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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jardín, Colombia

In Jardín

On Sunday, June 15, eight of our group left Medellin on a four hour, $9 bus ride to Jardín, Colombia. There was no air conditioning, but other wonderful amenities. Every once in a while, the bus would stop and let on someone who would try to sell us his wares. Another person that got on the bus at one stop turned out to be quite an important person for this trip. He sat across the aisle from me and started talking. Of course, I didn't really understand much of what he was saying. But it turned out he owned a coffee/banana farm and a coffee warehouse and was an important man about town and an incredible tour guide. He gave us his contact information and we arranged an amazing tour. His name was Hernán Marin, and I highly recommend finding him if you ever go to Jardín.

Young salesman
Jardín is Spanish for garden, and for good reason. The village was beautiful and lush, surrounded by mountains full of sugar cane, banana trees, and coffee plants.

When we arrived, I checked into my hotel (Hotel Valdivia Plaza) and then we did was grabbed lunch at a place recommended by Hernán called El Zodiaco, just off the main plaza. 

Lunch at El Zodiaco

Overlooking the main plaza from my hotel

The church, taken from the balcony of my hotel 

The main square - a bustle of activity! 

The main square in front of the church was where the town gathered to sit and talk. There were lots of tables and chairs, and plenty of vendors selling fresh juices, empanadas, arepas and chorizo. 

Sitting in the plaza eating papaya, just outside my hotel
After lunch, we did a tour in the moto-ratón across town. Just off the square, drivers were readily available in little rickshaw-like vehicles to take you all around for a quick tour of the village. 

From the backseat of the moto-ratón
The next morning a jeep came to pick us up bright and early to head towards Hernán's house where we'd put on our boots. Little did I know how much we'd need these!

Will with our vehicle for the day

Hernán's house (BTW, he has a nice, cheap room if you need one)
After putting on our rubber boots, we hopped back in the open-backed jeep and headed first to a warehouse where coffee is sold. Hernán showed us how it is inspected for quality and told of of all the potential defects they look for to ensure the quality is at its finest.

Coffee beans

Inside the warehouse
Hernán with a coffee plant

The red coffee beans are the ripe beans
Growing coffee plants for planting
 After Hernán showed us what to look for in a coffee bean, he showed us what to look for in a coffee plant for planting, and explained the process of planting the seed to grow a coffee plant before planting it on the hillsides.

Afterwards, we climbed back in the jeep and rode up into the hillside, away from Jardin, where we had stunning views.

From there, Hernán selected horses for each of us, and we ascended even further up the mountains, on some pretty steep, narrow, muddy terrain covered in ruts. My horse was by far the clumsiest of the horses. As it turned out, most of the horses were quite used to this kind of treacherous terrain, but mine was pretty used to just going around circles in a corral. He fell twice -- the first time I thought he'd be injured and we'd have to shoot him. By the second time, I was pretty used to it. We both landed in the mud, so I was pretty dirty for the rest of the day. 

Valencia's pic of me

A pic from Karol - I'm still clean. 
Selfie with Gabbiotta, my clumsy, muddy horse
We rode up to a little store where we could by beers and we corralled the horses and took this group shot, which shows off all my mud.

After a bit of a rest, we took a pretty demanding hike down through the woods to a beautiful cave and waterfall (Cueva del Esplendor).

Fun hike!

Entering the cave

Outside of the cave, we stopped for lunch which Hernán had packed. I thought we would have sandwiches or something, but he pulled out individual lunches wrapped in banana leaves which his wife had cooked. It included a chicken leg, ground beef, rice, plantains, a boiled egg, potatoes, yucca, a a weiner. 

Lunch Pack

 After lunch, we hiked back up to where the horses were corralled then made the long journey back down. This time, my horse did not fall.

The view of Jardín down below as we headed down 
After returning to the Jeep, we rode to Hernán's farm, still high in the hills above Jardín where we walked through the coffee and bananas. He showed us how the coffee beans were peeled after they were picked. Because of the great weather in Jardín, coffee can be picked pretty consistently. In fact, there may be ripe beans on a plant next to a plant that is just flowering, so workers come through at least every 20 days to manually pick coffee beans.

Hernán's coffee farm
Coffee and bananas as far as one can see

Below, Hernán shows us how the beans are "peeled" and the good beans are separated from the bad beans. Then, they are dried under a hot rooftop covered by plastic. 

Photo courtesy of Karla
Peeled coffee beans drying

Bananas and pigs
We rode back with Hernán into town, me still covered in mud, and had a very fine Colombian coffee at a little coffee shop in the square. (In fact, I bought a couple of pounds there later that day and was drinking it at the beach as I was writing this today.) Walking through the square, all covered in dirt, I felt like I had been working hard on the farm all day. I felt pretty authentic.

We cleaned up and had dinner at Las Margaritas, right on the square. I had the parmesan encrusted trout (trucha apanada) which was one of the most delicious things I had the entire trip. That night, I sat out on the square until everything closed, enjoying a few cervezas and more aguardiente on my last night in Colombia.

The next morning, we saw off the part of our crew left for Tolú, and I had a few more hours before I needed to bus back to Medellin, so I returned Las Margaritas for breakfast, I had the "Desayuno Casero" - the "house breakfast." It was delicious, especially for $3. 

Desayuno Casero at Las Margaritas in the Plaza
After breakfast, Karla, Valencia and I did one more ride through the town on the moto-ratón. We had decided that our other friends' driver, Antonio, gave a much better tour. So we found him, and took his tour. Along the way, we saw this cable car which the locals actually use to go up the mountain:

Cable car
The area traversed by the cable car
We also stopped by the famous 'sweet shop' of Jardín-- Dulces del Jardín where I bought a few chocolates which I've also enjoyed this week.

Dulces del Jardín
After a final 'so long' to this beautiful town, I packed my things for the bus ride back to Medellin, to fly out to the US via Bogota that evening. 

So long, Jardín! Until next time!
[Interested in touring with Hernán? Contact him at hernancuevadelesplendor at hotmail  dot com ]

1 comment:

Cheryl Thompson said...

Love the blog! It's almost as if I were there. Only I'm in air conditioning. LOL.

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