Coffe Country - Salento, Colombia

Salento – Coffee tours and playing with gunpowder

Salento

April 24, 2014 – April 26, 2014

Full Salento Photo Gallery Here

We have been in the Ecuadorian rainforest away from wifi and unable to update the blog, but we’re back in civilization now and ready to share more. Salento, deep in Colombia’s coffee country, was our next destination after Medellin. Two bus rides and seven hours from Medellin will take you through Colombia’s rugged and beautiful green coffee country and to the small town of Salento. Salento turned out to be another one of our favorite stops in Colombia.

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Home to huge beetles

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This guy was about 4 inches long and as big as your hand.
This one was about 4 inches long and as big as your hand.

Coffee Country

This part of Colombia is coffee country, thousands of square kilometers of rolling hills covered in coffee plantations.  We decided to walk down the road to a nearby natural organic coffee farm.

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Heavy traffic on the road to the coffee plantations.
Heavy traffic on the road to the coffee plantations.salento_coffee_tour12

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Finca Don Elias

We started off with a tour of a local organic coffee plantation. Finca Don Elias (Don Elias Farm) is small plantation on a hillside overlooking the river valley. We met some new friends from the Netherlands on the tour and ended with a coffee tasting.

Entrance to Finca Don Elias, an organic coffee farm.
Entrance to Finca Don Elias, an organic coffee farm.

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Pineapple grows wildly, the leaves provide something to attract the bugs away from the coffee, so no pesticides are needed.
Pineapple grows wildly, the leaves provide something to attract the bugs away from the coffee, so no pesticides are needed.
Under an avocado tree, the large trees provide shade for the coffee plants, and avocados.
Under an avocado tree, the large trees provide shade for the coffee plants, and avocados.

Preparing the coffee

This machine separates the coffee bean from the fruit.
This machine separates the coffee bean from the fruit.
Next the beans are dried.
Next the beans are dried.
The dry beans take on a rich golden color, but have no descernable smell yet.
The dry beans take on a rich golden color, but have no discernable smell yet.
The beans are then roasted, now they have the familiar rich smell.
The beans are then roasted, now they have the familiar rich smell.
The final step, the beans are ground and ready for a fresh sample tasting.
The final step, the beans are ground and ready for a fresh sample tasting.

 

We decided to walk back to town with our new friends we met on the tour, Rory and Anika, and had dinner with them in town. They have been traveling the world for 20 months and have a blog of their own here. Thanks for all the travel tips, and hopefully we can extend our trip longer like yours!

Cocora Valley – And the 60 Meter Wax Palms

Cocora Valley Wax Palms
Cocora Valley Wax Palms

The next day we woke up early to catch the 7am colectivo, in this case a Willys Jeep, which at one point was loaded down with 14 people and a couple of chickens, to a nearby valley to do a loop trail up a river and back through the Cocora Valley, home to the tallest palm tree in the world, the palma de cera, or wax palm – reaching up to 60 meters.

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Willys Jeeps wait for passengers in the Salento plaza for the drive up the valley.
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At one point our jeep was loaded down with 14 people and a couple chickens, in proper Colombian fashion 5 people stood on the back bumper and held on.

The hike started in light rain up a river valley with a few of the magnificent wax palms. After a walk through the forest and crisscrossing the river many times on some rickety bridges, we made it to the main 30 minute uphill climb. At the top we were greeted by some friendly dogs and a bench outside the Finca La Montana where we could rest our legs and enjoy a snack. We started down the other direction, and as we reached the first lookout far above valley, fog was swooping in, lending to a somewhat eerie landscape. As we continued further down the trail to a different part of the valley, the fog cleared and we had fabulous views of the majestic wax palm landscape. We completed the loop in five hours, and hopped on the Willys Jeep colectivo back to Salento.

Start of the hike, horses loaded down with milk from local dairy farms await the walk into town.
Start of the hike, horses loaded down with milk from local dairy farms await the walk into town.
The start of the hike up the Cocora Valley.
The start of the hike up the Cocora Valley.
Walking past a dairy farm.
Walking past a dairy farm.
Half a dozen rope bridges crisscrossed the river.

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Clouds roll in through the wax palms.
Clouds roll in through the wax palms.

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After our hike we met up again with Rory and Anika for dinner and the traditional Colombian game of Tejo!

