Colombia – Coffee Region


Leaving Medellin I head south to the famous coffee region of Colombia. It’s only about 280km to the town of Filandia but with recent rains the road though the Andes is blocked by landslides in many places. In some areas it’s just a short detour around the blocked section of road but at one spot I had to wait for an hour for bulldozers to clear a path through a fresh landslide. Probably about 10 hours to make it through 280km, and in spite of the road conditions they were still charging the full toll amount.

Filandia is a small rural town in the heart of Colombia’s coffee region. Nearby Salento seems to get all of the tourists while Filandia seems much more authentic. One thing I didn’t expect was that despite the amazing coffee that comes from Colombia, it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee. All of the primo coffee is exported to bring in as much money as possible. What’s left is called tinto, basically what the rest of the world doesn’t want.

My destination is the Steel Horse Filandia, which will some day be a full service hostel for the Filandia area. As of today it’s not quite open, but they are accepting self sufficient overlanders for camping. It’s a mile or so down a twisty muddy road from town in a very quiet location.


It’s owned by Yvette and Paul from the UK; Paul is currently back in the UK so Yvette is handling all of the work associated with getting the hostel ready to open. Below right you can see a picture of their cat, also named Paul. This cat is part parrot; he likes to jump up and perch on people’s shoulders.


One day I make the drive to the Valle de Cocora to see the famous wax palms. The 200 foot tall palms only grow in this valley.



Then an afternoon in Salento. Yes, this is definitely where all of the tourists go. Nice for an afternoon but a little crowded.




One day I am hitching a ride into town with Yvette and her friend in Yvette’s old Nissan 4×4 when maybe a half km out of the Steel Horse we are flagged down by a little girl jumping up and down in the middle of the road. She says her brother has cut himself with a machete and they need help. Pulling into their driveway, the mom comes out and explains that they have no car or phone so all they could think of was to post the little sister on the road to flag down the next vehicle. He accidentally sank the machete into his calf around 10:00 and it’s now around 12:00. Not much traffic on this road. He comes limping out of their small house with a dish towel tied around his calf and still dripping quite a bit of blood. We get him and his mom set up in the back and head into town, and in the little Filandia hospital they take him right into their ER.

Later in the afternoon the whole family, including the limping kid with the newly stitched leg, comes up to the hostel to say thanks. They have a bunch of fresh pineapple and the mom has brought some dish towels so she can scrub the blood out of the back of the Nissan. Yvette accepts the pineapple and tells them not to worry about the blood.

Later in the week Yvette loses her cell phone somewhere between the hostel and town. She spends the entire day searching everywhere in the hostel and along the road, then the next day goes to town to buy a new phone. The day after that a guy shows up at the gate with her phone in hand. He’s found it lying along the side of the road and it’s a complete mystery how he knows that it’s hers or where to return it.

Continuing south I stop in the town of Buga on the way to Cali. Its claim to fame is this church, which seems to be built out of millions of bricks. It’s not, it is all concrete and the millions of bricks are painted on. I have an enjoyable night at the Buga Holy Water Ale Cafe and Hostel


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