Coffee and cowboys

Colombia is the world’s third largest producer of coffee (after Brazil and Vietnam) so a trip to the Zona Cafetera was a must on our itinerary.

We travelled to a town called Manizales about seven hours west of Bogota by bus. From there we took a rattly jeep to the coffee farm owned by Juan Pablo (yes, really). The day started with what he described as a lesson about coffee. Some things we learnt:

  • There are two main types of coffee beans : robusta (cheap) and arabica (expensive, of which Colombia is the largest producer)
  • However, nearly all coffee in Colombia is disgusting because they export the best beans (to give the country an excellent reputation) and serve the poor ones at home
  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity (after oil) and the price is set in London, New York or Sao Paulo (depending on the type)
  • Coffee actually grows on trees, well small bushes and it looks like cherries before the skin is removed

After many questions (and lots of delicious unlimited espressos) we toured the farm and factory before coming back to relax in hammocks around the pool (with yet more coffee).

From Manizales we travelled two hours south to Salento, a traditional Colombian village set amongst rolling green hills. Becki had booked a nice hotel for our anniversary and we had lovely steak and red wine on a terrace around a fire on the night.

The main attraction in the town is the nearby valley of palm trees (Valle del Cocora) which was spectacular but the real highlight for me were the local inhabitants.

Everywhere you looked there were cowboys on horses complete with requisite poncho and hat. We frequented the local the bars where the cowboys played billiards and dominoes whilst getting very drunk all day.

We even challenged them to a game or two (despite not understanding the rules!). I thought it was like something out of a film as it seemed so surreal!

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