Coffee

By Brae:

One of the things that Colombia is most famous for is coffee. When we went to the coffee region, we went to a coffee farm to learn about coffee (there’s a lot of coffee in this post already!!). The man there even spoke English and so he said if we wanted we could have our tour in English and we did. Before the tour we had some drinks and we were looking at the amazing view. It looked so bright green because we had not seen anything green for months because there is no rain in Santa Marta.

coffee-2On the hill you can see small coffee plants growing and in between them there are some rows of tall plantain trees which the workers pick for extra money because coffee isn’t a very well paid job, and the plantain also gives the coffee plants shade to make them grow a lot taller.

coffee-2-2On our tour, we went into a forest of coffee trees and our guide showed us that first the tree makes a flower, and then the flower falls off and a small berry starts to grow. It’s green at first and then it gets bigger and finally turns yellow and then red. He said that you could only pick them when they are red and that even if they fall on the ground you still have to pick it up in case an insect comes and lays eggs. He also said that there were some trees that only ever got yellow ones and that when they were yellow they were still ripe.

coffee-10 coffee-15

The coffee grows all year round and you have to pick it every time there are lots of ripe berries. That happens every few weeks and the day we went we saw some people who lived nearby who had come to pick the coffee for their job.

coffee-3 coffee-2-3

Next he took us into a little house-like coffee factory. Upstairs there was a metal bowl with lots of coffee beens in and there were some floating but most were at the bottom. He said that even if they were red if they were floating they were not good so he threw them away. The ones that sink were washed and put out for sorting.

coffee-5

The next part of the sorting happens in a giant metal tray with no water in but with tons of coffee beans. At first there was a man there sorting them out but then he left and our guide said we could have a go so we did. We took out beans that were unripe or damaged and we quite enjoyed it.

coffee-4 coffee-7

After they had been sorted they were put in machine to peel their skin off. Inside the red case are two pale coffee beans. When you first peel the skin off there is a kind of slime on the coffee beans so they are left in water until the slime washes off. Then they put the beans in a warm room in little trays to dry.

coffee-13 coffee-3-2

When it has dried it still has a very rough cream coloured case around the beans inside. They use another machine to get the case off and you finally see the coffee bean inside and we were surprised that it was kind of grey-green. Last of all they roast it and it turns brown like the coffee that we are used to seeing. It smelled really nice when it had just been roasted so we wanted to try it. We all had some coffee and me and Oren didn’t like it but my mum and dad did. So now we know the story of a coffee bean and you do too.

coffee-9 coffee-14

coffee-12

Before I finish this post, we think we should probably say now that we’re not really ‘EverettsinColombia’ any more because we’ve been back in the UK for almost a week! But we’re still writing the blog because we haven’t finished telling you about all the amazing things we did in our last few weeks in Colombia. Please keep reading because our final post is going to be something special. If you really don’t want to miss it, sign up for updates by putting your email address into our blog!

Valle de Cocora

By Oren:

One of the things my mum and dad had been reading about when they were first planning our trip to Colombia was a walk in a place called the ‘valle de cocora’. They really wanted to do it but they didn’t know because they had read about gap year students who hadn’t been able to do it because the last bit is up a mountain, and it is a really long walk. Despite this they wanted to do it so much so Brae and I rose up to the challenge…

pueblos-2
Milk delivery, passing us as we waited for our guide

About half way through the walk there is a humming bird place called Acaime so we were looking forward to it. We had booked a guide but when we arrived he wasn’t there so we asked some people where he was and they said that he was drunk so he was very late. After we heard that we decided that it would be best to go on without him.

After we set off the view changed a lot and we were enjoying it because it was beautiful. We also passed over lots of rickety broken bridges along the path.

salentoB-4

salento-5  salentoB-2

salento-7  salentoB-3

After we had been walking for about two hours we reached Acaime and my feet were hurting a bit so that was a relief. We thought it would be an enclosed area where there were a few humming birds quite a long way away, but it was way better than that. The sanctuary was in an open space in the middle of the jungle where they had some feeders with nectar in. The nectar made so many different birds from the jungle come down to feed and you could stand just about a metre away from them! There were literally loads of shimmering humming birds flitting around like lightning on the feeders and on all the branches and flowers around us!!!

salentoB-8

salentoA-14  salentoA-12

salentoA-13

salentoB-6  salentoA-11

salentoB-12

salentoA-9

After we had stayed for nearly an hour and a half we decided we should probably go but our minds were still full of colour and light.

