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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hacienda Bambusa

 Our last day in coffee country we decided to sleep in and enjoy the hotel.  Hacienda Bambusa is a lovely small hotel with gardens and a pool.  We enjoyed the day relaxing around the pool and hiking on the surrounding property.  We wandered through plantain stands, explored a ginger farm and investigated coca plants.  We ran into cows blocking our way and enjoyed stunning views.
Examining Ginger plants

A bundle of plantains
So although it is a bit out of the way, the quiet  and being in the country was a real treat.
The restaurant located at the hotel employed a local chef.  The food was excellent providing more of a dining experience which was very much enjoyed after a long day of touring.
Although we had our own driver and made our own touring arrangements, I have heard excellent reports from friends who have booked their touring through the hotel.

- Kris
E wondering how we get back

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I awoke early on day two of our coffee adventure.  Somehow getting up at 5 every morning doesn’t change when on vacation.  A deep-throated buzzing pulled me out from under the covers and to the window.  Fascinated I watched around 20 humming birds fight for their breakfast.  Dodging this way and that they zoomed around the feeders and flowers below me.  
 No longer sleepy I grabbed my camera and headed out to explore the grounds of the hotel.  Beautiful and breathless, more on that later!
Salento was our destination for today.  After an hour long taxi ride we fell out of the car and onto mountain bikes.  The brakes were a bit sketchy so I traded mine for one with a bit more grip.  THANK GOODNESS!  Our trip was downhill on a gravel road until we turned around.  You can guess how the trip back-up went!  Fortunately being out in the countryside of Colombia gave me fuel for the pedal/push back up.  That and not wanting to be a 40 year old wimp!
We smelled the sweet scent of fresh baked bread wafting from this window.  Chad popped his head in and bought a loaf!
After our exhausting ride, we grabbed a loaf of “fresh out of the oven” bread and found a restaurant to collapse in.  We enjoyed fresh trout for which the area is famous before heading to the town square.

Upon seeing all the colorfully painted colonial buildings, restored antique Jeep Willys, vendors, shops and restaurants in the town square I realized this was a town that would need to be revisited in my future.

Reacting to a large, formerly alive, beetle on Chad's shoulder.

Nothing like hanging onto the back of a jeep feeling the freedom of the wind in your hair.
We hired a jeep and hopped in the back to enjoy the 30 min. ride up to the Valle de Cocora, a National reserve. 
The area is famous for Colombia’s national tree, the “wax palms”, the tallest palm trees in the world.  Tall, thin and  at 165 feet these trees make quite an impression standing solemnly in the Andes mountains.  We walked around for awhile before heading back to the jeep and anticipating a relaxed dinner back at the hotel.
  • Kris

To rent bikes contact:
Hostal Plantation House

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coffee Country - the Garden of Eden

Chad and I had the wonderful opportunity to grab a weekend away from Bogota and the hassles of the big city.  We awoke at 4 a.m, got on a plane and flew over the mountains to the town of Armenia, one of three cities in the coffee region.
For those of you who know Chad, coffee is a passion of his.  We had been looking forward to this trip for months and now we were embarking on a weekend to immerse ourselves in the culture of coffee.
As we typically do, we through the normal tourist attractions out the window and came up with our own plan.  Combined with the ideas of our friends, we had a wonderful weekend of adventure.
Chad had a patient with a contact who owned a coffee plantation.  So we began our first day with Frank, the owner of a coffee school for restauranteurs teaching us the fine points of shelling, sorting, grading and then roasting coffee beans.  We learned that coffee is very similar to wine.  We were focusing more on the “boutique” side of things with coffee beans from one section of a specific plantation.  No mixing the beans here!  After roasting the beans we sat down for a lesson in preparing a truly good cup of coffee.  
Sorting the beans
Grading the beans during the roasting process
Roasting the beans


The water is to be heated to about 180 F.  A filter is moistened before putting the grounds in.  The grounds are put in a coffee filter on the top of a “chemix”.  The grounds are pushed up the sides of the filter making a sort of ditch.  The reason for this process rather than just dumping the ground in and pouring the water on top, is to give the grounds an even soak thus pulling the flavor from the beans in an even amount.  If you have done this to perfection you will have a nice bit of froth at the top of your water as it settles through the filter producing an amazingly delectable cup of coffee.  The flavors in my cup were amazing.  Each part of my tongue picked up a different taste.  A truly fine restaurant should be preparing your coffee at the table with your dessert.
From the school we traveled to the coffee finca (farm) with Gustavo, the owner.  
Perched at a perfect altitude of about 1600 meters this finca had incredible views of the area.  The view alone was worth the windy drive up the mountain.  Gustavo takes pleasure in growing high quality coffee beans.  He is passionate about teaching the poorer farmers around him about how to farm using few chemicals, pruning bushes every 5 years and replanting.  
The government of Colombia has stated that a farmer can make a reasonable living for himself and his family on 4 hectors of land.  Gustavo has 8 hectors, the average farmer has 2.  You can see how this quickly leads to difficulties for these farmers because they are barely making enough to survive and certainly not enough to invest in producing a higher quality farm.

beans drying
sorting beans
We walked through the farm going higher and higher.  Rows of coffee plants were burdened with berries. The red berries ready to be picked.  
Gustavo then showed us the harvesting, sorting and drying process.  The amount of care into each bean gives me a new appreciation for this drink we take for granted.
A bit weary we all climbed into the taxi to head for the hotel.  After 1 1/2 hrs. of winding through different towns we came to a dirt road.  It was now dark.  The driver continually asked people along the way if our hotel was ahead.  We continued ahead uncertain.  Crossing a river flooding the road, In disbelief our hotel appeared before us.  Warm lights welcomed us.  Our dinner prepared and waiting.  The perfect end to a day in the Coffee Garden of Eden.
- Kris

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Carpet Cleaners

Three bedrooms, average size. Shouldn't take too long to clean the carpets – or should it? The carpet cleaners came. A few normal spots on two carpets and one completely destroyed by a puppy. Three women came. They had two large cleaning machines with them as well as an assortment of other machines.
One woman was older. She held onto the spinning carpet cleaning machine for dear life, it running her rather than her running it. She had sweat dripping down her face. She came out of the bedroom several times to sit down and rest. I began to become afraid that she would have a hear-attack in my family room.
Back-at-it the women got down on their hands and knees with various small brushes and chemicals. The day began to pass. I wondered “How long can this possibly take?”.
Five hours. Yes, three women, two machines and five hours. But my carpets look incredible! Not a spot to be seen. Truly another cultural experience!

- Kris