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  • Writer's pictureSanni & Gerri@

Filandia; In the coffee triangle of Colombia

18. to 23. November

After the desert, we go into the countryside. Nothing embodies the Colombian image as much as the lush green hills of the Zona Cafetera. Since it extends over three different regions, it is also often called coffee triangle (Eje Cafetero). We choose the Quindio region. The most famous and popular place in this region is Salento. According to our research, the small community is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, because it is best to get to Valle de Cocora from there. That's where we want to go, but with "well known and popular" we quickly sense a tourist stronghold. That's why we choose the village of Filandia, supposedly in the shadow of Salento.


What is not yet clear to us at this time: While the buses leave relatively punctually despite the Colombian serenity, the travel times stated online are very optimistic. But what we know: it will definitely be a long journey. Villavieja - Armenia - Filandia. Total 355 km. So we start at 7:00 a.m. in the morning and arrive at about 8:30 p.m. in the evening. Since all travel guides strongly recommend not to be on the streets after dark, we are a little dull to mute. But everything works out wonderful and we absolutely don't have to worry about our safety here, as we find out over the next few days.


And our sixth sense is right, Filandia is really a dream of a place that is in no way inferior to the famous neighbour (Salento), as we will notice later during our trip to the Valle de Cocora. We enjoy the famous picturesque views of the region. The village itself is the epitome of serenity. Noise and hustle bustle are not present. Only on weekends there is a little more tourism going on when the Colombians, dressed up and arrive for a day trip. Here we enjoy the beautiful colourful architecture and a really magical charm. There are enough, really good, restaurants and very nice shops. Sanni is about to buy shoes, but can control herself at last minute. There is even a small Christmas market. Here we (Sanni for the first time ever) eat really delicious churros. A real sin of calories but with caramel and chocolate sauce, the fried dough is just too good!

Also our hostel is great. We are the only guests living with Francia and her son Jhonny. Jhonny's girlfriend Tina is German and so we all talk quite often, even if it gets harder with the Spanglish. Additionally, we get great recommendations from the three guys. Such as our bike tour to a small, fine coffee farm or playing Tejo. More on that later. Overall, we just feel super comfortable in Filandia, which means that we ask Francia not only once:

Es posible una Noche mas?
 

We make our own coffee!

Since Jhonny is a downhill mountain bike pro - third best in Colombia in his age group - it is obvious that he also rents pretty good mountain bikes. We use these to drive to one of Region‘s many café fincas in Quimbaya. On largely unpaved roads, we pass by picturesque coffee farms with well-kept small houses and gardens. Always with the beautiful view of gentle hills, colourful buildings and pastures. Jhonnie's promise that it's exclusively downhill is not entirely true. Shortly before the finish, we have to pedal properly. Well "warmed-up" we arrive at our destination of Finca Carriel. Owner Don Carlos is already waiting for us. Before our tour of the farm starts, however, we are first served an incredibly delicious iced coffee. As part of the private tour, we are the only guests, we are allowed to make "our own" coffee.

So, let‘s put on the "coffee picker clothes" and off we go out on the plantation and into the bushes.

We have a really super interesting day and go through the entire process of coffee production. We learn a lot of interesting things about the right seed, the importance of the soil, the harvest times and drying process. Especially the meticulous selection defines the quality of a really good coffee as we learn. Likewise, the best qualities called specialty coffee are produced almost exclusively in small quantities and do not go into mass production. Carlos' farm also has only a very small production. The passion and enthusiasm he harbours for his product is contagious. And so we wash, peel, roast and grind the hell out of us. The labour-intensive work is worth the end result. It's really one of the best coffees we ever drunk. For sure, the backpack is now 500 g heavier!

For the way back, we cycle back to Quimbaya and load our bikes on one of the Willy Jeeps. Thus, the way uphill, back to Filandia, is much more pleasant and also a real experience. The Willys are, usually a little older, off-road vehicles of the Jeep brand and here in the region the ultimate means of transport. Actually, they can accommodate up to 10 people. In reality, however, as many people and objects as possible. They squeeze together, drive while standing, lift objects and bags onto the roof and jump on the back of the bumper to drive along.


 

We'll let it bang and play Tejo

What do you do on a Saturday evening in a small Colombian town? You let it bang properly and play Tejo. When we hear about this bizarre national sport of Colombia, we really want to try it ourselves. In Filandia there is a Tejo hall right next to our hostel, which in retrospect also explains the explosions we hear all the time. To play it, which was invented 500 years ago by indigenous people, players throw metal pucks weighing up to 1.5 kilograms, the Tejo, through the air from a distance of almost 15 metres! The goal is to hit small paper bags filled with gunpowder, which then explode with a loud bang. The rules are very simple. The tejo must land inside or as close as possible to a metal ring on which the black powder bags lie. The whole thing is traditionally built on a clay hill.

The atmosphere of the small, dimmed Tejo Arena is like one from a gangster movie. It is located in the backyard of a billiard café. To find it, you have to ask for the way. The light is dim, the smells of gunpowder is in the air and the all men! present take a look at us astonished and curious when we enter the hall. However, after a few minutes we are welcomed directly and one of the Colombians brings us our Tejos and explains the game. We are really lucky. Sanni achieves the first explosion already at the beginning, Gerriet totals three explosions during the evening. We have incredible fun and the local players also break out loud in cheers, every time we hit the gunpowder. Although some of the professional players seem to be wondering how the hell it can be that two gringos land several hits on the first night.

Traditionally, every round includes a beer.

With this consumption you pay for the game. It goes without saying that the rent is payed several times, when we finish playing and drinking. All thumbs up! A great game!


 

Valle de Cocora

Before our stay in the Zona de Cafetera ends, we really want to take a look at the national tree of Colombia: the gigantic Quindío wax palms in the Valle de Cocora. With the Willy, we therefore go to Salento and then head towards Los Nevados National Natural Park.

The Valle del Cocora has become famous for a specific wax palm species "Palma de cera" or Quindio wax palm. The palm trees grow up to 60 metres high and are amongst the largest in the world. Our hike starts in a valley along a small river, surrounded by lush green hills and nestled in mighty Colombian Andes. After about an hour, we leave the meadow and grassy landscape and enter a cloud forest that emerges out of nowhere. It chirps everywhere. We pass picture-book-ready waterfalls and small, shaky suspension bridges lead us over the streams again and again. Almost like in a fairytale forest or like Indiana Jones, as Gerriet thinks. Fortunately, Sanni has now treated her suspension bridge phobia and so all the stream crossings are a real breeze. Slowly but steadily, our hike then leads steeper uphill. Although it was not so long ago that we hiked, we realise that our condition has already become a little worse again. We were just too much in the city and the food in Colombia is also too delicious! Speaking of eating: on the way we also find the maggots that Gerriet ate in El Coca on the way to the Amazon. But not fried this time. How good that we have already had breakfast.

We don't give up and cope with the steep climb to La Montaña. There, we are rewarded with the impressive views over the whole Valle del Cocora: the surrounding mountains, valleys and above all the wax palms. Once at the exit of the park, the Willy's are already waiting for us and we enjoy the return trip standing on the rear bumper. Pouring the wind into the face, we drive over hill and bumpy roads. The last adventure of this great day with the best view; not only on the beautiful landscape. We may not look forward that much to sore muscles in the legs of hiking and in the arms of holding on.


 

*The English version of this blog is supported by automated translation*




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