Top 5 Reasons for Mountain Biking Colombia
5. When it’s winter at home, it’s perfect weather in Colombia.
You can always find perfect weather in Colombia. It may be rainy season in one part of the country, but there will be perfect conditions somewhere due to the amazing and varied ecosystems in the country.Read More »
Is Salento Colombia a model for a gingerbread house, or a jumping off point for seeing the world’s tallest palm trees, the wax palms? I didn’t try to taste the houses to confirm that they weren’t made of gingerbread, but I’m assuming that they’re not.Read More »
Top 5 Things to Do in the Zona Cafetera / Coffee Region of Colombia
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You can drink Colombian coffee around the world, however the drink Colombians prefer are “coffee-flavoured drinks.” There’s a distinct difference between “coffee” and “coffee-flavoured drinks.” Coffee is a work of art. Coffee is your best friend in the morning. Coffee smells fantastic. Coffee is a beautiful thing to be cherished. “Coffee-flavoured drinks,” however, are none of these things.
The “beans” they make tinto out of.
Let me explain. In Colombia the people have been trained to drink what the rest of the world doesn’t want. The best coffee of Colombia is exported. The beans that don’t make the “export quality” stamp are then roasted into oblivion, ground, brewed, saturated with sugar and sold as “tinto” across the country. “Tinto” which literally translates to “ink” is a concoction that was devised to monetize what the rest of the world doesn’t want. It’s become so popular that you can not walk further than 50m on a busy street without finding a vendor willing to sell you this drink for a few hundred pesos. It’s so popular, that in certain years Colombia imports the rejected coffee of Ecuador to make into Tinto.
What you want to be drinking.
Another variation of this “coffee-flavoured drink” is cafe con leche, or coffee with milk. A better way to describe this would be milk with coffee. Or, an even better description would be: warm milk with watered-down-coffee-bean-rejects-saturated-with-sugar. I guess “leche tibio con agua, cafe malo, y demasiado azucar” was too much of a mouthful, so they went with “cafe con leche”.
The coffee cherries where both Colombian coffee and tinto come from.
The fortunate thing in Colombia is that you can find real coffee. It’s getting more and more popular by the year. There are cafes opening up to cater to the tastes of people with taste. You can also find good coffee in the supermarkets, which isn’t the case in every coffee producing country (Brazil.) However, if you want to get a good cup of coffee at a cafe on your way to work, good luck. Most of the cafes that have nice coffee don’t open until later in the day. It’s a cruel reality that Colombians love their Tinto, and there is not enough of a morning demand to have quality cafes open in the mornings.
The good stuff ready for export.
I search out coffee wherever I am. I usually have a favourite cafe, and a bag at home to keep me caffeinated. It was a challenge to find my cafe when I first arrived in Colombia, but I now have a few places that are willing to serve me their finest Colombian coffee, not tinto. Drink up, and remember “no quiero tu tinto”.
Abrazos.Read More »
Colombian coffee is more than just a cup of Joe to wake you up in the morning. Colombian coffee is a way of life, an institution, a brand, an art form, and a business. Colombia is known around the world for quality coffee. I wanted to know more about this industry that is so important to Colombia, as well as the loyal drinkers around the world. This curiosity brought me to the coffee farm Hacienda Venecia, just outside of Manizales, Colombia.
This is how their coffee is transported around the world, minus the frame.
We arrived at Hacienda Venecia in a rather odd fashion. My friends and I were cycling from Santa Rosa de Cabal to Manizales when we stopped at a roadside rest stop to admire the view and catch our breath. While at the rest stop I asked one of the beautiful attendants “who has the best coffee in the region?” She was quick to offer me a card for Hacienda Venecia and told me they offer tours as well as a beautiful place to stay a night.
A walk around the farm.
Hacienda Venecia was only about 3kms away from the rest stop, but it was down a dirt road in the valley we had just climbed up. We didn’t see any signs, and weren’t really sure if we were headed in the right direction. We asked a few people, and eventually found the place. We were warmly welcomed by Juan, the fourth generation owner of this beautiful farm. He was very impressed to see us on our bikes, and told us that he’d never turn away cyclists, even if there was no free space.