Our friends from The Netherlands, Rory and Anika.
Our friends from The Netherlands, Rory and Anika.

Tejo! – Playing a game with gunpowder!

Tejo(pronounced Teh-ho), is a game that I can’t imagine ever taking off in the United States or Europe. Not because it isn’t fun, because it is, it’s actually amazing, but it involves throwing  4 pound steel pucks at a target filled with gunpowder, and drinking alcohol is encouraged. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of lawsuits that would arise at just the thought of introducing this game to everyone back home.

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Here’s how it’s played…

The Tejo is a hockey puck shaped lump of steel that ranges in weight from 2-4 pounds, and fits comfortably, though heavily, in the palm of your hand. The Tejo is hurled at a target about 20 meters away. The target is a one meter by one meter wooden box frame filled with thick wet clay and propped up at a 45 degree angle. In the center of the clay is a piece of cut steel pipe about 8 inches in diameter that has been pressed deep into the clay until only a steel ring is visible. On the top and bottom of the ring are placed small paper triangle packets loaded with gunpowder.

Once set up it’s time to begin.  Our instructor Juan, who spoke great English, walked us through the rules. First one selects a Tejo of the right weight for them, usually on the lighter end for beginners 2-3 pounds. With the Tejo fitting comfortably in hand you take a beer in the other hand. Juan explained that the beer helped to counter balance the weight of the Tejo. This being our first time we did not lob our Tejo’s 20 meters across the crowded Tejo lanes, but instead stood closer at the newbie gringo line of about 5-6 meters. With Tejo, and beer if you choose, in proper position the Tejo is lobbed underhand at the target. In our case we formed two teams of two people and each took a turn lobbing our Tejo’s at the target.

A four pound steel Tejo, and optional counter balance.
A four pound steel Tejo, and optional counter balance.

The Tejos can either miss entirely, and usually quite loudly as they smack into the wooden back stop, the ground, or other wandering Tejo players, etc. Or the Tejo can hit the target and embed itself somewhere into the clay. However if the Tejo hits one of the paper gunpowder filled targets laid out and crushes it between the steel Tejo and the steel pipe beneath you get an even louder explosion!

Scoring – After all the Tejo’s have been thrown, the one closest to the pipe gets 1 point. If someone manages to get their Tejo wedged into the center of the pipe you get 6 points. Or if you hit one of the gunpowder packets and get an explosion you get 3 points and the round is immediately over, whether other players have had a turn yet or not. If you manage to get your Tejo wedged into the center of the pipe AND get an explosion you get 9 points, and again the round is immediately over. The first person or team to 21 points wins. If a gunpowder packet is moved out of place by a player and NOT detonated, game play is paused while someone brave enough goes and puts the packet back in place.

Krista playing Tejo.
Krista playing Tejo.

The game is free to play and purchasing alcohol is encouraged, it also increases accuracy and resistance to Tejo injuries, Juan explained. (All joking aside, Juan told us they have never had an incident.) Juan also explained that whenever the teams are guys vs. girls, the girls always win, something that proved to be true in our case as well. Good job Krista and Anika!

Leaving Salento

We enjoyed Salento immensely and could have stayed longer, however after only two full days we heard about an impending farmer’s strike that would impact the buses for up to a week and decided to move on early. In Colombia often when a group is on strike they do not just protest with signs but instead get the attention of the nation by causing some disruption, in this case they were threatening to set up road blocks and stop all public buses, and therefore most of the public, from traveling. Salento was a great little town with lots to do and very friendly to tourists and we would love to go back someday.

 

3 thoughts on “Salento – Coffee tours and playing with gunpowder”

  1. These are amazing photos. This looks to be a true journey of a lifetime AND chronicles both nature and humanity in all it’s form(s). Keep up the great work. You should publish a book when completed. Your views and words are fun to read and really pull a person into your adventure. Stay safe and healthy and perhaps most important; continue to ENJOY the time(s) you are both having. I envy you in so many ways. Really and truly.

    -Charles

  2. Hi Richard and Krista, so jealous after reading through your adventure so far. Thanks for posting pics and great descriptions of what you’re seeing and doing. I’ve seen pictures of the wax palms before and thought it looked like an exotic and beautiful place that I would probably never get to see. It’s kind of inspiring to see you’re actually there seeing these sites and living these memories first hand. It’s making me think I should take more time off work and wander more!
    You’re friends,
    Chris and Alison

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