Jardin, Colombia

Caballero Antonio with his horse

Next pueblo on our list was Jardin, a beautiful town in one of the most fertile area’s in Antioquia. The landscape changes as we climb up to Jardin via a winding road that takes us through lush, green mountains filled with coffee, banana trees, cacao palms, mandarine trees, … The big, heavy clouds roll over the rim and look threatening while they close in. It has been raining a lot this month and roads are starting to get flooded, with mud & trees dangerously sliding down & leaving a trail of destruction.

note to self: do not drive when it starts pouring down

We arrive in Jardin together with the rain and we get soaked while looking for a place to stay. Our hostel ‘Jardin es tuyo’ is on the main square and has a balcony that looks over the bars, church & the vivid chattering of the locals. Unfortunately,  as was the case in Santa Fé, the beautiful & famous main square was being renovated and left us with a whole different image of this authentic little mountain village.

Our hostel turned out to be very noisy -of course, it’s on the main square where everything happens !!- but the beds were fantastic so we didn’t loose any sleep over it. And the activities in Jardin are plentiful so by 8pm we’re exhausted.

We went hiking, passed trout farms, tasted all the dulces in Casa del Dulces with a fantastic interior, visited waterfalls and got soaked in the rain to be completely dry again after 10 minutes in the sun, drank one of the best coffees in Colombia in a coffee bar where they roasted the coffee on the spot -again with excellent interior, watched the locals drinking tinto and aguardiente & watching the Football World Cup preselection, …

We also visited a coffee farm where Jos was an excellent interpreter for our Chinese compagnons who didn’t speak a word of Spanish. We picked coffee beans and saw the whole process from plant to coffee. Twan & Gus were feeling right at home on the farm climbing trees and harvesting mandarines and lulo but our highlight of our Jardin trip was definitely the adventurous horse riding !!

We finished our visit to the coffee farm with a horseback ride through the coffee plantations. The horses of the finca were not used to calmly walk around with tourists but instead were very, very eager to get out of their stables and have some fun !

Gus was too young -later I understood why- to ride one of these horses, so he got a donkey which he absolutely adored and after everybody mounted their horse we rode off into the hilly & thick coffee fields. Apparently, the plant owner thought -after his good translating performance- of Jos as the leader of the gang & gave him … the alfa horse. This alfa horse, a stallion with the promising name “huracàn”, couldn’t stand being second so as soon as he felt another horse closing in, he started galloping in speed tempo and as he was the leader the rest followed his example. Needless to see, we had quite a wild ride. It was absolutely FANTASTIC and adventurous and in the end we were going as fast as we could while we were laughing like kids. Twan was even slapping his horse’s ass to get to the front !!

If you ever get to Colombia, this is definitely a place to visit. Jardin has it all: history, culture, authenticity, beauty, adventure, nature, bird watching paradise, friendly people, culinary delight, and simple Colombian living.

Jerico, Colombia

Jerico, authentic Colombian life

After a relaxed weekend in Sopétran, we drive south to the village of Jerico. And we have no regrets of hiring a car because just driving through this scenery is breathtaking. We love the independence of having our own car so we can travel at our own pace, stop when we’re hungry, take the scenic road when we feel like it. It’s a bit of an adventure and the car we hired wasn’t always fit for the roads we had to take but we -and the car- made it in one piece.

Colombia is very divers and in a couple of hours we drive through thick forest with roadsigns that warn us for crossing animals -monkeys, tigrillos, iguana’s, ant-eaters, …-, green mountains that remind us of the Alps… but with palmtrees, high pyramide mountains, coffee-planted hill sides, meadows with cows and horses,… we’ve seen it all in abundance.

In the early evening after a huge but delightful detour, we arrive in Jerico at our    home for the coming days : a place called cabanas y flores.

We have our own little cabana with an amazing view over the mountains on one side and Jerico on the other. The owner is super friendly and loves to chat with us in the morning over a healthy home-made breakfast with typical Colombian tinto -bad coffee-. We later learn on one of the coffee plantations that all the good beans are exported to America or Europe and that all the second choice beans stay in Colombia for the tinto. Opposed to what you might think, there’s no coffee culture here ! It’s slowly starting to change though and you see hip coffee bars popping up all over, but it’s still hard to get a descent coffee in the hotels, bars and restaurants. Tinto however is available everywhere, even on most streetcorners. It is a very weak brew of coffee mixed with way too much sugar. Jos says it reminds him of the kind of “coffee” served in hospitals in Belgium, the kind of lukewarm brownish liquid people drink all day long…

Jerico is a typical mountain village with a big church and the main square where everyone sits outside talking and drinking … tinto. The caballeros are walking in town on or next to their horses, and kids are running around. There’s such a laid-back atmosphere.

The houses have wooden balconies and are painted in the most amazing bright colors all set in a mountain background.

Antonio & Gustavo are quick to make friends while we sit and chat.

Twan has been crazy about horses for a while so we decide to surprise him the next day to go horse riding and in the morning, after breakfast we hear the clicking of horseshoes on the pavement. Twan can’t believe his eyes and is in heaven ! No backseat driving, each his own !

The horses are very tame but nothing can spoil the fun and we walk around the town, up the hillside like true caballeros while the old ladies wave at our two boys from behind their windows.

I absolutely adore Jerico. It’s beautiful to visit and has remained the same for many years, of course there is tourism but in the first place, there is authentic life ! It’s Colombia at it’s best: genuine & welcoming.

Sopétran / Santa Fé de Antioquia

Santa Fé de Antioquia

We decide to explore the countryside around Medellin by car and Sara arranges a good deal for us. And before we leave for the south, we are invited by Sara to go visit her family’s property in Sopétran.

Lots of people flee the city in the weekend to visit more tranquil areas with a healthier atmosphere and so do we, when we drive the hour north to Sopétran, near the village of Santa Fé de Antioqiua.

First we drive to Santa fé, famous for it’s authentic Colombian character. It’s a wonderful, typical Colombian village, surrounded by green mountains and beautiful colonial houses. Yes, it is a tourist destination but absolutely not fake or over-visited. Like everything in Colombia, it guards over it’s authenticity. Unfortunately, they were working on the main square so we missed out on the complete picture of Santa Fé. We will need to come back here once the town is restored to it’s full glory.

After enjoying some great food, we drive to Sara’s weekend house. And what a treat this is !! Beautiful house, green garden and a big pool, good food, great company, … Perfect weekend !