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Travel: Colombia - Pereira Nov. 5-7/2015

Date: Nov 5th/2015

Place : PEREIRA , A gray rainy morning welcomed us and made us realized we lucked out on the comfortable weather during our first 2 days of our stay in Bogota.

Timing was good to be moving on and fly out to Pereira - the Tea/Coco/ coffee plantations country side.



The elongated walls covered completely from top to bottom with the local grand artistic Graffiti, all along the main road going toward the Bogota El-Dorado international airport, were a blessed soothing distraction, off the weather's grayness, as well as off the massive crawling traffic, and the ugliness of the commercial and residential suburban structures.



Because of the morning's rain storm, Pereira airport was closed off, and our flight was not aloud to take off and got delayed.

We finally boarded and arrived 2 hours later then originally planned, to a much more welcoming and not a tropical storm weather.



David, who experiences every moving human target, a fountain of knowledge resource, from whom tips & treasures, especially gastronomical one, can be extracted, befriended the man sitting next to him on the plane.

The cooperative fellow - a criminal lawyer - was glad to share a list of his favorite local restaurants, which we sampled one, as we landed.

We had a great lunch at a chef restaurant run by Diego who was trained in Barcelona and actually and miraculously speak English - a rare skill among the many Colombians we encountered. His place is called

"Ambar por Diego Panesso" - Restaurant Cra 17 # 9 - 50 Ed. Sol del Este L. 101, Pereira Phone:(6) 3447444 Since David now got into the habit of bragging about his wife's writing a travel log, which has been being shared, with many of our world contacts, a special attention and care, from the service givers, had bestowed upon us beyond and above our already highest expectation... A walk to the Center of this non-distinguished modern town landed us at the local tourist Information office, where useful maps advised on how to plan our driving route for the next 2 days. The lack of English proficiency of the staff at the Tourism office which is designated to assist world wide tourists had completely bewildered us .

Between the staff's lack of English and our lack of the Spanish, luckily with the help of Body Language, much patience, and admirable hospitality, we understood that hardly any private English speaking tourists, frequent this Tourism Office. So if you plan to take advantage of this anomaly, before Colombia gets mobbed with English speaking tourists get help at this office's services at this address:

"Instituto de culturay Fomento al turismo" www.pereiraculturayturismo.gov.co Cra 10 NO 16-60 ( at the Victoria Square) tel: 3116544, 3248753 , 3248752 After wondering the city center's streets for another hour or so, trying to stay put safe, on the supper narrow sidewalks on which an overflowing traffic of local shoppers, had kept pushing us, toward the passing cars, we had enough. We checked in, late afternoon at the hotel:

"Haceianda San Jose" - most charming Boutique hotel, set in the outskirts of the city, in the open fields, about 20 minutes from the airport.


The hotel which used to be a grand colonial plantation house , is surrounded by most lash vegetation , large grassy open spaces and a running water creek.

The unpaved trail off the main road, leading to the house is shaded by tall palm and Bamboo trees . The exquisite wooded Spanish style interior decor, takes you back in time to a previous era. We booked the largest corner suite Dona Elvera- which is most spacious and full of ambiance. From before departing the US we had been looking up to hire an English speaking private guide to drive us through out the scenic Pereira country side, but all our efforts had amounted to nothing. David had called numerous hotels in the region to solicit their assistance, but they all either were useless, most could not speak English, and the few who did reply could only offer group settings, large size car Vans, or quoted us outrageous Swiss robbery rates, more then we ever paid in any European destination.

Even when staying at the Opera hotel in Bogota, no one knew how to help us.


Finally, as the last resort I talked with one of the service person in the Bogota's information Desk, into rescuing us by finding us a guide, and alas, going out of her way, and being brighter then all others, we encountered, she introduced us to a National web site listing of certified guides for all the country's wide attractions, specifying their linguistic skills. Having this info handy saved us much time and lower your frustration: www.GUIASDETURISMODECOLOMBIA..COM.CO This staffer even called on our behalf, and literally at the last moment, this early morning, with also the assistance of the hotel's manager we succeeded to close a deal with a guide for $40 per all day guidance + $80 cost of a Taxi driver arranged by the hired guide. So here is some useful guide and drivers info in Pereira, for when you will need: Taxi Driver - John 3117444060 (small car) Tour driver - Sebastian - 3108297668 (middle size car) Tour Driver -Juan - 312858 9826 31883 8843 (larger size car) English speaking guide: Carlos 3146056899 cafe.tar@hotmail.com Carlos Granada; 314 605 6899 vive.lavida1@hotmail.com Cesar 3105382774 3122574519 Tomorrow Carlos will be piking us up and will take us on a tour , so I will have better feedback on him and tell you more. . ************************ Date: Nov 6/2015

