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The South American Dream A long time coming...

Solento...coffee, pineapples, bamboo and really tall palm trees

COLOMBIA | Friday, 15 April 2011 | Views [2246]

I arrived in Solento late, much later than planned.  The taxi to the bus station in Quito took a while and when I eventually arrived, I was promptly sold a ticket going to a different destination.  I had said I didn´t mind paying the 3 pounds more to go direct and decrease my journey time but it took a policeman to sort it out.  I ended up not travelling with that bus company and ended up with a cheaper option with a more reliable company and great buses. Great news all round, even if I was runnning really late!  The journey itself took longer than expected too!  There were delays all the way to Solento due to the bad weather, there have been severe flooding and some of the roads had mud slides, so only one stream of traffic was allowed at a time.

By the time I got to Armenia, where I picked up the local bus to Solento it was getting slowly dark but I managed to get a bus quite quickly. On arrival it was dark, luckily I had a map, but the hostal was quite a few blocks away and there were no cabs!  I walked with my backpack through the town and down the dirt track to the hostal, which used to be a coffee plantation. I was keen to stay where all the coffee was grown. However, I was told my reservation was cancelled despite already flagging I might be later than 6pm, their cut off time, and there was no room at the inn!!  I was told I had to go elsewhere, and was advised on a place to stay. The same thing had happened to a Dutch couple in reception and they kindly escorted me to the alternative accommodation.  They had a friend who was staying in the dorm there.  I think my luck was definitely in, there was a dorm, with a tv, and ensuite with hot water (even though I couldn´t work it out), breakfast was included and it was less than the other place! Perfect!!

I met the other guy staying there and we went for dinner, we both wanted to hike and see the 60m high palm trees the following day and the coffee tour on the Friday, so a plan was now in place. 

We got the 9.30am jeep the following day up to where the palm trees grow, I think there was 16 people on it at the busiest point! 

The sky was clear but it was likely to rain later, it had been raining for days and the Colombians warned us from taking the route through the palm forest, so we went the other way through the jungle however, we did get to see the palms too... 

We trekked through the jungle, across a dodgy bridge with a rail

Solento bridge with a rail

and along numerous path, navigating our way, climbing when needed, and trekking along for an hour and a half until we came to a fork in the road.  We headed uphill and as the water was pouring down the slope, decided on taking another route, then we hit a bridge with no rail which was a fun one to cross!

Solento bridge with no rail

before climbing a steep slope and trekking on further and further, it was like something out of lord of the rings!  We eventually reached another sign, which said we´d only gone half a km, on this news, which we knew to be false, we turned back arriving back at our starting point just before the heavy rains started. Perfect timing!!  On getting the not so busy jeep back, we had a hot chocolate and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Friday was a day I´d been waiting for a while, I really was excited about visiting the coffee farm, I like good coffee, and I was keen to find out where it had come from and how it was produced.  The tour was run by the hostel owner who also owned the plantation.  It started raining just before we left - great timing!! But decked out in my North Face jacket and a pair of wellington boots on loan, I was ready to go!

The tour was good, and informative.  We walked down to the plantation via what used to be the road to Bogota but which looked like a very wet and muddy path, not that wide and tricky to navigate! We learnt about the two types of coffee Arabica and Robusta.  Arabica is the best type of coffee and this is the one we should be using.  There are modern and traditional versions too.  The modern brings higher yields but doesn´t loose the taste value so seems like the best option all round really. 

We walked around the farm and saw the different stages of plant growth...

as well as learning about what happens to the coffee beans afterwards they´ve been grown.

The farm also had pineapple trees which were really interesting sight.

And a bamboo forest, I also found out that bamboo is surprisingly sustainable so growing and building with it is good.

At the end of the tour we drank some of the coffee...mmm... and I warmed up before trekking off into the rain to Cali, the home of salsa!!

Tags: 60m palm trees, bamboo, coffee, palm trees, pineapples, solento

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