September 13th, 2009 – by: Sads79
View of the Valle de Cocora from Salento
So my next move was to head down to the Zona Cafetera, the heart of Colombia's coffee growing zone for a few days to chill out. I'd heard good things about Salento, so I took the bus from Medellin to Pereira ($CP30,000/£9/US$15) and was planning to change buses there as Kelvin at Black Sheep had told me. After the 5 hour journey, however, as I was about to get off in Pereira the driver asked me where I was going and when I told him he said that the bus carried on to Armenia (the next major town south) and that he could drop me off at the turn-off for Salento.
At first I was a bit dubious as I didn't think being dropped at the side of a road in the middle of nowhere would be a great idea. But he assured me that buses for Salento passed there....so I trusted him (I have most people in Colombia are honest and really just want to help you!) and after the drop-off and goodbyes (no tears I can assure you), I waited by the turn-off. There actually was a bus-shelter which made me feel better and within 5 minutes a bus came steaming down the road and almost missed me so the guy had to reverse a bit to pick me up! It only cost another CP$1,000 to get to Salento, through some stunning scenery that reminded me more of Europe or New Zealand than Colombia. It hasn't ceased to amaze me the variety the country has to offer, it really is a special place.
On arrival, I had planned to go to Plantation House, but when I arrived I found that they were full (I hadn't reserved, which is normal practice for me), so I traipsed into town to try and find somewhere else.
Me and the lovely Diana
I went to the main town square which was busy with weekend tourists and stopped on a corner for a moment to catch my breath (there was a steep hill beforehand!). A Colombian girl came up to me and in very good English said she had seen me on the bus and then saw me wandering around (looking lost I guess) and wanted to help me....amazing! I'm not sure anyone in england would do such a thing. She introduced herself as Diana and took me the restaurant where she was having lunch with her dad (yes, she left her lunch to come and speak to me!) and I joined them for a patcone
(flattened plantain with meat on top, lovely!). Diana helped me find somewhere to stay (in a random woman's house, who we found through asking someone, who asked someone, who knew someone, who had an aunt....etc etc!!) - a private room with ensuite for CP$20,000 a night (bargain) - and then we spent the afternoon together, the 3 of us, looking round the town, having coffee and then ended with me losing at pool to Diana's dad...sorry, I let the British down! Diana's from Armenia and was just out for the day, but she said we could hang out Tuesday when she wasn't working, which sounded like a plan, so it was a date!
(Oh yes, and Salento itself is a great little town, lovely colonial style...I didn't actually get any photos of that bit...ooops!)