• 14 June 2021




Buenavista is a small coffee town in the Quindo region. Burak and Kerem members of South America Whatsapp group of Turkish travelers which I’m also a member since a long time advised me this town.

– Gurkan you have to visit Buenavista for sure, it is an incredible place you would like the town. Definitely take the coffee tour in this region. You’ll be staying at Panoramic Hostel since this is the only one in the town (after a  year two other hostels were opened due to the increase in the number of tourists visiting this town). Find Hugo and attend a coffee tour with him.

The route I followed in Colombia after Cali specially was awesome. I rode at 2500-3500 m altitude at the skirts of the Andes and also around the Cali lake and on small village roads. I really like it. I passed through areas resembling the landscape in Africa where big trees were seen at certain intervals. I talked to myself that lions, elephants, giraffes might show off suddenly and smiled. Well, I also said: “This here is also ruined. It looks beautiful on the eye but definitely,100 years ago these places were much better.”

One day, after riding for 90 km I entered a small town before Buenavista as it was getting dark. I was riding towards the village main square with a big smile on my face through dwellings belong to colonial time. The reason why I was pleased was actually this:

“Good, I found a nice spot to camp!”

Actually I hadn’t seen a place to camp but I knew for sure that there is a good camping spot because I feel when I come close to such a place. I get a smile on my face when I feel by pedaling how correct and appropriate a decision I made on the road is. Colonial-style buildings stand out more when entering Colombia’s small non-touristy villages. In the villages and towns where tourism develops, naturally, the historical texture of the village either becomes invisible or becomes different with the renovation.

There is a large grass football field in the village square and while the young people are chasing the ball, their families sit and watch them. On the left there is a large church, and the old guys are sitting in the area opposite it, while watching the game, they also look at the stranger who comes to the village. One thing that catches my attention is that I don’t see so much people smoking in this country. Now when I write this article, there may be those who say “Don’t be Gurkan, you are in Colombia, of course they will not smoke, that’s the homeland of drugs.” More details on this topic can be found in my next article, but it is a fact that I never had a smoker in my eyes.

Near to the grass field, there is an area where I can relax, sit and eat. There is also the police station behind the seating area. First, let me go to this police station and get permission.

-Hello my name is Gurkan Genc. I’m from Turkey. I’m heading to Alasca riding from Ushuaia. I’m asking for your permission to set up my tent and sleep here.

-Hello. Are you serious? You have been on a long journey. Of course you can camp here. You can also use our rest room.

-Thank you very much.

-Do you need some water?

-I would appreciate.

-We will also inform the friends who will come to the evening shift, you can sleep comfortably, don’t worry, this is a very safe village.

-Thanks again.

Curious children came first where I set up the tent. They asked who I am, where I come from, where I am going. During our conversation, they were very surprised, did not believe, admired, saddened, laughed. When it got dark and went home, they told their families. While reading a book outside the tent in the evening, a young girl from a nearby house came and invited me to their house. She introduced me to her whole family. Her father said that I could take a shower, and if I was hungry, they could prepare food immediately. They gave me small provisions. They waited for breakfast in the morning. Then others and more came to chat. How beautiful is that? This is not just a situation in Colombia! I got used to it now, I saw the hospitality coming from the heart in many countries. In villages and towns, people look around, pay attention to details, and host me. They see you passing the street. I am also hosted in big cities, but there either through people who know me by social media or from applications. You will find the person you will be a guest in your home through applications. Because in cities, nobody sees you or they fear strangers. The reason is obvious, the troubles of city life are different. The creature we call human is very interesting. We left the nomadic life because of the troubles of nomadism and settled down, established villages, towns and cities, but we always had new problems. If I had a choice, which one would I prefer? The troubles of nomadism are not complicated, I would choose it.

Quindio region is one of Colombia’s best coffee production areas today. In this area where local tribes lived before the Spanish occupation, there were not many important settlements for the following centuries. After the end of the 19th century, towns and cities began to be established in the region. The first coffee production in the industrial sense was made in 1947, and it has been continued to this day. Today’s Armenia city stands out as the capital of the region. (The name of the city has nothing to do with any Armenia and its history. There is no document to associate with this subject, only hearsay information.) Then Salento, Finlandia, Pijao, Buenovista, Genoa, Cumbarco, Siete de Agosto, Las Guadas stands out in the region in terms of both coffee production and tourism. Let’s go to that Bunenovista first.