After Acaime we had to re-trace our steps a little bit and we came to a mountain path which was the next part of the route. It was an extremely steep bit and we struggled. Brae didn’t though because he went as fast as a mountain goat, but because of my altitude sickness I went slowly. When we reached the top it was a relief because we were all tired by that point. We looked at the view over the valley but we couldn’t see much at first because of the clouds (we were so high we were right inside them). We had a big rest up there and then we set off again on the downhill part of the journey.

My dad had told us that on the walk down there were palm trees that were sixty metres tall, but we didn’t believe him. Sixty metres is about 30 tall men standing on top of each other! When we got to the bit where the palms were supposed to be we saw some that were thirty metres tall so we said to him: “Told you that they weren’t sixty metres tall”, but then we turned a corner and saw palms that really were around sixty metres tall! It was hard to see the tops of some of them because they were so high.

salentoA-4
You can see how small the cows look!

salentoA-5

salentoA-2

I felt amazing that I did it and I felt that I could do anything now I have completed the walk, but I was exhausted. My mum and dad were really happy and proud of us.

More tropical fruits

By Oren:

The first post on the blog was about pineapples so it seems like a good thing to do to write about them on my last day in Colombia. Before we came here we didn’t know how pineapples grew so we wanted to find out how. When we went to a kind of animal and farm park called Panaca we were surprised to see pineapples growing on little bushes because we never knew they grew like that. We saw some workers picking them. Here are some pictures of them:

fruit1 fruit1-2

On the same day in Panaca we saw some small trees with big green things that looked like aguacates at first, but a sign it said that it was maracuyá. maracuya2We didn’t know maracuyás grew like this either so it was good to find out.

One of the things that my mum says she is going to miss a lot about Colombia is just walking around and noticing all the tropical fruits growing around us. There are mango, lime, papaya and tamarind trees, cocoa and aguacates and bananas. They grow in the jungle but they also grow in people’s gardens and in fields, all along the road, growing in the pavement, in parks. In fact, tropical fruit is growing everywhere you look!

fruit2-4  fruit2

fruit2-7
Tamarind
cocoa
Cocoa
fruit2-8
Papaya
fruit2-5
Mangoes – we wish they were ripe!

Panela

By Oren:

In Colombia they use a different type of sugar to in England.

The first time we went to the supermarket we saw a big section in one of the panelaaisles of blocks of things called panela, but we didn’t know what what it was. We looked it up and found out it is a type of sugar and it is made out of sugar cane. Sugar cane looks a bit like green bamboo when it grows and then the stalks turn brown like sticks when they dry. panela-5To make the sugar cane into sugar, they just squeeze the sap out of the green canes and boil it until it gets thick and then it cools and sets into these blocks.
panela-2The sugar we have in England is made from sugar cane or sugar beet and it is made sort of the same way but after they get the juice they do a lot more things to it to make it really white and tiny.

When we went to the farm where Simón Bolívar died they had an old farm building where they used to make panela and we saw the machine that squeezed the liquid out of the cane. panela-6

panela-3panela-2-2

In Colombia, people make a lot of things with panela. They use panela in cooking instead of sugar. You can use a grater to get sugar from the big block. They also often make it into a drink called “agua de panela” (panela water) by mixing panela into water. They drink it hot (and serve it with cheese that you can put into the panela water!) or cold. IMG_8500They sometimes add lime into cold agua de panela which I think tastes a bit nicer, but I don’t really like agua de panela because I think it tastes a bit strange. They used to give us agua de panela at school and most children really like it.

