5-days trip to Salento, 50m tall palm trees, 4 days of rest, 4.5-hour bus delay
Albert (the owner of the restaurant) takes us to a tour in his garden in the morning. He’s got 7ha of coffee (32000 plants). From one plant is possible to get 1kg of coffee which still it’s not enough for living and he also need to plant plantains. He explains the process of coffee from the seed through small plant … after 18 months is the first harvest – red beans are collected, peeled, dried at sun and then sold to the association which roasts it and exports. After 7 years the plant is cut 10cm from bottom and after another 7 again.
On the way back we stop at local school with children from 5 to 12 years and we talk a little about our trip, where is Slovakia and how important is to learn languages (we hope that we planted the traveler seed at least in one of them). After big breakfast we continue first with a long downhill and even longer uphill, again down, up… We accept invitation for a mandarine juice, enjoy the landscapes, my throat and Jan’s lower back hurt, it’s getting dark and using the last energy we finally get to town Neira.
Man from a stand starts to talk with us immediately, he welcomes us and asks if we’ve tried corcho. We don’t understand which is visible on our tired faces so he gives a small girl some money and she returns with two packages of foam-like sweets. Nothing really incredible, but eatable… leg from cow and panela (natural sugar from cane). I’m still not sure how it’s made but they need to cook it long time.
Another girl with a bicycle gets a task to show us the way to firemen station and we say goodbye to the crowd around us. Obviously she is happy to guide two tourists and we go the longest possible way through small streets so she can show us to her friends.
Firemen finally! And really nice ones (just the dog isn’t happy we are there). After shower and a try to be friend with the animal when it almost bite me in face I definitely accept the fact that we won’t be friends.
The commandante invites us to dinner and go to sleep early because we are really tired.
We skype home in the morning and get to know about other pregnant friend (baby-boom while we are outside Slovakia: 9 newborns and 4 on the way :) … when we’ll return, everything will cry and poo).
Super commandante gives a nutrition kit: 10packs of corcho and 2 black gelatinas (fortunately we mounted the front racks).
Locals advise us not to take the shortest road to Manizales through the poorer part. The city is big with heavy traffic, steep roads and fake-gothic cathedral from concrete. We don’t stay long and enjoy the long downhill after it.
After 20km we get to Chinchina, refill the energy with cakes and then try luck at firemen and red cross. We are refused in both by young guys who don’t even talk with us much. This is a sad knowledge from traveling: young people aren’t empathetic, don’t help, merely greet back, aren’t interested in their surrounding and only things they care about are smartphones and brand clothes.
Disappointed we continue pedaling and because it’s getting late we know we need to find some place to sleep soon. At a curve behind the town an older guy greets us which we use and ask for place for our tent in their garden.
Later we understand that he’s also a kind of traveler – from Cali (300km away) he made it here in 10 days walking. He’s been sleeping on the couch on the terrace of the house for 4 days. It’s not a bad place but we accept invitation from their neighbor – it’s safer and more hidden there.
Fernando is very nice and with his wife Daniela, daughter Luisa and twins Sebastian and Daniela live in basement of a big house. They take care about it and the garden (the owners use it only during weekends). After good dinner we talk about culture and traditions both countries till late night.
I feel terrible in the morning, I cannot swallow and I’m afraid the sore throat continues more to lungs. I get to bed and sweat while Jan changes chain and repairs flat tire on the kid’s bicycle and talk with the family. After the local medicine – gargle with lime juice – I feel a little bit better.
The twins build the tent in the evening and try out other things we have (they are amazed from it). Our harula isn’t successful for the first time – the children don’t like it because of the garlic.
Next day we leave after lunch and we see that we were finally accepted also by the last member of the family – Margarita – dog which bites and which was reason for an adrenaline experience even when walking a little out during the night.
We see a guy walking the opposite direction on the highway. We talk just shortly with him but we get a tip for Universidad sin fronteras (university without borders) before Pereira … that many nice people are there, good music and some cyclists also. Decided – today we’ll sleep there. First we cannot find it but Don Quixote de la Mancha on a bicycle which is painted on the wall of an old house is a sign that we are on a correct place.
There are 8 interesting-looking guys on the terrace who are starting to eat and invite also us. First we don’t really understand what kind of place is this, who lives here… but it’s a squat – abandoned building occupied by artists, musicians, hippies. They pay energies and live a community life here (if you live 5 years in such a building without any problems, you become owner of the property in Colombia).
We have interesting discussion with Gil who taunts us, that we-Europeans killed the advanced civilization and Indian culture which was here, then dinner and coffee. We sleep at the terrace next to bicycles. This place is obviously really social amd community place from which I’m normally amazed, but this isn’t that case.
We leave early but get to Salento late in afternoon … loong uphill, stop for a juice, lunch, coffee, arroz con leche and on one bridge the locals allow me to jump a swing. After getting up last 30m of unbelievable steep road to the square in Salento we need 2 minutes to catch the breath – meanwhile the locals take pictures of us. On the way to the valley we meet Billy from Ireland, change the plan, return to the town and camp in one hostel. In the evening we walk a little in the town which is full of Colombian tourists.
3 days of doing nothing follow, I start to take antibiotics because my health doesn’t get better (I could have finished taking them by now if I’ve started the first day…)
Everyday we cook, walk the streets and visit galleries (really good, nice and expensive things), walk to a viewpoint and then finally also ride to the valley where are 50m-high palm trees which are visibly higher than other trees around which looks quite funny. We cross river with bicycles, lock them at a tree and also hike a little at the end.
Finally the day of departure … first Billy is packing his things 3 hours and with Laura (traveler from Germany who rented bike and will join him on the road to Cali) leave around 10am. We get on saddles around noon. It’s unbelievable but I cannot find one earring which I bought 2 days ago and haven’t even worn – this will stay mystery forever).
Except one hour uphill everything goes down – 20km to Armenia. After half an hour chaos at the bus station we find bus which can take also our bicycles to the boarder – leaving in one hour, perfect.
Jan is going to change his sexy tight cyclists pants when he terrified asks if I took all the clothes from the line in hostel. From where??? What!!! … yes, we are carrying warm clothes in our bags through the whole hot central America and now when we want to climb Chimborazo we forget the long pants in hostel!
Bus ticket in our hand and our stuff 30km away… I’m so pissed off. Jan has at least the advantage that he can buy clothes in his size, but ME – one head taller than any other women here, I can find maybe 3/4 pants … AAAAA!!!
Time is going on, we calm down and we see our options. We cannot return the ticket, but Laura will come back to the hostel in one week and the she’ll go to Peru afterwards and can leave the stuff there somewhere. We’ll buy cheap warm pants in Ecuador and use them as a layer under our waterproof pants – problem solved! :)
There is some accident on the road and our bus is late 4 and half hours (at this time we could be already back from the hostel with the clothes :D)). We load the bicycles and they even stand vertically in the baggage room and after the lecture from last bus ride we take our sleeping bags and sweatshirts with us to not freeze from the air condition. But that is set moderate today and all these things are just taking space this night.
We sleep like tall people in a bus and in the morning our knees hurt and generally we are a little bit broken. We have perfect views to valleys and opposite hills with fields on them. Before crossing the boarder we go to Las Lajas where is a nice neo-gothic church built on a bridge across a canyon. Wall behind the altar is the original rock from the canyon. There is a water power plant there also. This place has really interesting atmosphere and is definitely one of the best churches we’ve seen on the way.
Passing the Colombian border is fast without any problems and after 2 hours of waiting on the Ecuadorian side we get another stamp into our passports :).