Place: Pereira The weather "cooperated" using my friend's Liki's favorite phrase, for the first part of the day. It was dry, sunny and very promising morning, which turned into an annoying drizzle later afternoon. Our English speaking guide - Carlos- most simpatico fellow in his 40th, picked us up on time from the Haceinda. Carlos recently returned to his Colombia homeland, from Australia due to being homesick. Also to supplement his income he makes a living off his second profession, as a masseuse. The fantasy of getting a massage, while touring the Coffee country, by one who speaks a heavy Colombian-accented English, had quickly evaporated, upon encountering the sower face driver, whom Carlos recruited to drive us around. English speaking guide :Carlos Granada; 314 605 6899 vive.lavida1@hotmail.com

Cocora Valley While driving south of Pereira via the State of Quindio up the Andean mountains to our first destination to "Cocora Valley"


Carlos told us that:

  • Coffee country is composed of 4 states: The State of Risaralda. - which its capital city is Pereira The State of Quindio - with its capital - Armania The State of Caldas. with its capital - Manizales And the state of Valle del Cauca - with its capital - Cali The first 3 capitals become sine the late 1980th a major tourist attraction, and are connected by a panoramic "Coffee Hwy", which we had been driving on, most of the day enjoying spectacular scenery. During the massive earth quake of 1999, parts of the cities and many coffee crops were destroyed and rebuilt since then, marking the cities with modern architecture, while boosting "Zimmer" tourism in the surroundings, as so to supplement income for coffee crop losses.



Cocora valley is part of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, incorporated into the existing national park by the Colombian government in 1985. It is the principal location of the national tree and symbol of Colombia:



the Quindío wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense), as well as a wide variety of other flora and fauna (some endangered),

all of which are protected under the park's national status.

This Andean wax palms species is growing at the highest altitude of the palm family, at more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) in elevation. They are very tall and can reach 61m (200 ft) in height. The yellow-eared parrot, itself endangered speicie of tropical America, is associated to the wax palm. It nests and lives among wax palms in a few areas of Western and Central Cordillera of Colombia, where it inhabits cloud forests about 1800–3000 meters above sea level. It nests in the hollow trunks of the palms, usually 25–30 meters over the floor level.

We took a walk along the Valley's river trail, a popular activity also for the many horse riding tourism, enjoying these tallest palms and the lush green vegetation variety of the Andean Rain Forest, peppered by roaming cows and horses in the meadows.




However, like with the legendary Costa-rican "Katzal " extinct Bird, no Yellow-Ear parrots had appeared on our walk.,and we only encountered them in the photos..

SALENTO

Then we continued to this small mountain pioneer -feel but touristic town of most colorful wooden doors on its houses and artisan shops named - SALENTO where climbing up 250 steps gets you to the highest point, from where most breath-taking panoramic views of Cocora valley, leaves one breath -gasping.. David had a fantastic coffee break at a charming "Vafe Jesus Martin" coffee place where the guide took us to. On the way down, to our amazement ,the iron window covering, of a small dinky one floor hotel named "Flor de Belen" had a Magen David design. I could not resist getting out of the car pestering the hotel owner to explain this revelation in this forgotten completely non-Jewish environment.

He didn't seemed surprise and hinted he has been often asked about that by by-passers, then gave me the simple most obvious reply, that he picked up this Star of David design since he liked it the most...

ARMENIA.

On the way back to Pereira we also stopped at Quindio State's capital - ARMENIA. Being heavily impacted by the 1999 earthquake, the city goes under major renovations and is indistinguishably modern in non appealing way. Going down on Carrera 16. and Calle 13, again surprised we saw a shop selling electronic gadgets with the word CHNUT (Store) written above it in Hebrew letters.

At the town's central square like in Pereira, a monumental piece of a well known Colombian sculpturer - "Rodrigo arenas Betancourt" is erected. At the time of his death in 1995 he was recognized as one of the most important sculptors in Colombia and Latin America

David could not resist getting a quality cotton polo-like shirts at a local Pereira known brand - "Arture Calle" (A+C) I full heartily recommend. As the Hacienda excelled in ambiance but lacked in gastronomical imagination we could not resist another memorable meal at Pereira's

"AMBAR" restaurant. Tomorrow we will be going up North of Pereira within Risaralda State spending another day with Carlos, but made sure to switch the driver... ******************************************** Date: Nov 7th/2015

Place - PEREIRA The weather didn't "cooperated" today at all. What had started as a thin drizzle in the morning, swelled up to a pouring barrels later and throughput the entire day. The reservation we had at the Haceinda San Jose was only for 2 nights so this early morning we spent on an accommodation search. Our simpatico guide - Carlos and the new cheerful driver - Sebastian, picked us up, and drove us to "Las Colinas spa" hotel in the upscale Combia suburb neighborhood , further South of the airport.

