Bienvenidos A Colombia, Part Dos

Hacienda Venecia, views of Colombia

From outside Hacienda Venecia’s veranda, you can see sweeping views of Colombia’s coffee region.

While I wrote about my near-death experience in my first post about Colombia, if I had died while in the coffee region of the country, I wouldn’t have been too upset. If my final resting place included lush views of absolute serenity and blissful natural beauty, then I’d say dying among nature’s most majestic views wouldn’t be a bad way to go out.

MORE TIPS I LEARNED ON MY COLOMBIA TRIP

The Spanish They Speak – Throughout the entire coffee region (well, most all of Colombia, in fact), the Spanish spoken is clear and discernible. Colombians are very proud of their diction and clarity of which they speak. And, thank goodness for that. As a person who took Spanish in school and can fumble my way out messes in Latin America (and Miami, for what it’s worth), I give myself a 5 out of 10 – smack-dab in the middle of the scale of non-natives speaking the romance language. I still get the use of “caliente” mixed up with the use of “calor,” “saber” with “conocer,” and a bunch of other elementary concepts. So, I’m OK at best, right?

But the Spanish in Colombia is extremely well spoken and the pronunciation is very friendly for non-native speakers. Thank goodness no native speaker made fun of me in front of my face, leaving me to recoil in a fetal position. Thanks a million to all the Colombians who chose to help me with my Spanish instead of poke fun at it. My ego is eternally grateful.

Fruit Juices – Take advantage of drinking all the exotic fruit juices found in Colombia. There’s a fruit called lulo that has a citrus-y flavor, as well as a granadilla fruit that’s along the same family as a passion fruit. These fruits are native to South America due to their subtropical temperatures, and I haven’t found any yet since I’ve returned to the States.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COFFEE REGION

Tour a coffee plantation – If you’re a coffee lover like me, you know the best coffee doesn’t just magically appear at your neighborhood Starbucks. I toured the Hacienda Venecia plantation, just a short 30-minute ride from my hotel in Manizales. The guide, Mauricio, is a coffee expert, explaining every facet of the coffee-making process – from seed stage to roasted bean stage.

The tour lasts a large portion of your day, from morning until about late afternoon. There’s an option lunch you can pay for (about $11,000 COP) that just hits the spot after hours of coffee talk and touring of the land. Also, you can buy coffee bags (either whole beans or ground) for $20,000 COP. Most people on our tour bought one bag. I may or may not have bought seven bags. And Mauricio may or may not have let out a gasp at the large quantity. No one will ever know the truth.

One major tip: Bring your camera. There is so, so, so much beauty on this plantation. First off, it’s a huge property. Plus, you get such an in-depth tour of the natural coffee growing process that it’s difficult not to want to document what you see.

coffee region, manizales, Hacienda Vencia

Our guide at Hacienda Venecia, Mauricio, stands among millions of coffee trees.

Hacienda Venecia, coffee plantation

There was no way to get lost in the maze of coffee trees at Hacienda Venecia. Everything is planted in a linear, grid-like system. You can only walk forward to get to the end or backward to get to the start.

Hacienda Venecia, bed and breakfast

Hacienda Venecia is also a bed and breakfast with a main house (here) as well as a satellite house close by.

Hacienda Venecia, coffee tour

Did you know a coffee bean starts out on a leafy plant and as a beautiful red berry? I learned that at the coffee tour at Hacienda Venecia.

Hacienda Venecia

Here’s a coffee bean that originally grew on a leafy plant.

Hacienda Venecia, coffee plantation

Our tour group crosses a wet path in Hacienda Venecia that connects the main house from the satellite one.

Ajiaco dish

The Hacienda Venecia coffee tour allows you the option of having a home-cooked meal at the plantation. Here’s a classic Colombian dish: ajiaco stew with sour cream, capers, corn and avocado.

Look for the Juan Valdez symbol when buying coffee. Fun fact: Juan Valdez is a fictional character that surfaced as a symbol of national pride among the international community.

Look for the Juan Valdez symbol when buying coffee. Fun fact: Juan Valdez is a fictional character that surfaced as a symbol of national pride among the international community.

Hacienda Venecia, Hammocks

Though a business, Hacienda Venecia wants you to relax while there. Hammocks line the property at every available spot.

Los Nevados National Natural Park (Nevado del Ruiz) – We almost didn’t do this. And I would have never forgiven myself. Los Nevados is easily one of the world’s most intriguing lands. Located in the Andes, this national park is a major pride to Colombians. And rightfully so. Thousands of different plant species grow here, some of which I have never seen in my life – and I doubt I will ever get to see again.

Our tour took us close to a  5,300-meter high (about 17,000+ feet) active volcano called Nevado del Ruiz. In 1985, the volcano erupted and decimated an entire village, killing nearly 25,000 people. Today the volcano is closely monitored as there are about 500,000 nearby villagers who are in clear danger should the volcano erupt again.

Tip #1: Wear warm clothes. Take it from my epic fail of only wearing a T-shirt, running tights and a light rain jacket. While the temperature may have only dropped to about 40 degrees, the wind whipped around as if it was on a mission to punish any American tourist. I have never been colder in my entire life. I was so desperate for warmth that I bought gloves at the first market I saw and didn’t feel guilty when my tour guide peeled off his jacket, handed it to me, and then revealed that he was only wearing a polo shirt. “Estoy acostumbrado,” he says as he saw my quite noticeable shakes and shivers.

Tip #2: The altitude change can be a killer. No joke. You can get really sick if you don’t take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, slow down if you’re short of breath, and do take the “special tea” that’s offered as it’ll settle your stomach. (The special tea consists of cocaine leaves, but they say the only high you’ll get is from the views of Los Nevados.)

Los Nevados, jumping photo

Los Nevados is the perfect spot for a jumping photo at 4,050 meters. Here I am with my newfound American friend, Elise.

Los Nevados

I couldn’t resist doing another jumping photo at Los Nevados. Can you blame me?

Los Nevados, paramo plant

These plants, Paramo or Frailejones, in this section of Los Nevados that could have easily been mistaken for an extraterrestrial land. The menacing fog added to that feel, too.

Los Nevados, Frailejones

Frailejones is a type of paramo can absorb up to 40 times its weight in water.

Los Nevados, Valles Lunares

At Valles Lunares, some 4,250 meters high, the landscape is desert-like.

Los Nevados, moss

Not surprisingly, as you descend Los Nevados, you’ll see plant life that’s less extraterrestrial, like this beautiful moss growing on rocks.

Los Nevados, plants

More beautiful and vibrant plant life is seen as you descend Los Nevados.

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One response to “Bienvenidos A Colombia, Part Dos

  1. Pingback: Bienvenidos a Colombia, Part Tres | Nila Do :: Writer | Journalist | Touchdown Maker·

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