Awww, why did I have to find my favorite place yet at the very end of my time in Colombia??
Salento is an incredible little pueblo in the breathtaking coffee region of Colombia. The climate is a mix of good solid downpours and rich, beautiful breaks in the clouds for the sun. Even when it rains, it can't be called "cold." Only "fresh." The hills and valleys all around are green green green, with wisps of white clouds drifting in about them, holding close to the earth.
The town itself is packed with color and artisan life. The main street is a gorgeous little narrow road lined on either side with tiny shops selling all sorts of great works of art - jewelery, woodwork, paintings (incredible paintings!), clothing, traditional Colombian sombreros, and lots of great little cafes that serve (of course) delicious coffee.
I've found that many little pueblos of Colombia and Ecuador, while they have a nice small-town feel with friendly people, they lack in much character or culture as far as the town itself goes. They're just kind of bland. But this... this is an incredible mix of nature, culture, friendliness, liveliness, and relaxation-without-boredom.
The town of Salento, colorful and lively
I have a feeling that in just a few years' time, this place will be very different, though. It seems to only just be showing up on the international tourist map, so for the most part, it's still refreshingly Colombian. But soon, others will catch on, and that will inevitably bring a jaded aspect to the workings of the town.
Ah well, I certainly enjoyed it while it lasted. Earlier today, I walked 40 minutes into the hills to arrive at a beautiful little coffee farm of only 4 hectares. Don Elías, a happy old man with a genial smile in a leathery face, gave me a tour of the property and a demonstration of the process after picking the beans - skinning, drying, roasting, grinding. Then I sat down for a fresher-than-fresh cuppa home-grown coffee with the man that looks as if he just stepped out of a label for Colombian coffee. Not a bad day.
Fresh-ground coffee, straight from the source
Tomorrow, I head for Pasto, a city 2 hours north of the Ecuadorian border, where I will stay the night with a Couchsurfer, and then head for Quito on Tuesday. It's been a great trip here in this country. I feel like I've traveled to many different corners of the earth on this trip - every location is so different, so distinct! Now, I'm looking forward to passing un buen ratito with good friends in Ecuador... after I spend many many hours of my life on various buses.
Posted by Whitney 07/31/2011, revised 08/15/2011 by Whitney