Background on Our Trip

Day 1

Arriving at Bogota's El Dorado International can leave you breathless.  Not only is the city surrounded by mist-shrouded mountains, but the altitude is a mere 2,500m above sea level...  For the average Briton, it might as well be Everest!

 Getting there at 4 am allowed me the opportunity to catch the sunrise, albeit through tired and bloodshot eyes.  After a breakfast of arepa and scrambled eggs, it was a short walk to the domestic departures terminal to jump on my connecting flight to Pitalito, Huila.  At this point, I was running through my head trying to claw back all those years of Spanish I took at school, frustratingly elusive when I really needed it.  I need not have worried, it all came back in the end.  It was here at terminal 2 that I met up with most of the motley crew who I'd be spending the next two weeks with.  

After an hour’s flight through beautiful scenery (often being able to spot farms and drying beds from the air) we arrived at Pitalito Airport, by which I mean Pitalito's open shed with a tin roof.  Flights arrive into Pitalito twice a week and it's quite the event.  The sun was fierce and every sense was amplified.  We had been informed that the team meeting us at the airport had been waylaid in traffic due to a fatal accident on the mountain roads the night before.  We'd have to make our own way from the airport to our beds for the night.

We split up into two taxis and in our best Spanish explained where we wanted to go.  Our taxi correctly turned off to Pitalito, our unfortunate comrades turned off to San Agustin in the opposite direction.  Our taxi driver decided the best solution was to turn around and race after the other taxi (In Colombia, lanes are entirely optional and the speed limit is more of a suggestion).  Bearing in mind we only had a basic grasp of the language and nobody in the other taxi spoke a word, we thought this was bound to end up in disaster as we raced past cyclists, motorcycles, trucks and even horse-drawn carts.  Needless to say, we all made it to the hotel eventually and much laughter followed.  

It was at the hotel where we first met Juan Felipe, owner of Invercafe, the dry mill in Pitalito, and a man of action.  He took us to a relative's restaurant for lunch where we all ate like kings.  Perhaps some of the best chimichurri sauce I've ever had.  From there we were rolled into Juan's car and he took us to the Trilladora (dry mill).  Even on a Sunday, the mill runs around the clock milling the parchment off the coffee and sorting by size, weight and colour before bagging up ready for export.  There to Meet us was Maoro, the head of the El Carmen Association, Nicholas, one of the growers and Diana Salinas, the quality manager for Invercafe.  We brewed some of the recent harvest and discussed it while having a tour of the mill.  It was fascinating to see and I'm not sure my pictures do it justice.


Read: Day 2 of Our Colombia Origin Trip

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