Got back from Colombia a couple of days ago. Apparently tourism is now overtaking coffee in terms of importance to the national economy. And it shows - in the main the cities the number of Europeans and North Americans is noticeably higher. Quite a lot of these, unfortunately, seem to be there for the cheap beer more than anything else. But away from the obvious places, Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Colombia is still full of fresh, and sometimes challenging horizons for tourists.
We spent some days in the delightful, faded, colonial town of Salamina. It’s quite a trek to get there, but the location, high, high up on the edge of a steep hill deep in the Caldas region is quite magical. The area has been free of the curse of armed rebels for less than 5 years, and local people are delighted see tourists. Especially as the average frequency at present seems to be about 2 per day in the town square. It will be interesting to see how things evolve when the coach loads turn up, if they do. Probably, and tragically, it will turn into a clone of Santa Fe de Antiquoia, which is well and truly on the Lonely Planet List and definitely worth missing.
But the cities are still worth visiting, for the sheer vibrancy, the culture, and of course the coffee. Starbucks has no chance of getting a foothold in Colombia, as the homegrown Juan Valdez chain has already, thankfully, grabbed the market.
Colombia is a country that combines quality coffee production with coffee appreciation. Unlike Costa Rica, say, where as far as I’ve seen you can’t get a decent cup of coffee (i.e something other than USA-variant hot brown water) for love nor money, despite Costa Rica producing excellent beans. There’s a lot of competition, but possibly the best “café de origen”, or single crop coffee, that we’ve found is San Alberto, from Buenavista in Quindio. It is amazing. Hacienda Venecia, from a finca near Manizales, comes a close second. But there are many more to try.
Oh, and photography ? Yes, I took a few snapshots of things other than coffee cups, which I suppose will show up here soon. Not sure for how much longer though. I’m really losing interest in broadcasting my wit and wisdom to the internet, and conversely, less and less interested in other people’s diatribes about photography. It’s becoming a more and more personal activity for me, and I’m fine with that. I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I really don’t need confirmation from anybody else that’s it’s any good or not - anyway it’s entirely irrelvant. Time and inertia will probably hold me back, but ideally I’d like to turn this website into a far more photo-centric thing, and probably less dynamic. We shall see. Meanwhile, coffee!
Things have been a little quiet around here for the past week or so, and they’re going to get quieter for a while longer. A couple of weeks ago we made a snap decision to head back to Colombia for three weeks or so, and getting that organised, along with general Life stuff, has kept me away from trivia like blogging.
I did start publishing a series of posts on Colombia a while back, but that got overwhelmed by other topics, and I never got around to Cartagena. That’s a real shame, because Cartagena is ridiculously, hopeless photogenic, a wild riot of chaos, colour, and fading colonial architecture. We won’t be going back there this time, other destinations await, but for now, here’s a lightning quick selection.
Hasta la vista. I’ll be back.
Bored with cameras now, time for some more holiday snaps. This batch-ette comes from a stroll along the slightly restored Camino Reale from Barichara to Guane. The chorus to this song was the perfect mental soundtrack ... actually the verses are too, in a slightly unsettling way, given the all too recent past.
Anyways, I’m getting sidetracked again. Here are the pictures. I know, it’s not gear, but it’s the best I can do.
Oh yeah, gear. All this lot are down to the electronickal magickality of the Olympus E-P5 and two kit zooms. Nothing to see here, move along please.
Barichara, a bucolic hilltop town in the Santander province, is frequently described as a gem, and it’s a justified label. Classified as a Colombian national monument, Barichara is a treasure trove of vernacular Spanish colonial architecture laid out in a classic grid of steep, cobbled streets. It isn’t particularly easy to get to (but not that hard either), and may be overshadowed by the more hyped and accessible Villa de Leyva, but it’s well worth the trek. The perfect place to just slow way down and relax. And take a few snapshots, of course.
(oh, and if you’re planning a visit to Barichara, stay here. You won’t regret it)
A short, bouncy jeep ride away from Salento is the Valle de Corcora, home to the famous towering wax palms. Apart from these, just a few hour walk takes you through lush cloud forest, pine forests, hummingbird country, hills, fields, coffee, sunshine, fog and torrential rain. And, naturally, at the end a trucha con patacone, washed down with a bottle of Club Colombia Dorada.
The humid, dark and tangled environment of a rainforest is one of the most challenging environments for landscape photography, and also one of my favourites. If I had to chose between a week in Greenland or a week in a Central American rainforest, well, it would be a very tough decision. I haven’t actually yet managed to make much in the way of satisfying rainforest photographs, but there are a few attempts in the set below.
And once again thanks to Blaney Aristizabal for being a great guide and excellent companion.