Our pursuit for the perfect cup of joe continues in central Colombia. We visit the quaint community of Salento and make our way to Cali.
Friday, March 16th
I left my goat friends and got back onto the road. My destination for the day would be the little town of Salento.
To the casual reader (yes, you in the sweatpants), it may seem like I’m spending quite a bit of time riding through a country that is not that big. As I tried to explain in my very first post: One needs to respect the size of South America. Indeed, Colombia is big enough to reach from Duluth to New Orleans.
Additionally, the going is very slow through this country. Most of the roads are winding routes through mountain passes. This day, I would also lose about 2 hours to road construction.
The one positive thing about the construction delays is that it allows for a pretty healthy queue of motorcycles to form at the front of the line. When the sign flips, the race begins.
In North America, Annie rarely gets to feel like she’s the fastest bike on the block. She’s not the kind of machine that needs her ego stroked, but we all like to feel powerful sometimes.
I passed through some nice scenery.
You should never be surprised by the kind of contraptions you see on the roads down here. One of the most interesting vehicles to me are these motorcycle trucks:
I kind of want one, but I’m not sure how that little front wheel can deliver enough stopping power.
One construction delay left us parked for over an hour. The amount of motorcycles at that point almost made it feel like being in the Tour de France.
Final descent down into Salento:
Salento is little town in the hills of coffee country. In recent years it’s become a major tourist attraction. I don’t know if “quaintness” can be fully quantified, but this place has that in spades.
My Hostel, Las Camelias, was a bit out of the ordinary, in a good way. It was basically an old farmhouse right on the edge of town. I was welcomed warmly by my host, Maria, and felt right at ease. This place was about $9/night, breakfast included.
And joy of joys, they had goats!
I walked around the town in the evening and had a nice, cheap supper. It was really interesting to see the dramatic ratio of tourists to townspeople. It almost appeared to be half and half.
Saturday, March 17th
I got up fairly early and Maria made me breakfast. I have thus far been thoroughly underwhelmed with the quality of coffee since I entered Latin America, but she made a good batch. I would expect nothing less in coffee country.
The morning was so peaceful and serene.
I had a mission to complete, so I walked into town. I was searching for a coffee machine that was over 100 years old. I had seen a picture of this machine from my friend Mitch in Brooklyn. He had recommended that I visit Salento.
Maria thought it was on the corner by the church. She was right on and I found it almost immediately. I told the people behind the counter that I was looking for this machine. They seemed very proud to show it off. They also insisted that I get in on the picture.
The machine was made in Italy in 1905. I wonder how many cups of joe it has delivered in its day.
They made me a great latte and I had a couple of boñelos to go with it.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, there are three things that transcend culture: Laughter, music and fried dough.
I walked to the other side of town and climbed the numerous steps to get to the panorama that overlooks the city. They actually had the stations of the cross posted on the way up. I’m not sure whether this is to honor our Savior, or whether it is just meant to keep people from complaining during the arduous climb.
The view from the top was pretty nice. It helps show what a small town this is.
At the top, I made a four-legged friend who accompanied me back down the stairs.
The strays in the high tourist areas seem to be a lot healthier than others.
I walked back to the hostel and got loaded up and ready to go. Though my stay here was brief, I really enjoyed Salento. It could easily linger longer.
I did a few cosmetic corrections on Annie back at the hostel. Some of the earliest signers of the bike were starting to fade a bit. I touched up some of them.
Maria signed Annie before I took off.
I also made a decision regarding my rear tire. It had been recommended to me to get a new one either in Colombia or Chile. Ecuador was said to be expensive, while in Peru tires for my bike would be harder to find. I decided that I still had 2,500 miles left in my current one.
In case anyone needs fuel for bovine related nightmares:
Next stop, Cali:
One thing that I haven’t mentioned recently is the nature of gas pumping in Latin America. Indeed, I haven’t even touched a gas pump since I was in Texas. There are always attendants to pump gas for you at each station. I almost always have an interesting discussion with the attendants and they are almost always surprised by the location of Annie’s gas tank. (behind the seat).
This day, the attendant decided to trust the automatic shut off on the pump. I did not notice until fuel was pouring over Annie and on to the ground. I told him, rather sternly, that I was only going to pay about 20% less than what the pump showed. Given his contrition and agreement, I kind of regretted my tone.
I made it to Cali by the afternoon and checked into Kilele Hostel. Choosing the right hostel is always more of an art than a science. For this one, a picture of a motorcycle parked inside sealed my decision. It ended up being one of my favorite hostels of the whole trip.
Annie had a safe place inside, right by the 24 hour front desk….
….there was a great view of the city….
….the dorm beds had curtains….
….and were equipped with a fan, night light and two three-pronged outlets.
There was also a pool, breakfast was included, the internet was blazing fast and the staff were wonderful.
…the price? About $7.50/night. I thought that I might never leave. 🙂
I’d like to make a few general notes about food. I know local cuisine is a major part of travel for lots of people. For me, it’s less of an emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, I like trying the things that are unique in each place that I visit, but I am always conscience of my budget.
Though I have developed somewhat of a mango addiction.
I probably have one almost every day. I will often spend an inordinate amount of time at the supermarket squeezing dozens of them before making my selection. I usually leave with a sore forearm, but the perfect piece of fruit. 🙂
Below represents a pretty typical supper for me:
Ramen noodles cooked with a couple of eggs and a can of vegetables. It doesn’t get much more efficient than that!
Sunday, March 18th
I decided to go to a local church this morning.
The acoustics were really poor, so I didn’t understand much of the message. However, the service was over two and a half hours long, so at least I got my money’s worth.
I mostly spent the day writing and using the great internet to upload lots of photos and videos.
I’m going to leave it there for now. This was definitely not a very “epic” update, but the next one will be much more dramatic.
Stay caffeinated, everybody.
Realtime update: Things just keep getting better for me. I’ve reached the home of my gracious hosts in Cayambe, Ecuador (that story is coming soon). They have already treated me like a king and made me (and Annie) feel so welcomed. Early on Sunday morning, I will be taking a flight to Cusco, Peru to meet up with my parents, my sister and brother in law. I will be with them in Peru until the 3rd of April. I have so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for you, as well, dear reader. 🙂