Wilma enjoying the hammock after a day of cycling.
We got cleaned up, took our bikes inside, and set about resting in a hammock with a freshly roasted, ground, and brewed cup of espresso. For those of you who don’t know me well, coffee is a demi-god to me, which only food, water, and long rides on a beautiful bike are held in higher regard. If you want to piss me off, feed me bad food, crappy coffee, and steal my bike. Thankfully my hammock wasn’t trying to piss me off, and neither were the people at Hacienda Venecia.
My demi-god, roasted to perfection.
Hacienda Venecia is set in a beautiful valley with a coffee plantation surrounding a beautiful home turned into a guest house/hostel. There’s a swimming pool, comfortable beds, palm trees, unlimited coffee, and a nice woman who will feed you for a reasonable price. If you’re looking for a great place to relax and stay in the Colombian Coffee Zone, look no further than Hacienda Venecia.
Abrazos.Read More »
Looking for the best restaurant in Pereira, Colombia and area? Look no further than the top of the hill. London’s House is situated on the hilltop between Pereira and Santa Rosa de Cabal. It has views in every direction. From your table you can see all of Pereira and the surrounding mountains. Truly an amazing setting.
The view from your table at London’s House.
The views are only the beginning. At London’s House the service is impeccable, the decor fun, and the food fantastic. The owner, Miguel was a lot of fun, taking photos for us with his staff and security all of whom were in British costumes. Miguel and two of his friends lived in the UK for many years before returning to Colombia to create this amazing restaurant.
Fried prawns in a coconut sauce. Mmmmmmm.
We had a chorizo appetizer, wine, and three different seafood dishes. I tasted all three mains, and they were all of an extremely high quality. Our fruit mouse dessert was also a tasty treat to finish off a fantastic meal.
Our group with our server, Sebastian, and the “Bobby” security guard.
We truly enjoyed our meal at London’s House. At the end of our meal we met the owner Miguel, and shortly chatted about his restaurant. He was clearly very proud of his place; as he should be. London’s House served me one of the best meals I’ve had in all of Colombia. I’d highly recommend it to anyone in the area.
Miguel, the proud owner in front of Lodon’s House.
How To Get to London’s House
London’s House is about 15kms from downtown Pereira. It’s closer to Santa Rosa de Cabal, only about 5kms outside of town. Ask a taxi to take you there. It’s pretty famous, so the driver should know where it is. The cab was 6,000COP from Santa Rosa.
London’s House has food and service of the highest quality, with a view that you’d be hard pressed to beat. This will cost you a few pesos, but it’s still a deal. My generous portion of fried prawns in coconut sauce cost me 37,000COP ($20USD). The range for a main was from 15,000COP to 45,000COP.
Enjoy! Abrazos.Read More »
The Colombian Coffee Zone Cycling Tour entered its fifth day of riding with a quick trip to the local bike shop to insure that Wilma’s rack would stay in place for the rest of our journeys. You see, her rack had a stripped thread on the one side, and we needed to have a more secure screw in order to insure that the rack wouldn’t come off. None of us wanted all of her luggage to be spread over the road in the middle of a crazy descent. More importantly, neither Etienne or myself wanted to carry her luggage if her rack broke.Read More »
The Cocora Valley, or Valle de Cocora was where we decided to take a day off of the bikes. As an ironic twist, we were still in saddles on this given day, trading our bicycle saddles for horse mounted ones.
Three cyclists pretending to be cowboys.
The Cocora Valley is home to Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm. These trees are the tallest palm trees in the world. They reach heights of 65m, and only grow one metre every four years. The tallest ones are 260 years old, and look as if they are literally touching the sky. I had seen pictures before coming here, but the pictures truly don’t do justice to this mystical place.
Yup. . . Spectacular Colombia.
