We had been warned that bus travel in Colombia was a bit interesting, with most of the large cities situated in the middle of valley's accessible only by mountainous windy roads. We therefore decided to book planes to get around.
The journey to Salento from Bogota was with Satena airlines (we've all heard of them right) on a two by two seater prop plane. Needless to say my fear of flying wasn't eased after seeing the plane, but with a 40 minute flight rather than a 12 hour bus it was hard to argue. Before the flight, we struck up conversation with two respectable Colombian gentlemen who were on a day trip to Bogota to conclude a business deal. They put me at ease explaining the flight outwards was fine and at about 30 minutes in I would again need there reassurance. After a rather forgettable start to the flight the seat belt sign came on and the plane starting bouncing around like a roller coaster, with two old Colombia ladies next to us screaming like school girls on a ride. It was then that the aforementioned Colombian turned around, winked, and explained it was the mountains. Definitely an unforgettable if not slightly strange experience.
Flying aside, Salento is famous for its coffee. Set in luscious rolling green hills, it is postcard perfect. Based on travellers recommendations we booked into La Serrana hostel and were not disappointed. More of a hotel than a hostel with a beautiful view over the countryside, nighty bonfires and great breakfasts, it was definitely one of the best places we've stayed in the whole of South America.
Our time there was spent mainly going to coffee plantations which were handily only a 30 minute picturesque walk away. Our first stop was Ocaso, where you picked your own coffee beans and were shown the process of producing the countries famous coffee. Interestingly, almost all of the good coffee is exported to the US or Europe, leaving the poor Colombians to drink Peruvian and Brazilian coffee. The second was our favourite, Don Elias. Don Elias is the head, literally the don, of the family and has worked in the coffee business all his life, buying this plantation 20 years ago. His grandson actually gave the tour making it a real family affair. The plantation is 100% organic and sacrifices quantity over quality making only 4 tonnes of coffee a year. What we also learnt on the tour was that Starbucks actually buy the poor quality beans to maximise profits. Needless to say we bought quite a lot which has led to more resourceful packing from now on.
One place we had to visit in salento was the Cocora valley. Our taxi driver Juan Carlos (quite a character) said to not visit the valley was like going on a honeymoon and not consummating the marriage. So of course we went, how could you argue with that analogy. After a 20 minute jeep from the centre with Alice squashed in and me hanging off the back we arrived to even more beautiful countryside with huge wax palm trees. The roughly 4 hour trek which wound through the valley past waterfalls, across decrepit wooden bridges and up into the forest gave great views of the surrounding valley.
After climbing the multicoloured stairs of Salento for a view over the small town and surrounding hills, our time in Salento was concluded watching Colombia's final group match. Rather disappointingly they drew with Peru, which meant a tougher draw in the quarters to face Argentina. A match we get to watch in Medellin which should be interesting. Now onto the salsa capital of Colombia, Cali.