles. No matter what accommodations you have, everybody gets breakfast in a dedicated building. Having breakfast included was a new thing for us and we have to say that we quite liked it. The breakfast consists of coffee or tea, 2 eggs, a hot roll and a banana or a generous fruit bowl and a hot roll. But if you feel like adding bacon, pancakes or other delicious options you can do so for a small fee. I though that was a brilliant idea. Breakfast was also the perfect opportunity to socialize and meet other guests. Since we were there for so long we became quite friendly with the staff and felt like we were part of the family!

The main building had lots of space to chill or work depending on your mood, there was also a guest kitchen and an outdoor area with fire pit, bbq and tables. Further down, there was a vegetable garden, it was so impressive that they offered guided tours.

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Home for a month! Can you see Joe in the back window?

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Waking up to this view!

For one month, we enjoyed this view, met fellow overlanders and travelers from all over the world, shared amazing meals and stories, played with dogs, relaxed, caught up on our blog, slept like kings, walked to the nearby colonial town and strolled through coffee fincas (farms), took rides in vintage Renault 4s and in the back of Willys Jeeps … just a very simple, slow and rewarding lifestyle! Little things like getting to know the lady that sells you your produce and each time you go she gives you a few oranges or bananas as a gift or hanging out with the old guys at the pool hall …

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Yep!

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La Serrana entrance! Coming back from a long walk through coffee plantations, we picked up a stock of bananas along the way.

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Out for a walk with Micha & Xenia. We first met Micha & Xenia from The Lucky Vanlife near Medellin so it was nice to see them again and spend quality time together. Joe was helping them with the adoption of their pup Anuka, it was their first dog so they had a lot of questions

Joe and his pups!

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Meeting full-timers like us, meaning that this is not just a trip but it’s their lifestyle, was a real treat; we belong to the same Overlanding Facebook groups, we knew of each other but had never met in person. It was so nice to share stories, get some tips and just get to know one another. Brits Julie & Marcus from Tuck’s Truck and Australian/German Yasha & Juergen from Dare2Go

More of the friends we made while in Salento: South African Nic Norman traveling solo on a bicycle, we kind of adopted him for a while! American Brent Swezey motorcycle solo traveler, German girls (Mona, Nina and Magi) on holiday and French Audrey & Matthieu from Fais ton sac on s’en va backpacking around the world.

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Happy moments at La Serrana in Salento

Funny story:

One morning around 6:00am, I hear some noise outside the camper, sounds like the engine of a big truck approaching, then a guy calling : “Perla” “Rosita” “Lola” so I look out and see the guy in the field calling his cows, I can’t believe that they are actually coming to him. By looking around I realize that he wants to load the cows in the big truck that just parked next to us and in close proximity to Brent’s tent! Ok, that should be interesting, if this guy calls his cows and they go right into the truck I’ll be very impressed!!!

I wake Joe up to let him know that there’s some action outside and that he doesn’t want to miss this! So first things first, Joe makes a pot of coffee and we sit at our dinette table enjoying a great view of what’s going on a few feet away!

Everything seemed like it was going according to plan but all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose and the cows are getting agitated, going through fences … running around Brent’s tent and between our truck and Micha’s van!!!! They just don’t want to get in that truck! Everybody starts getting involved trying to guide the cows towards the truck … the whole thing goes on for a couple hours … Joe in his kimono holding his cup of coffee! I couldn’t stop laughing!!! Joe even got a few cows in the truck using his winch!!! But the best part, was the reaction of the Colombians, they are such cool people, nobody panicked or screamed or made a big deal out of it. When it was all said and done and all the cows were loaded, everybody had a good laugh about it!

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Salento’s super charming main square was a 20 minute walk from our camp.

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Early evening in Salento

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It was nice to just sit and enjoy the vibe. On weekends it would get pretty busy with visitors from the nearby Cities coming to enjoy the fresh mountain air or partake in one of the many parades or activities.

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After a month (August 28 – September 26, 2017) at La Serrana in Salento it was time to get back on the road, it was a nice rest but we were now excited for the adventures lying ahead!

***UPDATE: As I was writing this blog, I looked on the IOverlander application to see if there was any new comments since it has been two years since we were there and to my surprise it was marked as CLOSED as of May, 2019!!! I don’t know why but it’s very sad news.

El Paraiso del Bambu y la Guadua (Bamboo Paradise)

www.bambuturismo.com

A friend of ours (thank you Doug M) told us about this beautiful place that was created by an agronomist on her family’s coffee farm. It is used as a retreat and conference center for Agro Tourism mainly for groups but we were lucky to get a private 2 hour tour of the amazing property. We saw many different species of Bamboo and also Guadua which is a very large type of Bamboo widely used for traditional and new house construction in Colombia. It is not only beautiful and strong but it can also be sustainable if harvested properly.

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Few Facts about Colombia:

  • Population: 48.65 million (2016) World Bank
  • Area: 440,831 sq miles (1.142 million km²)
  • Capital: Bogota
  • Currency: Colombian Peso (COP) 1 USD = 2,879 COP (2017)
  • Time spent: 6 months (May 16 – November 1, 2017)
  • Miles driven: 4162
  • Diesel price per gallon: $ 2.69 (2017)

Next: Colombia – Part 6 Cali, Popayan and more  … Stay tuned!

I’m sure that by now you have noticed that our blog posts are way behind. Even though I enjoy writing it, I don’t want it to become a burden and the internet being what it is in remote areas of South America, I only write when I have a long period of down time and good wifi.

For more current updates you can follow us on Facebook at Joe and Josée’s Journey or on Instagram @ joeandjosee

 

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