 

Bocadillo

By Brae:

Today we were packing for the journey home and we have got more than five kilos of bocadillo! The bag is really, really heavy. So that shows how much we like it. I IMG_8514bet you are wondering what bocadillo is. In Spain bocadillo is a sandwich but in Colombia it is a sweet. Bocadillo is cube, light red and quite small. Here is a picture of bocadillo. It is a type of food that is made of a fruit called guayaba. They are green outside and sometimes round and sometimes the shape of a pear. Inside they are pink or red when they are ripe.guayaba
guayaba-1140x450

 

 

Bocadillo is made with the inside of a guayaba and some sugar and is cooked slowly until it is thick enough to turn into a block when it cools down. Out of all the foods we have tried in Colombia this is the one that we think that a lot of our friends at school would like the most and maybe you can try it in the Colombian after school club that we are going to run in the summer term.

 

Tejo

By Brae:

We went to a place in Colombia called Salento, in coffee region. In the town we heard of a place where you can play Tejo, which is the national sport of Colombia. We learnt about the game before we left England and really wanted to play it. We had tried to find somewhere in Santa Marta but we asked a taxi driver one time and he said the Tejo places in Santa Marta were really just for truck driver, not for children. The place that we heard of in Salento was called Betatown and it was OK for children too.

Tejo was invented more than 450 years ago by indigenous tribes. It used to be that you threw gold discs into a hole in the ground. After the Spanish arrived, they liked the game but they changed the rules a bit. They took the gold away and used iron instead, and they added gunpowder!

Now you play Tejo with a heavy disc of metal which you throw about six meters. You throw it into a box of clay with a metal ring buried inside and little triangles of gun powder touching the metal. You do not get any points if you miss the box of clay, you get one point if you land in the clay and you are closest to the metal ring, and you get three points if you hit the gunpowder and it explodes.

tejo-2 tejo

We played in teams of two and slowly got better, in the end we all exploded the gun powder. The gun powder was very loud and with lots of smoke and fire. We enjoyed it so much that we went to play it again the next day. Here are some pictures and videos of us playing. You can hear the rain at the end, because it was a thunder storm.  It was the first rain we’d seen for nearly three months so it was quite cool.

Another transport update

By Oren:

As we’ve mentioned, transport here is very different from England and we are always trying out new ways of getting around. During our last few weeks in Colombia we have done a lot of travelling as we are trying to explore the country as much as possible before we leave. This means that we have lots of updates about modes of transport to tell you about!

transport2When we went to Parque Tayrona, one morning we went on an hour-long walk through the jungle to get breakfast.
We had discussed it the day before and we had decided that we would walk there and then ride on a horse back again! When we got to the horse stable we hired four horses and we set off. My mum had a female horse and her one had a foal who was only two months old. transport2-2Part of the journey it followed us and pranced around in front of my horse. Mine and Brae’s horses were very confident so they always kept on galloping off so we had to pull the reins to stop them. The track involved some really steep hills between huge boulders but the horses knew what to do because they had done it a lot so we felt safe.

From four legs to four wheels…

When we were in a region near Bogotá called Boyaca, we got to go on quad-bikes through the mountains. Before we went on them we asked if I was big enough to drive them and I was! transport2-3My mum tried it first to find out the controls and then I got to drive it. transport2-7I felt so amazed that I was driving I almost forgot to steer and my mum helped me until I got over the shock. We were sharing the adventure with our friend Diana, her husband Ernesto and her brother, Luis fernando. After a while my mum and I swapped with Diana and Ernesto into a buggy and I was allowed to drive that too.