This coffee farm's misrepresented advertisement as" 5 stars spa" hotel in the heartland of the coffee country, was far away from our expectations. The external setting on a hill top, from which the panoramic rolling lush slops were seen, justified a visit and its highest star. However the shabby interior decor, shrunken room size and most inconvenient access to this remote location amounted to a big waste of our time. Our resourceful guide-driver team came to our rescue, and high jacked us to what they claimed is the best hotel in the area - the Pereira " SONESTA" hotel. (www.sonesta.com 576 311 3600)

David superb negotiation/persuasion skills got us a fantastic suite on the 7th floor overlooking the coffee county's amazing views, for the best internet rates, not even offered at the hotel itself. After we checked in and placed our luggage, due to this slight hotel hunting delay, we had continued with the day's plans

Santa Rosa - Hot springs & Sausages

Heading North to SANTA ROSA DE CABAL a small architecturally ugly town in Risoralda State of 80,000 inhabitants, we learnt that is is famous in all of Colomia for its, hot springs, local crafts and pork Choriss - sausages/hut dogs.

The Santa Rosa's longest manufactured sausages in the world of 1,950 m is recorded in Guinness book of record... Each town and its own craziness to show for...


Coffee Farm Tour We passed the town, and first continued to GUACAS VILLAGE for a visit in a coffee farm named "LA FINCA DE COFFEE" owned since 5 years ago, by a women called Kusneli Gomez, who also provides tours on the farm and modest accommodation services.



We were told that the best quality coffee beans are designated for export .

The Colombian are left with the lowest beans' quality, so during their processing, of the bean they improve the taste of the coffee by mixing the beans with a bull blood which supposedly improve the degraded taste. The 3 hours visit offers a magical walk throughout the breathtaking hills' slopes where the coffee bushes grow, and on a trail along a running river, throughout Guadua -Bamboo forest, while encountering many other gorgeous fauna and flora, typical to this country's mountain habitat at the height of 1700 m, so optimal for Coffee cultivation.



After an hour and an half of being educated on all the stages of how to sprout a bean into a mature coffee bush, identifying different coffee species, and adopting our own marked coffee bush, our patience was exhausted by the irritating drizzle, and by the the lingering tempo and incomprehensible prolonged explanations of the farm's Spanish Speaking guide- a Sancho Pancho -type, followed by the abbreviated delayed translation to English by our guide. Furthermore David's growling hungry stomach only made the situation worse at this late passed lunch hour...


So we cut the visit short for the promise to treat us to the best Chorisos establishments (out of hundreds) in Santa Rosa , named : CHORI-SANT established in 1965 (www.chorisant.com) and located right off the main square in town.

David had 3 of those dog and confirmed their tastiness.

Manizales

It was pouring cats and dogs when we arrived late afternoon at MANIZALES - the capital of Caldas State, which is located 2,000m above sea level, at the top of the mountain. It is the most cultured and architecturally beautiful city, out of the the three in the coffee country.

It was completely discouraging to get out of the car and wondering the city's streets in such a pour, that blocked the fine views, the city is famous for, when visible in a reasonable weather conditions,

Carlos suggested to stop at a Cafe place he had in mind. However we were going the wrong direction, so when the driver stooped to ask for direction, we encountered, by chance, a restaurant' door man, a Colombian version of the known French hilarious comedian - Louie de Finnes. The guy's gestures, mimic and locomotive manner of speech, though we didn't understood a world of his Spanish, made us lough so hard, that we could not refuse entering the restaurant, he apparently was soliciting clients for. It was the nicest surprise of the day, and the best spontaneous activity to do in such a wet gloomy weather. Alexander Burgy, a darling young Frenchman, an owner and a Chef who was trained in Elsas -France, opened this place "L'Angen Vin" a French restaurant, only 3 months earlier, with his Colombian wife - Caroline whom he met when they both were interning in Angen (thus the name of the place).

The couple fell in love, got married 2 yeas ago, and decided to return and live in Manziales were Caroline's family resides. What ever we sampled was fantastic, so if you ever make it to that part of the world .. don't miss

"L'Angen Vin" Restaurant www.restaurante-langevin.com 3105466055 Langevine.restaurant@gmail.com The driving back to Pereira was wet, dark and turtle slow. We were glad to have finally made it safely back, but were a bit sad to say good by to our guiding team, who did there utmost in making our visit in the Coffee country most interesting and stimulating.


Tomorrow we will be flying off to Cartaghena