While going to the city of Buenovista in such an easy mood, there is a nice climb for the last 6 kilometers. People clap from passing cars while climbing the slope and honking. I managed to get into town in the evening without sunset, it is a really small and very nice town. It is located right at the foot of the Ant Mountains, the altitude is around 1,800 meters. In the town center, I took a breather and pedal to where I would stay. Panoramic Hostel. Burak and Kerem used to say “Gürkan, extend your program a little bit, you will love it very much”, and I said that I would decide later. Danny greeted at the entrance to the hostel;

-Hi I’m Danny. Nice to meet you. Welcome.

-Hi I’m Gurkan. I hope you have a room for me, I didn’t make reservation ahead.

-We have rooms. No need to worry. Just relax and drink a cup of coffee.

-Thank you. By the way Kerem and Burak sent their greetings.

-Hmm, are you also Turk? They were very nice people, I missed them.

-Yes, I came here with their suggestion and let me say that you will host many more Turks in the future, because I really liked the place.

Perhaps one day, if someone goes to this town after reading this article, do not rush in your schedule. Stay a few days in this town. Sit on the porch of the hostel and finish the day, make new friends, have breakfast in the town, take a walk among the coffee fields, take time for yourself, relax. It’s a beautiful town and a nice place to relax. Take a coffee tour with Hugo. Even if you don’t like coffee like I don’t, join that tour with Hugo. I would be glad if you do not forget to say that Gürkan from Turkey has many greetings. He will also be happy, he is very nice guy.

Yes, as a person who does not like coffee, I saw the coffee fields in Ethiopia, picked the fruits from the plant, examined and tasted the beans, and also visited the fields in Colombia and learned quite well about it. Thanks to my friend Hugo who helped me. Although I don’t like coffee, it was really enjoyable to see the back of the event. Moreover, you are participating in such a tour, one of the participants is one of the executives of Starbucks, which sells the best coffee industrially. What a coincidence, huh.

The coffee tour I attended was one of those tours that were not cheap. At around 7 in the morning, Hugo took me and the team from the hostel to the center of the company that organized the tour. The content of the tour we were going to was explained, our knowledge about coffee was learned, and then we set off by car. It took us about 1 hour to reach the field. We zigzag through the coffee fields in the Andes and learn how the coffee is processed.

I think we are standing behind a jeep to make the tour because of being little more authentic. The Jeep does not go too fast, a mechanism has been made for us to hold on to the left and right. I hesitated whether some fields were coffee tree fields or banana tree fields.

Now I couldn’t remember the name of the man in the coffee field, it wouldn’t be a problem if I said Juan. He greeted us on the way. A basket in front of him shows us the fruits he has picked from the coffee tree:

When he gave information about the tree, something caught my attention:

-Juan, you planted coffee trees and banana trees side by side, is there a reason?

-Yes you got it nice. The leaves of the banana trees prevent the fruits from burning on very sunny days.

-Only this?

It sounded interesting. I also asked Hugo; “Do you know anything else about it?” He said, “No, there isn’t.” In the following days, I researched the relationship between coffee trees and banana trees, and the effects of fallen bananas  on the plant. I learned that banana trees planted next to the coffee tree increased coffee production by 50% and this practice first started in Africa.

The fruit of the coffee is slightly larger than the fruit we know as a Japanese apple, which is picked one by one from the branch. When I squeeze it with my fingers, a core comes out with a colorless mucous membrane. Here is the coffee bean. The banana tree has increased the number of these beans to two and even three for some fruits. Not only that; has also increased the number of fruits on the branch. There is a link between the banana tree and the coffee tree family. In that case, positive results can be obtained from other matches with the fruits of the same tree species. These fruits, collected one by one from the branch, go to the basket in front of the farmer. During the day, a person collects 300 kg. Even this much is a troublesome task because you cannot pull the fruit from the branch so randomly, you should not damage the branches of the plant.

All of these collected fruits are immersed in a large bucket of water. Fruits that come to the surface or remain on the surface are set aside. In these, either the insect entered the mucous area and affected the development of the beans, or because of another factor, the bean is not good.

The fruits that settle to the bottom are taken out of the water and placed in a sorting machine. Here, the machine separates the fruit from the beans and separates the beans in a mucous state.

From this point on, there are two processes:

1- The beans separated from their shells are placed back in a bucket full of water. Those that remain on the top or those that come to the top later are set aside again, those that sink to the bottom of the hive are collected and left to dry in the sun for about 1 week.

2- Mucous beans are left to dry for 2 weeks after they are removed from their shells without any processing. They call it the honeying or honey procedure.

