Hacienda Venecia… haaaa… Hacienda Venecia… The coffee plantation where time stopped: For travelers passing through but also for me, literally. I have been there three times in one month, and eventually left with a twinge of regret: Such a lovely staff, a magical place, I was almost feeling at home…
After Utria, last stop of these past ten days on the Choco Pacific Coast: at the Playa de Oro Lodge, on the “Huina” Beach, 20 minutes by boat from Bahia Solano. The beach is wonderful and there is also a small village, a nice compromise so between beach, rainforest and meetings with Afro-Colombian culture.
After Nuqui, Guachalito and Jurubida, I finally come to Utria to know “Mano Cambiada”, Josefina’s sustainable tourism project who I quickly met in Bogota during the ANATA tourism show. I reach ma new destination once again aboard a small craft thirty-minute from Jurubida where I say goodbye to Carmen and Nohelia.
It was aboard a local fisherman’s small boat that I reached the village of Jurubidá, located thirty minutes north of Nuquí, an “Afrochocoano” village because Jurubidá is primarily a “palenque” (a community founded by African slaves who managed to escape and take refuge in the dense rainforests of the Chocó Region). I am greeted at Carmen’s, then at Nohelia’s, for a short stop before moving on to Utría National Park.
Travelers rarely stay in Nuquí Village itself; most prefer to go some 30 minutes south of there where there are heavenly beaches and rows of coconut trees. Monday morning, I bade goodbye to the team at the Nuquí Mar Hotel, and later found myself on the pier where Elisabeth and Benjamin of La Joviseña came to meet me. Off we went to Guachalito Beach.
If I say idyllic and wild Colombian beaches, what will you answer? Caribbean and Tayrona National Park?! ahah.. Yes but not only that! Colombia offers also a wonderful Pacific Coast. The area between Nuqui and Bahia Solano is now very quiet, where travelers are very welcomed. Here I am on the road of five small hotels; well I mean guestrooms and shacks, very local. After having had my fill of Manizales and Armenia coffee, I go back to my favorite drink, coconut water (“l’agua de pipa”) which I missed so much since my last stay on the Pacific Coast for one month and a half on a Panama beach.
After Selva Negra (Nicaragua) and Hacienda Venecia in Manizales (Colombia), I found myself once again in the very heart of a ‘responsible’ coffee plantation, certified by Rainforest Alliance and Utz, but this time just a little smaller. Hacienda Combia is an agricultural and hotel family business of 39 hectares, in the “Cafeteros” region of Colombia, next to Armenia. I invite you to follow me in discovering coffee in a way that will be sure to tickle all your senses…
The « Cafeteros » region is an area comprised of many towns of various sizes sitting amid rolling hills, vibrating to the colours of its coffee plants. In between two stays in the very centre of coffee plantations that offer rooms for rent (Hacienda Venecia) and hotel accommodation (Hacienda Combia), I spent three nights in a youth hostel in the very touristic village of Salento, near Cocora, the famous valley of palms.
When I reached Bogota with my friend Isa in early March, it was with the intention of spending some 10 days there to get myself in gear and start off again … but this was before my friend Julian’s generous hospitality, meeting so many new interesting people, visiting the ANATO exhibition, giving presentations in universities … and the unfortunate and obligatory renewing of my tech equipment right in the middle of my trip!
After my escape to La Minga in Choachi, I decided to run off from Bogota the next weekend on another short hotel mission. Hayda, a friend of a friend, who is also managing a hotel, took me to see her new « baby », five hours south of the capital, in the ‘department’ of Meta. Welcome to La Cachamera hotel in the little town of Granada.
It’s a technological crisis! My computer has been freezing up more and more often over the past weeks and my camera has left this world…Now more than ever I need good quality, operational equipment to document my visits to hotels as well as their sustainable practices, which are collected for Hopineo. It is for this reason that I am launching myself into a crowdfunding campaign. Further details are in the following video and in the text below. Here is the link to give your support: www.ulule.com/hoptour-florie. Thank you!
After a week-long disconnect in the heart of the Cocuy National Park. we started off again towards Bogota. On our way, we decided to stop in Tunja, a one-day stop which ended up as a three-day stop following our meeting with Marelvy, co-owner of the Santa Viviana Villa de Leyva Hotel. She is also Director of Tourism Management at the Juan de Castellanos University. Sure enough, this meant my going back to school in Tunja at the start of the academic year… but this time, in a new role: on the teacher side!
This brand new year arrived bearing a great gift: my friend Isabelle arrived to join me so we could travel together for one month through northeast Colombia. During these “holidays,” I am still going ahead a little with my project by visiting a few hotels along the way (see articles on Palomino and Barichara/San Gil). However this week is to be a total disconnect, and a different kind of challenge awaits us … We reach the Cocuy National Park and off we go on a four-day hike at a height of over 4,000 m above sea-level, including a snowy peak reaching up to 5,150 m ! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am not about to forget.
After visiting the Caribbean Coast, I continue through North-Eastern Colombia with my friend Isabelle (Isa). We spend a week in the Santander Region, and plan to make quick last-minute business stops at three hotels in the charming village of Barichara, next to San Gil: Hostel Color de Hormiga, Hotel Terra Barichara, and Eco Hotel El Ocaso. How will the hotels receive me seeing as I am with a friend? Is it at all possible to merge work and touring the surrounding areas while working with the hotels in all of two days?
First days of 2015, first steps in South America, first visit to Colombia … what a great bunch of ‘firsts’! My friend Isabelle (‘Isa’) joins me for a 15-day ladies’ trek along the Caribbean Coast, from Cartagena to the Guajira Peninsula, by way of the incredible national park of Tayrona … all of this with the added benefit of a short little ‘hotel business’ mission at the La Sirena Eco-Hotel (in Palomino).
These past six months of gallivanting around Central America comprise the first chapter of this Hospitality Tour through Latin America which is now coming to an end. From Mexico to Panama, I gave a marketing boost to 25 hotels in exchange for room and board. I also took the opportunity to learn all their best practices in ethical tourism in order to share this information on Hopineo. I had fabulous experiences, and met incredible people … Before changing continents and going off to Colombia, I want to share with you a quick retrospective on this first part of the adventure. (PS: A big “thank you” to Helene, Holly, Fernando and all the others who helped me with the translations into english of these blog articles!)
These 6 last months rambling around Central America reserved me a wonderful bunch of surprises: budding speleologist, Indiana Jones girl, apprentice mermaid… I share with you a little bit of this magical cocktail of emotions through 10 unique experiences from Mexico to Panama:
Villa Marina Lodge, where I spent my last month-and-a-half on Venao Beach, is really part of a larger investment made by a sizeable group of Panamanian investors (Grupo VerdeAzul). To thank me for my help, the manager kindly gave me a fabulous goodbye gift: two nights w/breakfast at one of their hotels during my stop in Panama City. So I am finishing off my visit through Central America at a 26th hotel—a ‘bonus’ this time: a stay at the Tryp by Wyndham Panama Albrook Mall.