We hopped on an Avianca flight from Santa Marta back down to Bogota ($50 for the two of us!) and stayed in Bogota at the 12:12 Hostel once again (such lovely warm rainshowers) so we could check out the Museo del Oro – HOW could we miss out on seeing 33,000 pieces of gold? (anyway, I edited the Bogota post to include this so I won’t go on).
We caught a morning taxi to the huge bus terminal (about 40 minutes from Zona G and $15,000COP) and hopped on a Bolivariano bus ($50,000COP each) to Manizales. This is a 289km trip but takes 9 HOURS. Mother of Jesus. You know how in plumbing you have ‘S’ bends? These roads were ‘Z’ bends. Insane. Hair-raising route to say the least. Fine examples of South American driving skills on cliff-tops…The scenery was spectacular, so unbelievably green – and they have emeralds in Colombia so all I’m saying is we’re lucky we’ve the whole ‘isle’ thing going for us in Ireland…
We arrived in Manizales about 6.30pm and hopped on the cable car (the station is in the bus station and the trip costs $1500COP to the centre or Fundadores stop) which is such a lovely way to arrive in a city (no worrying about taxi drivers ripping you off) and once we got off we turned right and there was our accommodation! We decided on the Mirador Andino which is owned by the nicest lady you can imagine ($80,000COP for a double room). There’s a huge shopping centre across the way and they show films in English so that was our first evening sorted! Got back about midnight and to be honest the area did feel a little dodgy so we decided to have early nights from then on. We ended up spending 3 nights in Manizales, there’s not much to do so I’m not sure what we really filled our time with, maybe supermarkets? We checked out the Zona Rosa (the bar/restaurant area) but it was a bit of a let down; they did however have a kiddies X-Factor scenario going on up there so that filled some time. The only sights in the city really are the churches – the Cathedral was alright and there was some Botero sculptures in the main square. The only foodspot worth mentioning would be ‘La Suiza’ – a very tasty bakery.
We took a day-trip to the famous Hacienda Venecia coffee plantation (loads of the hostels we stayed at had their huge coffee bags framed on their walls). You can stay there but our lovely host called them up and they collected us at 8.45am on a Sunday morning. The plantation is about 20 minutes from Manizales and the tour costs $45,000COP including transport – well worth it – it was the most detailed tour we’ve done. They firstly sit you down and go through the history of coffee and show you the selection and roasting processes – they also freshly roast some coffee for the group. We got a little history on Juan Valdez too – apparently the original Juan was in fact a Cuban actor. Gas! They’ve since had a competition for a new face for the coffee chain and turns out it’s an actual Colombian coffee farmer so that’s nice. We were then taken through some of the grounds; through some very tall and very, very wet coffee plants, across a little river to the processing site, complete with peacocks and the coolest dog ever – a bassett hound they call ‘Orejas’ (ears haha). We weren’t allowed into the main house as there were guests – it’s a lovely looking boutique hotel with a pool and a hammock/chillaxing space overlooking the grounds. It’d be easy to spend some time chilling out here.
P.S. Bring your passport here as they’ll need a copy of the photo page and your Colombian entry stamp.
Santa Rosa de Cabal
We decided to leave Manizales and move on to Santa Rosa de Cabal. God knows why. Probably the worst decision we’ve made yet! We only went to check out the thermal springs just outside the town. We stayed in Coffeetown Hostel (weirdest place ever – we couldn’t wait to get out) and they organised a willy jeep to get us to the thermal springs (that cost $70,000COP) and the springs were $30,000COP each entrance – so not worth it. Ripped off to the highest degree.
Yep, so there are no photos…
Next stop: Salento.
Getting to Salento from Santa Rosa de Cabal: We just hopped on a bus from the Terpel petrol station to Pereira. Once at Pereira we hopped on an ‘Alcala’ bus to Salento at 11.30am (there are more buses than Wikitravel mentions) which cost $6,000COP each.