If I try to describe my trip last weekend to the Eje Cafetero – Colombia’s “Coffee Axis” – using words like “enchanting” and “magical”, you’re going to groan.
You’ll think that I’m just one of those tired travel writers who can’t be bothered to come up more descriptive words, or who wants you to believe that I am having amazing experiences no matter how mediocre the reality. Or worse, you may think I’m the realtor trying to entice you with a “charming and quaint” (read: terribly cramped and lacking any renovation since the turn of the century) apartment. Normally – my being a terrifically (read that adverb as you see fit) skeptical person – I would agree with you. But in this case, you’d be wrong.
The Eje Cafetero really was enchanting and magical – not to mention just plain fun and shockingly economical (and since when have you had a good surprise in the price department?).
My husband Gio and I flew from Bogotá into the city of Armenia, which was devastated by a terrible earthquake in 1999 but has since been rebuilt. We then traveled around the surrounding countryside in the state of Quindío. We visited the popular theme park Panaca, which focuses on Colombia’s agricultural heritage (and whose cheesy Facebook page does not do it justice), and the Parque Nacional del Café, which includes both a cultural tour of Colombia’s coffee growing history and a big selection of roller coasters and other thrill rides. From the parks, we headed into the Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley), where we saw the revered “palmas de cera del Quindío”, the national tree of Colombia. This protected species (scientific name: Ceroxilon quindiuense) is found only in the Colombian Andes. The trees can reach heights of 70 meters (229 feet) and live more than 100 years.
From Cocora, we drove down curving roads to the picturesque, slightly too touristy but still not-to-be-missed town of Salento. As night descended, we wandered through shops featuring high-quality artesanía and dined on a pizza-sized plantain and fried trout from a nearby river. The next morning, we headed to Recuca (Recorrido de la Cultura Cafetera), where we were educated in Colombia’s traditional coffee heritage from plant to cup and had a blast dressing up like traditional coffee growers with a very spirited group of visitors. (More on Colombia’s coffee culture later; it deserves its own post.)
In retrospect, perhaps the best word to describe this whole trip – not just the food and the coffee – is delicious. The trip was green, gorgeous, and delicious. We’ll be back.
P.S. I’m thinking of starting a regular “Friday Fotos” feature. Good idea, or too much like your wacky cousin’s boring slideshows? Let me know! Happy weekend-ing!