Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Coffee Road to Armenia (Columbia)

The road out of Medellin was a large modern highway but soon changed to a two lanes, one each direction. Route signs on the road were generally good, although in a few places difficult to see. We didn’t get a map of the country so we had to use our Columbian guidebook, over eight years old. We managed, only missing two turns during the three days. People were very nice when you asked for directions. The roads were good with only a few sections with pot holes. There was road construction going on all the time but very well organized with one way periods alternating.

Soldiers are everywhere and we were stopped every hour or so for a quick check. They were always very nice. We felt very safe everywhere. This was rarely a highway by American standards. It was only occasionally a divided road. It took us 9 hours to drive to the Parque Nacional de Café in Armenia.
There were toll booths every 45 minutes or so. The rates were from $2.50 to $4. We probably paid around $30 total round trip (around 600 kilometers total distance).
It was spectacular. We took the mountain route avoiding the cities on the way down and the faster route through them on the way back. It still took 7+ hours for the same trip back. Those times of course included breaks and lunch.
The views are marvelous!

We could only occasionally pull over to take pictures as the road was narrow, winding and went staight down one or both sides.
Finca Hotels are the place to stay down in coffee country. Fincas are the traditional coffee plantation homes and a number of them have been converted to inns – some modern versions.
We didn’t make reservations and it was almost dark now for us. We left too late from Cartagena. We followed a series of signs for 7 kilometers into the countryside for Hotel El Bosque del Saman, hoping they'd find us a room. We had some tense moments waiting for confirmation but we got the last two rooms. !!!
It is in a beautiful location among the coffee fields and a real family resort with lots to do right there. They have a major rope course, horses, cows to milk etc. There’s a pretty main house and a pool overlooking the view. Breakfast and dinner were included and rather basic but adequate. We wish we could have stayed for several days here. There are many attractions around this area but we only had time for the Nacional Parque de Cafe the next day.

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