The beans in the first option are collected at the end of a week and spread out on a large table. There are 14 different bean sizes. They put the big and beautiful ones aside again and leave them to dry on the roof of the house for 1 month or more. They take all other bean sizes to the next stage in order to market them as 1st, 2nd, 3rd quality coffee. This grading process is also done in great detail. Because these are coffee beans sold to the market.

The best coffee beans that are left to dry for a month are not delivered to the Colombian Coffee Federation, nor are they sold in markets or shops. When the producer tries to sell those special coffee beans to the Federation, the Coffee Federation gives the same price as the first quality bean price that will be sold in the market. The farmer sells these special beans, which he has in small quantities, to his customers who will buy them at a good price or he drinks them at home, which I drank from this coffee. If you are good with the host in the coffee fields, you can drink this coffee.

The coffee, which is separated in a dried form, either goes to be roasted or is put in sacks without being roasted and sent to other countries.

At this point, let me share with you another important information I learned from the Coffee Federation in the coffee town we went to. The coffees that go from the field to the drying, from there to be roasted and then packaged to sent to markets or markets abroad. If you send these coffees to the other side of the world, it will not be a problem, it will not rot. Because the packages do not get air, but the unit price is quite high.

On the other hand, the price of coffee beans that are sold in sacks after drying in the sun is more affordable. But there is a problem at that point. The Federation says there is no problem with the quality of the coffee that comes to me in the sack. However, it does not concern me under which conditions the coffee loaded on the vehicle, goes to the market  or abroad and then says that if the product turns out to bed, I will be not interested me. So why does he say that?

  • While the coffee sacks are loaded into the vehicle, if the sack directly touches the metal or the vehicle chassis, the quality of the coffee beans underneath deteriorates. To prevent this, it is imperative to put wooden crates between the coffee sack and the floor. Coffee sacks should never be placed on concrete or metal floors.
  • If there are not only coffee beans in the place where the coffee is loaded, the coffee beans in the sacks will attract the odors from the items and their quality will again decrease. Especially if there is not only coffee in the container that makes intercontinental ocean crossings, it is not possible that the coffee will not be affected. The content of the containers that coffee sacks travel on is important.

When I said, “So in Europe, it would be wiser to prefer coffee beans that will come from Africa”, the coffee federation official nod. In this case, the quality of the coffee that comes from Colombia in airtight packages is better.

Let’s talk about the intensity of the coffee. This process was also interesting for me. I had the opportunity to test both in the field and in the coffee shops. I’m not a coffee lover. I don’t even like coffee or tea. In short, I’m not good with hot drinks. But if I drink coffee and tea, I drink it without sugar and milk. So I drink as intense as I can. But there was another factor of intensity of the coffee, which is the height of the where coffee bean grows. Coffee trees grow between 600 meters and 2,300 meters. While the coffee beans grown in the lower parts are sweeter, the higher the altitude, the higher the acidity in the fruit. I know this by trying the beans from another coffee field I went to were at different altitudes. The elevation difference in the field was 200 meters, the intensity of the coffee beans collected from different areas is really noticeable.

After that day, I started to look at the height behind the coffee bags in Colombia. Families who do their job of high quality write on the back of the bags from what height the beans collected. Wow guys, what have we learned about this magnificent plant. There is more.

The presentation and preparation of the quality coffee service requires care. It’s not easy as I put the coffee in the filter, let’s pour hot water on top of it and take my coffee from the bottom and drink it. You will pour the water slowly into the coffee in the filter from above, and wait when the coffee absorbs the water. It will not flow from the bottom into the glass. You will pour the water over the coffee at the top, and then you will wait. You will see that the aroma of the coffee foam will rise up, then you will pour the water slowly so that it flows through the filter. As you can see, the event turned into a tea ceremony in Japan.

As someone who does not like coffee, I learned a lot about coffee in this area.

It was difficult to leave Buenavista, but I have to keep going. I go back down that beautiful ramp and head towards Armenia city. On the way, a pickup truck, the marbles it carried behind it, broke the rope. Two people are trying to place those marbles in the vehicle, meanwhile 3-4 road cyclists passed by me. Continuing with them crossed my mind for a moment, but these guys were obviously having a hard time. I immediately pulled the bike over and grabbed the marble blocks. They were surprised but also happy. We uncoach the marble blocks from the car, then loaded them regularly back to back and fasten them with a string nicely. We spent an hour on this process, trying to make something from the materials at hand. They said let’s buy a beer in the city in the evening. Unfortunately, I thanked and rejected them for staying somewhere far in the city and continued on my way.