Our chosen method of touring the wax palms and surrounding cloud forest was to go by horseback. We took a jeep up from Salento, which takes about 20 minutes. At the trail-head there were horses and guides that you could hire for the days excursion. We walked up, said that we wanted to go for about 3.5hrs, paid the money, and were off to explore the stunning Cocora Valley.
The Valle de Cocora or Cocora Valley.
When I think of horseback riding I think of a very tranquil, easy-going day, pretty scenery, and not too much to worry about. Well this wasn’t what we encountered. The trail into the cloud forest was extremely rutted out, and then once we got into the rainforest it was a steep, slippery, and rocky route for the horses. This was a little unsettling for myself, who has not been on a horse much since childhood.
All Marlboro manesque, minus the Wranglers and cigarette.
To top it off my horse, Pan Duro, or Hard Bread, was not the most agreeable of the four. He was constantly looking to bite his compatriots, cause trouble, or just generally make life for myself and the guide uncomfortable. It was a little unsettling, but I seemed to keep him under control as best I could.
Me, mis amigos, and Hard Bread riding into the sunset . . . clouds.
Our guide, Fernando, was an interesting character in horse training. He was walking beside us, and constantly whistling or “tapping” the horses on the ass with his stick. I told him to chill out with the whistling and “tapping”, and he responded with “they’re going too slow.” I told him we weren’t pro horseback riders, were not looking to win a race, and that their pace was OK with us. This seemed to cool Fernando off a little.
Etienne and I standing on the back of the Jeep to return to Salento.
By the end of our ride we had ridden through truly amazing rainforest, witnessed Colombia’s national tree on a spectacular day, and survived. All in all, a successful day.
How to Get to the Cocora Valley
From Bogota, Cali, or the south of Colombia go to the Armenia bus depot, and take a local bus to Salento.
From Medellin, and north take a bus to Pereira bus terminal, from which you can take a local bus to Salento.
Or, start cycle touring, and arrive by bike as we did.
Each horse was 25,000COP ($14USD) for the 3.5hr ride. Plus you had to pay 25,000COP per a group for the guide. There was also a 7hr option. We felt like 7hrs in a saddle would be a bit much for ourselves.
-Snacks, there’s a place to stop, but it’s a good idea to bring water and something to nibble on.
-You can also hike. It’s a challenging hike, with many slippery rocks, big ruts, mud, and uphills. There’s a hostel in town (Tralala) that rents rubber boots for 3,000COP/day. I’d recommend doing this if you plan on hiking.
-The jeeps leave town at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, and 11:30, and return at 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00 for 3,000COP each way. If you miss the collective jeeps, it’s 24,000COP to hire one to take your group up there.
-The weather in the valley is perfect for growing tall trees, and lush rainforests. Read: it rains. It is very likely that you will hit a day that is less than spectacular. Try and arrive early, this is when the best views will be available.
-The horseback riding is quite intense. It may be unsettling for many people. There were points where I did not feel comfortable.
-I’d highly recommend refueling after your trip at the restaurant at the trail head! Amazing food, with a clear view of the Cocora Valley!
-Enjoy!Read More »
The Colombian Coffee Zone Cycling Tour has entered its fourth day, and I’m proud to say we’re all alive. We’ve ridden hard for four days through some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain the world has to offer. Today’s ride was planned to be a short, easy, and painless ride. Sometimes plans change. Sometimes weather changes your plans. Flexibility is a necessity when cycle touring. Preferably yogic-like flexibility. If this is not possible, then flexibility in plans can be a substitute.Read More »
Our Colombian Coffee Zone Cycling Tour took us from Riosucio to Pereira, Colombia on day three of our tour. It was by far the longest journey of our trip so far, at 115kms. The day was a near perfect day of cycling, with amazing views, some good climbing, a world-class decent, great food, close friends, and a little hammering on the flats. Not much more a cyclist could ask for, other than maybe a Pinarello and a personal masseuse. Until that day, I guess I’ll have to settle for epic days of cycle touring Colombia.
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