Just like that more infamous triangle around Bermuda, it’s easy to get lost in the charms of Colombia’s Coffee Triangle. In particular, the environs around the little town of Salento are so beautiful, one could easily spend weeks there just basking in their glory. This is something Colombians have known for a good while, as Salento itself is a magnet for local tourists. Every weekend, eager sightseers troop from around Colombia to get their tourist on. And they don’t go about it half-heartedly. The local delicacy, trout with quite a delicious manifestation of plantain, is consumed by the truckload; ponchos are bought and donned; and cowboy hats are snapped up and worn with aplomb, sometimes (so I noticed) with the price tags still on.
It’s hard to know what the genuine cowboys who actually live around the area think about such goings-on. I’d argue that it’s difficult to work out what they think about anything behind their stoic demeanours. Except for their love of billiards, cowboy hats, ponchos, and belt buckles. This is all on display at the local billiards bar, one of my favourite places in Colombia so far.
Step into this place, and you feel like you’ve walked into a Tarantino-styled Western. It certainly has an aura of a sacred place for these cowboys, who take their billiards – and their hats – seriously. Everything about the room is pitch-perfect; from the solid, kind-faced barkeep, to the old-style Spanish cowboy soundtrack, to the moustaches on the faces of our cowboy companions. As my adopted little brother and I were downing our ice-cold Costenas and playing hour after hour of more pedestrian 8-ball, we kept on half-hoping for a gunfight to break out, even though that would probably mean the end for the kindly bartender. I’m glad to say, this really isn’t the place for such shenanigans. We just watch too many movies.
Although there are certainly more picturesque backdrops to drink up when you travel around Salento, such as the coffee farms on the hills and valleys (take a tour to experience the world’s best coffee at its source) or the sublimity of the Cocora valley and its emblematic wax palms, I’d definitely pitch for that little, old, slightly dingy billiards bar as a rare opportunity to rub shoulders with real, live cowboys, and to live out a little cinematic fantasy of your own.