Colombia Report October 2005 (First few days)

The trip to this South American judging assignment had us traveling from Toronto to Miami and then another 8 hours to Pereira, Colombia. The flights were long and exhausting and we were very appreciative to be met at the airport by two smiling club members with a beautiful arrangement of local flowers which are the National flower of Colombia, called the Orquidia Catleya. Our hosts from the Club Canino Eje Cafetero, Sandra Betancourt and Jose Mesa, drove us the short ride to the Hotel Dann Soratama centrally located on the main square of the city. It was very late and it was off to bed in anticipation of a day of sightseeing with Sandra the next day.

We awoke after a great nights sleep and had a delicious breakfast in the hotel restaurant before meeting Sandra and setting out on our day's sightseeing. We were going to the famous Parque Nacional del Cafe to learn about 'All things coffee". As everyone knows Colombia is a major producer of some of the world's finest coffees. The park is located about a 45 minute drive from Pereira in the middle of a coffee plantation outside the small town of Montenegro. We enjoyed the drive in and out of the valleys and hill tops throughout this rural area. We were in the lower ranges of the Andes Mountains and the landscape was awash with luscious green vegetation and colorful flowers in this coffee farm and cattle raising region.

The park was a combination museum, educational institute and amusement park. It was well laid out and manicured to perfection. We strolled for hours amongst the various kinds of coffee trees, lush vegetation and flowers. As well as gaining an excellent history of the coffee industry in Colombia we were also treated to an unbelievable stage show called appropriately 'The Coffee Show' featuring colorful dancers who related the history, culture and beauty of this coffee growing country and people. We were also impressed by the friendliness of our fellow tourists, the majority of which were Colombian as they too enjoyed the spectacular park.

On the trip back to Pereira we visited another smaller city called Armenia and soaked up the color and sounds of the fun loving country. Colombia is a very colorful nation including the people, buildings as well the buses which were the most colorful we have ever seen. Sandra treated us to a a scrumptious dinner at one of her favorite haunts before we toured the local mall which equaled any from home before retiring for the night.

We were picked up at the hotel in the morning for what was billed as 'Extreme Sightseeing' by Carlos Enrique Diaz a local veterinarian. Carlos and his wife Jimena Mejia, as well as their many other responsibilities, run a hog raising operation on a farm in the rugged Zona Cafetera region outside of Pereira.The plan for the day was to travel to the farm accessible primarily by 4-wheel vehicle and deliver supplies and feed to the operation, while getting a glimpse of the country that few tourists ever see. We were not disappointed as we wound our way amongst the steep hills and valleys of this majestic mountainous region. The landscape is so severe that the only practical crop to grow is coffee and raising cattle and hogs on farms scattered throughout the area. Carlo's hog farm was quite an experience and although in it's early stages with around 50 breeding sows plans are to continue expanding. Another interesting side note was the unique form of public transportation in this scarcely populated area....It consisted of Jeeps more commonly called "Willy's", which transport 6-8 people at at time over the rough roads which we in North American refer to as 'seasonal'.

We visited many small towns along the way, including Filandia and the most notable was Salento, located in a picturesque valley with spectaclar views. We had lunch with wife Carlos's wife Jimena, son Pedro and a few of their friends and relatives at a quaint local restaurant which served typical Colombian food which consists of plenty of pork, beef and chicken with accompanying rice, vegetables and potatoes. Colombian food is very delicious and reminds me a lot of traditional Mexican food without all the hot spices and salsa. After some shopping in this small town's artisan's shops and additional sightseeing we were off to Jimena's grandmother's to await additional guests for a Colombian birthday party we had been invited to attend that evening in Armenia. Her grandmother welcomed us as if we had known her for life in to her home. The welcome, warmth and love shown towards us and all the other visitors by this matriarchal grandmother is typical of the Colombian people's friendliness and love of family.

Next we were off to a fabulous restaurant and entertainment spot called El Solar where we were met by several other friends and relatives of Carlos and Jimena's. The awesome food, great service and atmosphere led to what can only be described as 'extreme partying' after the dinner. The combination of the live band playing Colombian music, too many drinks of the local favorite drink of 'Agvardiente', a potent schnapps type drink made from sugarcane, the fun loving Colombians frolicking and dancing prompted us to break our normally early bed time the night before judging and party into the wee hours. We finally rested our heads on our pillows at 1:30 am knowing we would be awaken at 6:00 am to start our day. We had few regrets as we had had a great time and unique opportunity to share a fun evening with some special people.


Click here for Club Canino Eje Cafetero National Show Saturday, October 15, 2005


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