One of the least well planned parts of our trip was our journey to a place called Guatapé. There is a slight pattern to our modes of transport on the way there (after the taxi bit)  – see if you can spot it. First we flew from Bogotá to Medellín but from Medellín airport we hadn’t decided where to go next or how to get there, so we asked a taxi driver how to get to Guatapé. He told us he would take us somewhere to get a bus there so this sounded good to us and we set off. The craziest thing was the place that he left us because he just pulled in on the side of the motorway in the hard shoulder and told us: “Here you go. If you see a bus with Guatapé written on the front wave your hand at it”! So, there we all were on the side of the motorway with all our suitcases and back packs. We waved wildly at the first bus that came by but sadly, it whooshed past. We had more luck with the next bus and it swerved into the hard shoulder and we got on. I had the nearest seat to the door and the driver forgot to shut it for a little bit so there I was next to an open door on the motorway! When we got to a little town quite a long way from Guatapé the bus driver told us to get off the bus because he wasn’t going any further. He pointed over at some old jeeps across the road and told us to take one of those instead! In the end we got into a jeep, put our luggage on the roof and then loads more people got in and it was such a squish that one of the people had to sit with his leg hanging over the side, but finally the jeep pulled into Guatapé. But our journey wasn’t over because we still had to get all our heavy luggage to our hotel, so the driver of the jeep called us a tuk tuk transport2-6(which is basically a motorbike with a carriage stuck on top of it). I couldn’t imagine how we would all fit in but, as we’re getting used to things in Colombia now (often you have 8 or 9 people in a small car) we just piled ourselves and our bags in a big heap until we arrived at our hostel! Did you notice the pattern? Our transport just kept getting smaller and smaller and we were pleased we’d arrived as otherwise we thought the next thing might have been a skateboard!

Now it’s from land to air, because from Medellín we flew to a city called Pereira in the coffee region. The airport in Medellin was closed the day we went there because of hazy weather so we only just got through. When we finally got to our gate we saw our plane and almost laughed.transport2-8 It was a tiny plane with only thirty seats! Luckily it was only a short journey and we didn’t feel cramped, although the take off and landing were a bit strange because the wind blew the plane around (this also kept with our pattern of going in smaller and smaller vehicles).

transport2-4Bogotá also had its own crazy transport. When we went to Montserrate to get chocolate and cheese, we rode up in a cable car and down in the funicular. Just look how steep it is!

I loved all these forms of transport because they were so adventurous and fun, but I will finish this post by telling you about a slightly calmer thing we did because after all that excitement I think it was time for a rest! Take a look at this picture of Brae floating down the river in a tyre again, watching the wildlife, in Rio Don Diego. Half way along the river Brae got hot so we used the umbrella the guide had given us and floated with that on. That day the transport was a bit more chilled – phew!

don diego-7

Maracuyá

By Oren:

The main reason I am writing this is because this morning we were discussing what things we are going to miss most when we go back to England and three out of four of us think that we are really going to miss a delicious fruit called maracuyá, and then we realised that we still haven’t told you about it yet. It is a bit like a passion fruit but it is bigger, yellow, much more tasty and very sour. When you buy it, it sometimes looks shiny, green or yellow and it is hard you can’t eat it then because it isn’t ripe. You have to wait until it looks all yucky and brown and wrinkly and that is when you can eat it. Here are a few photos of its stages:

maracuya  maracuya-2

maracuya-2-2  maracuya-3

It is a very popular fruit in Colombia and you can get juices and ice creams made with maracuyá and you can also put one on your cereal, which my parents love! This is one of the main things that we are really, really going to miss when we go back to England because you can’t get it there .

Cartagena

By Oren:

One thing we did quite a few weeks ago, which we haven’t had time to write about yet, was go to Cartagena. My mum has always wanted to go to Cartagena ever since she first got a job to do with Colombia.

Cartagena is well known for being one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and when we went there we saw why. All the streets have lovely balconies with flowers on in little baskets and all the squares have amazing churches and brightly coloured buildings. The best thing to do in Cartagena is just to walk around a lot and that is what we did. Whenever we were on a street we thought it was the most beautiful, but then we’d turn a corner and find something even better!

cartagena-11

cartagena-10  cartagena-3

cartagena-5  cartagena-8

cartagena-7

When we arrived we were really thirsty because of the long journey so we went to get a drink and watch the sunset from the city walls. Cartagena is also famous for being one of the hottest places in Colombia. Unusually, it was a bit breezy that evening and Brae said he was cold and he needed a jumper. When we told our friends in Bogotá that Brae was so cold in Cartagena that he wore a wooly jumper they couldn’t believe it and said he really must have got used to the heat in Santa Marta. I wonder how we will feel when we get back to Norfolk!

