Written by Mia:
We rented a car in Medellin and set off to see the countryside. We drove 800 kilometers, Jon did about 28 hours of driving and so we ended up averaging 28 kilometers an hour. There are lots of lorries and buses on the roads and traffic is slow which is probably good because the roads are curvy and there are car sized potholes and landslides to avoid.
Jerico was our first destination and we took the scenic route to get there. The road brought us past the most gorgeous, lush countryside, awe inspiring valleys and bustling towns. As we drove through towns and peered into shops and eateries it felt like we got a glimpse of the rural Colombian lifestyle. And it wasn’t long before we saw our first coffee plants, and they are gorgeous! They very often they seemed to be coupled with banana trees because they offer shade for the coffee plants, the root systems prevent soil erosion and the bark of the banana trees act as fertilizer, plus you can sell the bananas, too. It seemed fitting to take a coffee break and take in the view.
The light was golden as we finally arrived in Jerico and the drive through town to our hostel was a rainbow of brightly painted houses. There are not many hostels in town and we were happy that Las Cometas (which means “The Kites”) had room for us. It was a super friendly place with an eclectic mix of colors and tiles and furniture style and as we walked into the courtyard, we realized it is right underneath the church. In the morning we awoke to a full service. Jorge, the cool guy running the hostel is very welcoming and we had fun chatting with him not just about Jerico, but also the future of Colombia. They are running a coffee project which includes inviting a Kiwi barista to teach the cafes to make hipster coffee and giving free English lessons to locals in the tourist industry. Apparently the area around Jerico was the original coffee region and they want it back. The next day after Teo made breakfast for the coffee project, we went for a long walk around this adorable town and even spent a good chunk of time in the botanical garden. We left town later than we planned headed for Jardin and we arrived with an hour or two of sunlight.
Jardin is another glorious, colorful pueblo in Antioquia and even though the main plaza is under refurbishment, it is full of charm and buzzing with activity. The church in town is black and white striped and we enjoyed fabulous coffee and cake in its shadow. Our family run hostel “Es Tuyo” was just across the square from the church with a wraparound balcony and an amazing view, plus we had six beds to ourselves. I wanted to sublet a double to couple backpackers but Jon wouldn’t let me. There was a man and his horse practicing a special horse gait called “Paso Fino”which demonstrates great control. The sound of it is mesmerizing and we stood in awe as they went up and down the street. The next morning we wandered around town and stopped at “Dulces de Jardin” which is gorgeous family run sweet shop with tons of temptations and gorgeous tiles. On our way back to the car, Teo attracted the attention of about 15 giggly school girls who wanted to touch his blonde hair and practice their English. This was enough to make Teo shy and that made them giggle even more.
We got a late start hitting the road and there is a huge construction project and that combination meant we arrived into Solento in the dark and to make it interesting it was raining hard, too. We had been in contact with the hostel Art Valez and even though we felt bad waking the girls, we were happy to get there! They were happy to get us settled and Teo was thrilled to have a bunk bed, and he decided that upstairs was for playing and downstairs for sleeping. Solento is very cute but more touristy than the other places we visited. We were amused by the tour groups with color coded baseball caps. We enjoyed our coffee tour at the small eco friendly plantation called Arcazia. We got to see the whole process, including what terrain is best (hilly high altitude but not snow proned), when beans are ready for picking (only the red ones, our baskets were not full), what plants to use to keep bugs away (garlic and sage compost soup), how to tell if a bean is top quality (does it float or sink in a water bath) and we got to see where they roast their crops (grandma’s kitchen). We ended the tour sipping coffee on the veranda and chatting with the guide from Venezuela.
We enjoyed dinner and breakfast at a place called “Brunch” which is run by a guy from Oregon who makes his own peanut butter and write notes for your packed lunch. Teo loved writing on the walls “Are you SURE I am allowed?” and his Mickey Mouse pancake and Jon and I got through half the nachos mountain.
We went for a hike in the valley of palms, Valle de Cocora and loved hiking through the jungle and crossed the river on bridges made of logs. This was not an easy walk and we ended up with an ascent of 1000 meters. The palms of this valley are gorgeous and grow to be 60 meters tall and 200 years old. Many of them were being cut down for Palm Sunday festivities so Colombia has made them their state tree to protect them. We loved the Humminbird Sanctuary Acaime where they just buzz around your head so closely you think they might land. You might see a pattern forming but we stayed too long and then took a wrong turn which meant we were very happy that mobile phones have built in flashlights and that we met Marco from Mexico to share a laugh with on our descent. It has rained a lot and slipping and sliding in the mud in the dark was less fun, but all in this day was incredible and made us even more proud of Teo who was a complete rock star.
Our last outing on our road trip was a visit to the Botanical Garden at Quindío with an incredible Butterfly Enclosure. We enjoyed the guided walk through the garden and all the views points and the small museum but the best part by far is the butterfly enclosure. We loved it and we could lure the butterflies with orange wedges. I even had one omg nose for a while!
We loved exploring this bit of Colombia.