Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Where does coffee grow anyway?

It has been a long time my friends. As you all know, I went to Colombia, and we had the time of our lives! We arrived on a Saturday nigth to Bogotá, and we traveled most of Sunday on the gorgeous Colombian roads, up and down mountains, until we arrived to the coffe growing region (Zona Cafetera.) We rented a farm house for all the family (there were 18 of us.) The house sits on a working farm, so it is surrounded by coffee and plantain plants. The coffee plant is usually no taller than a man, and the plantain tree grows alongside the coffee to provide shade. The views from the house and the surrounding areas were spectacular, as were the birds that came everyday to the garden. We were dazzed by all the different colors, sounds and smells around us. The gorgeous vegetation, the flowers, and the always available fruit were a treat every single day.

We took MANY pictures, wich will be available in my flickr account as soon as I have time to upload everything. Besides relaxing by the pool, listening to music, eating traditional food, and playing cards and table games, we visited El Parque del Cafe which is an unusual theme park. You can find traditional rides like roller coasters, karts, and water rides, but there are also areas focusing on regional architecture, food and dances, as well as a coffee museum . The children had a blast, and the grandparents were able to enjoy leisure walks amongst the luscious vegetation of the region, and a slow train ride -pulled by an antique locomotive. You cannot go to a coffee themed park and not meet our most famous Colombian, so we headed to the Juan Valdez coffee house, where we enjoyed great coffee and bought some great signature t-shirts.

This area of Colombia has become a tourist destination for Colombians, so there are a lot of different activities available for those in search of adventure: You can go rafting down the La Vieja river, or go canopying (pulley-flying on native forest, and over coffee plantations.) You can hike up the mountains to the Parque Nacional Natural de los Nevados, which occupies 58,300 hectares at the top of the highest branch of the Colombian Andes, the Cordillera Central. The park includes several snow peaks and five volcanic necks: Tolima, Quindío, Paramillo de Santa Rosa, Santa Isabel, and Ruiz. This type of excursion is not something everybody can do, as the altitude of the park ranges from 12,000 ft/4,000 mts. to the highest peak (Nevado del Ruiz) which stands at 17,750-ft-/5,325 mts. Both my husband and I have been to the top of this giant, but that was a long time ago, when we were dating, and we did not have our boy. It would be great to go back one day with our son, but I do not know if he will be able to carry us both to the top!

We had our share of adventure with the canopying! The grandparents did not come to this activity, everybody-else did, and we enjoyed every second of it. I can recommend wholeheartedly Los Caracolies as a place to go for a little adrenaline kick with a shot of beauty. The owners live there, and they are involved in making your experience a memorable, safe one.

We spent ten great days without a TV, or a computer. We told jokes, family stories, and we sang to our hearts content! We enjoyed every minute of our shared time at the farm, the two families (mine and my husband's) got along pretty well, and we were all sad to go... Off we (the three of us) went to Popayán, my hometown, and where my mom still lives. My next post will be about that little corner of the south-west of Colombia. Until then...

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