The only not so good thing about Cartagena is that there are loads of tourists. As it is so beautiful a lot of people from America and other countries come there so it was very crowded You can see how many people were there in the background when we took this photo on the city wall.

cartagena

Where we lived in Santa Marta, there weren’t very many tourists, and hardly any foreign children, so people were interested in us and wanted to know what we were doing there. That meant that everyone was coming to talk to us all the time and asking us questions, but in Cartagena everyone was used to all the tourists so they weren’t that friendly.

One other thing we did when we were in Cartagena as go to Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. It was named after Felipe IV of Spain who was king when the castle was built in 1657. They built it to protect Cartagena from pirates and from other countries like England who were attacking it because they were trying to make siege on Cartagena. It is a huge fortress and it was never taken even though lots of people tried.

The coolest thing about the castle was the tunnels. They were designed to carry sound so that if an enemy was approaching they could hear them cartagena-12coming and be ready. You could go down the tunnels and I thought they were really cool and it was really fun exploring. We went down and down, often in the dark, until the tunnels started to have water in them. We found out that because the sea level is higher now than when the castle was built the lower tunnels have started to fill with water. We spent a long time exploring the tunnels, sometimes coming out in a completely different place from where we planned to be.

Even though we loved Cartagena and thought it was very beautiful, we all agreed when we got back to El Rodadero that we were all glad to be back there, where everyone is so friendly.

Medellín

By Brae:

This week, we went a place called Medellín and it is the second biggest city in Colombia. We went to do a tour around the middle of Medellín to learn about its history. Twenty years ago Medellín was known as the most violent city in the world. The man who gave us our tour said when he was little he had ten friends and eight of them got killed. It is hard to imagine thousands of murders every year in a city. There were so many murders that it wasn’t even in the news.

One of the violent things happened one night in 1995. There was a party in a square and one person brought a bag with explosives in and put it under a statue by a very famous artist and it exploded, killing lots of people including a seven year old girl and a ten year old boy. They were very young so I felt sad thinking about it. The person that made the statue was called Botero and he said he would make another one if they did not take the damaged one away because he said if they took it away it would come out of peoples memories. Now there are two bird statues. Here are some pictures of the old one and the new one.

medellin-7medellin-2-2

medellin-6I think you will be able to guess which one is old and which one is new. Botero came from Medellín and we saw his statues everywhere in the squares around the city. He is one of the most famous artists of South America.

Now Medellín is very different from the dangerous times and there are nice museums and parks and squares everywhere. We went to Parque Explora which is a science one and something very strange happened to Oren there!

medellin-3

medellin-9medellin-2-4medellin-3-2

Also we went up a mountain in a cable car and if we looked down we could see the entire of Medellín. Medellín is in a valley between two mountains and on both mountains there are houses clinging onto the steep slopes and the houses on the mountains look poor.

medellin-12

medellin-13  It used to take hours for the people who lived on the mountain to get to the city but now they have cable cars they can get down and back up quicker and they’re not really tired when they go down and up.medellin-8

 

 

 

 

In the cable car we saw a sign that said in Spanish ‘don’t jump or make sudden movements in the cable car’. It had a translation in English but we’ve noticed that often the translations in English are different and quite funny. You can see how they translated it in this photo. The other photo is a cool balcony we saw in the middle of the slum. Can you see the cow head?

medellin-4medellin-2-3

medellin-14As well as the new cable cars there is a metro train. The people of Medellín are very proud of the metro and you can see this as it is very clean with no graffiti but the rest of Medellin has lots of graffiti. Some of the graffiti is messy but some is very nice, here is a picture of a monkey you can see from our window.

At the end of the tour our guide said that Colombians try not to always think about the bad history. He gave an example to say that if someone was sinking in a swamp and they had all the horrible swamp stuff nearly drowning them and then they found a branch and grabbed hold of it and pulled themmedellin-5selves out and then they would celebrate because they nearly died but they didn’t. He said it was like this for Colombians. They had a terrible time in their past but they have survived so they are really happy people. He also thanked us for coming to Colombia and hoped we could tell people that it is now a very nice place in Colombia and it was a long time ago that it was a bad place. I agree that people should come to Colombia because it is a brilliant country.