Our favourite little town in the whole wide world
Vern: On the day that US forces found Osama Bin Laden, Vern and Andrea went into hiding. On a plantation outside of the idyllic town of Salento, in the heart of Colombia's lush coffee region, we laid down our backpacks in a rustic bamboo shack and collapsed into a hammock. The farm admistrator brewed a pot of own-grown 'suave' beans and served us mugs of sweet tinto (black coffee). And on the stilted terrace we sipped the product his labour, silenced by the magnificent view: Cows and horses balanced on the steep emerald hillsides of an infinite valley. Jagged rows of coffee beans, pineapple trees and black berries covered the plantation grounds and sun beams broke through the trunks of 50m high bamboo trees.
That morning, we had boarded a six-hour bus from Popayan to Armenia, from where we connected to Salento. We met a fun couple, Simon and Diane, on the bus and traded stories about our respective travels to date so the trip went by quickly. Once in Salento, we made our way up the road to a large hostel, Plantation House, but they had no rooms available. "However, the 'Penthouse Suite' is available on our farm 10min out of town and is only 1000 pesos more than a dorm", said the guy at the front desk. "We'll take it!" He pointed down a muddy path and down this we trudged as carefully as possible. Our backpacks felt heavier and heavier as the trail got muddier and more tricky to manoeuvre, but we we were certain that we'd made the right decision as soon as we made it to to the farm gate.
A steep path led down to a basic stone house with two small dorms, two bathrooms, an outdoor kitchen and a covered wood table and stools. Next to the house stood a two-storey bamboo tower up which crude steps led to a terrace and the 'Penthouse Suite'. The single-room 'Suite' had no door, just a canvas curtain and the irregular bamboo-stems which comprised the walls didn't meet the roof. Three small wooden windows had been inserted into spaces cut out of the bamboo and the only furniture was a double bed and a twin (single) bed. It was perfect!
While enjoying the coffee, we overheard the farm's owner finishing off a tour and gleaned a little insight into the plantation we were inhabiting.
For dinner we feasted on 'el menu' (a $3 two-course-meal-plus-juice set meal) at a lovely little restaurant, Rincon de Lucy, and returned there twice more in the coming days for the yummy chicken-soup served with a banana, and the mains of rice, salad, fried veggies, a fried curd cheese ball, plantain, 'arepa' (corn tortilla) and choice of meat.
Afterward we joined Simon and Dianne at an outside table at a bar on the town plaza. The doors and shutters on every building in Salento, by law or by custom, are painted in bright two-tones making the town almost as picturesque as its surroundings. We sipped beers and chatted until late, meaning we had to venture back down the mud path in the dark, but the starlight, our headlamps and the paparazzi of fire-flies guided us to our hideaway.
We erected a mosquito net, which Simon and Diane lent us, over the bed forming a canopy which looked almost royal and climbed in through the little gap we left ourselves, and under the thick blankets. We fell asleep in the natural silence, awoke briefly later when rain started pummelling the tin-roof, and then drifted off once more.