May 14

Living in a Coffee Paradise: Salento, Colombia

Salento Mirador

So, I don’t know why, but I agreed to go on a trip to the coffee triangle with the adopted little brother I never wanted. Being Australian myself, I should’ve realised how annoying and uncouth my countrymen can be, but, I’m fairly notorious for making poor judgements (apart from going to Colombia, of course), so I didn’t foresee any real problems with sharing the back seat of a bus with the self-professed Suave One for an hour or five to Armenia (the Colombian city, not the European country), and then spending a couple of days in Salento.


Coolio declined our invitation to join us. Inexplicably, he said he was "busy."
Coolio declined our invitation to join us. Inexplicably, he said he was “busy.”


After hours picking my addled brains over such vitally important questions such as “Who would you rather: Lady Di then, or Lady Di now?” and “Who would win in a fight: Muhammad Ali or Michael J Fox? I mean, today,” I finally pretended to sleep, and spent the next few hours zipping around the bends in the sacredly silent dark. Upon “waking up” and looking out the window, we were treated to the Colombian sun slowly raising its head over rolling green mountains peppered with coffee trees lining up obediently in rows. The route to Armenia offers sometimes literally breathtaking scenery, as the (hopefully) experienced driver zips through curves, often gunning the engine to pass slow-poke cars engrossed in winding their way through the steep, spectacular terrain, much to our whiteknuckled perturbation.

Well, we thankfully rolled into a still-sleepy, grey Armenia, and were just lucky enough to locate a little bus that was about to leave for the much more aesthetically pleasing Salento. My adopted little brother, exhausted from the incessant questioning of the night before, was dozing fitfully, and so I was left to have my gob smacked by the truly impressive surrounds, as the sun continued to rise to reveal the coffee triangle in all its glory. We made it to the picture-perfect main square of Salento itself, and, after amusing ourselves by translating and altering the banner spread above the local church to read “Enter the house of the Gringo, and speak with Him” (hey, we thought it was hilarious!), we hired a jeep from a well-moustachioed local ready to take a chance with two dithering gringos, and finally made it to our destination: the hostel, La Serrana, nestled on a hill a couple of k’s outside the town itself.

Colorful house in Salento
Any moment now, a lady will pop out the window of this Salento house to tell a joke.

I breathed a sigh of relief: perhaps this would be a slight respite from the torrent of questions relating to Beatles’s B sides, and the sexual preferences of Australian cricketer, Shane Watson. It was still early morning, and mist was rolling off the verdant (green? you kidding me?) hills and its handful of lowing dairy cows, and we came across a mewling litter of puppies, who were being cute like it was their highly-paid job. Too bad: not having booked (note to self: book next time), we were left to feel a bit like Joseph and Mary, but the receptionist, the super-nice, fellow Australian, Tess, let us have a doze on some hammocks, where we played with the puppies (who had taken a shine to my ratty old pair of Chucks), and made inappopriate jokes about the nearby cows’ udders. We even got to take advantage of the majestic breakfast on offer at La Serrana, which featured everything you’d ever want from a proper hot brekkie, even fresh, real milk from the cows we’d been making incisive witticisms about.


His trigger-finger’s all itchy. For some billiards, dang nab it.


We’d get the chance to actually stay at the truly idyllic hostel the next night, cosily sharing a bed and clever questions about American pop cultural icons. I think we’d both heartily recommend the place – even though it was lousy with fellow Aussies – but possibly with booking dorm bunks that are in justifiably high demand beforehand. Suavity notwithstanding, I could easily have stayed a couple of weeks just basking in the “how’s the serenity” beauty of the place; having a dip in the local creek, taking coffee farm tours and trying out my best Spanish with our machete-wielding guide (“Lo siento: mi amigo es estupido”), or getting my arse kicked at pool in a bar frequented by real-life cowboys, but the high-pressure demands of the travel blogger were calling me back to the Bog – I was also running out of answers regarding the night-time habits of Christopher Reeve – so I reluctantly bid adieu to the little brother I never wanted and the Salento with which I’d already fallen in love. Hope to see you again soon, Salento. I miss you.


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