While in Medellin, we focused on touring the city and going to school but we did take some time to see some sights out of town. We went to Santa Fe de Antioquia, also known as The Mother City. It was founded in 1541 and was the regional capital until the government moved to Medellin in 1826.
The historic Bridge of the West is a National Monument which spans the Cauca River.
Below is a photo of a photo taken during a Catholic religious ceremony in Santa Fe. I wasn’t able to find out the significance of the hoods (perhaps they are supposed to represent angels) but it highlights the differences in cultural meanings.
We had wanted to go to a beautiful area called Zona Cafetera (the main coffee growing region) since we first heard about it. It was close to Medellin, but not close enough for a day trip. Knowing this would probably be our last chance, we woke up on the Monday of our last week in Medellin and decided to play hooky from school (there was a holiday during that week anyway). That was at about 8:00am. We ate breakfast, packed some things and were out the door minutes later. We grabbed a taxi that had just dropped someone off and headed for the south bus terminal. Once there, the search was on to find the window of the transportation company that sold tickets to Pereira. It took a few minutes until we found the right one among the dozens that were lined up one after another. When I asked what time the colectivo (a shared taxi/minibus) would leave, the woman at the counter told me 9:30. As I looked up at the clock it was indeed 9:30! We paid for the tickets, went right out to the gate and at 9:37 we were on a colectivo heading for Pereira, one of the major cities in Zona Cafetera. It was a 5 hour ride including a stop for lunch, and once there, we had to find another colectivo to our destination, Salento. I quickly found the right transportation company and while waiting for our next colectivo, I called a hostel and made a reservation for the next few nights. We boarded another colectivo and in less than 1 hour we had arrived in Salento.
We stayed in the Plantation House Hostel owned by an Australian ex-pat who also owned a local coffee farm. His name was “Tim” but that didn’t sound too Colombian so he changed it to “Don Eduardo”. The tour was excellent, covering the coffee growing and processing business from A to Z. After the tour we got to sample a couple of different kinds of coffee.
The next day we did a 5-hour hike to The Acaime Nature Reserve in the Cauca Valley. To get there, we went to the center of town where there is a cadre of old Willys jeeps that shuttle people to the village of Cocora.
The first part of the trail goes through farmland and is lined by a barbed wire fence. After about 20-25 minutes, there was a most unusual obstacle blocking the trail. A farmer stood guard over one of the biggest bulls I’d ever seen and it was smack dab in the middle of the trail. There was no negotiating this situation. The farmer recommended everyone go around the bull by going over/under/through the barbed wire enclosure. So we all did.
That night I went to a local bar/restaurant to play one of the national games of Colombia called Tejo. Tejo involves throwing 2-kg metal discs into a pit containing gunpowder-filled paper charges with the objective of hitting them so they explode. I played with a couple from the hike and some others they had met in their travels. Drinking beer and shouting are obligatory. It was great fun!