I would not actually stay in the city of Armenia and pass directly to Solento, but there was Juanita Arias Palacio from Colombia who was taking a world tour in this city. She also arrived at her home in Colombia 3 months before me. She started her world tour by bike from Asia, crossed Europe to South America, went all the way to the far end of the continent and headed towards Alaska, and when she arrived in Colombia, she stopped at her home. I called her before I got to the area:

-Juanita, I’m Gürkan, I’m very close to your house right now. Is the situation available for me to stay?

-Welcome to Gurkaaaannn. I’m not in the city, but my house is available, stay at my house. There is only my mother.

-I do not want to disturb. When will you come?

-I’ll be back in two days. Please my home is home.

-Thank you so much. I will let you know.

Before I talked to Juanita, I had looked for places to stay at Warmshowers, there were a few people. One of these people was Juan. I sent him a message:

-Hi, Juan, I’m going around the world on a bike and I’m going to your city tomorrow. If you have the opportunity, I will be glad if you can host me in your home for a day or two.

-Gurkaaaann Gencccc is a Turkish cyclist taking a world tour by bicycle. Of course I have a place. I even own Hotel El Meson, which is located in the center of the city, you can stay there for two days.

-Are you serious?

-Yeah yeah. Let me know when you come, we will go to Salento for dinner.

-Juan I don’t know what to say, thank you very much.

He literally hosted me in his hotel for two days. Apart from that, he took me to Salento for dinner and introduced me to his friends. When I met Mauricio and his wife Laura;

– We have been following you for a long time and we are very pleased to meet you face to face. You travel and write well. We would be delighted if we could ride a bike together on Sunday.

All of these crew members are professionally involved in cycling. They participate in all competitions in the region within the bounds of possibility. They all have their own business. Mauricio and his family have a coffee plantation. The name of the company is Pedaling Coffee @pedalin_coffe. You are both a cyclist and have a coffee plantation, good job hehe. On a Sunday we also rode with all of them. Thanks to these friends, I have visited Finland, another famous coffee town in the region. I was also happy to be able to pedal and meet with this team.

Juanita had arrived at her house and it was time to move to his house. I was going to stay with her for two days. Since she went on a world tour, she gave her house where she was rented and sold her belongings. When she arrived in Colombia, she settled in her mother’s house to rest. She is a person like “My mother is at home, you can go and stay. My house is yours.” When we first saw each other, we hugged each other for a long time.

This hug moment took me back 10 years. When I first saw the Canadian Nathan who was on a world tour in Uzbekistan, we hugged each other for a long time. Perhaps the reason why it is so sincere is that we know well what kind of journey we are making. We know what we may have experienced. Opposite me is a powerful Colombian woman. While drinking our tea after breakfast, she proudly tells what she went through and what she did. A woman who travels the world alone is sitting in front of me. I am listening with admiration. Turkey is coming, I’m excited, let’s see what she will tell about Turkey. She pedaled alone for a while in Turkey, then started pedaling together with a European tour rider she met on the road.

– Your country is a very beautiful country, but I passed Turkey a little faster. Because I didn’t like the way men approach me. Especially at first, I was very anxious. Everyone asks if I am married, if not, they immediately propose a relationship. I faced almost the same harassment in every region from the point I entered the country to the point I left. It wasn’t nice.

I asked her the route she followed. She moved to Greece after the Eastern Black Sea, Central Black Sea, Central Anatolia and Aegean regions. She wanted to travel more but gave up after what she had gone through.

People thought that we, the travelers, are sharing everything we experience on the road, but the vast majority of us do not. I understood the difficulty of traveling as a woman from a backpacking friend many years ago. While reading the memories of the continent she traveled with great pleasure, after a long silence, an e-mail arrived.

– Help me, I don’t know what to do, Gurkan, a lot has happened to you, you always continued.

She was raped in the country she was traveling to. Yes, a lot has happened to me, but there was no answer I could give about it. What could I say? I am very sorry for what she went through. She stopped traveling, stopped traveling, stopped writing. She walked away from everything. Really, traveling the world as a woman is not easy, it is a fact. With my world tour, I started to get to know people and communities better. Over time, I learned to have better empathy. Now, a woman sitting across from me who was disturbed by the harassment in Turkey. I was embarrassed while she was telling. I got goosebumps when these things passed through my head. You may ask that why are you ashamed, Gürkan? The Turkish flag has been flying on the back of my bike for 10 years, I am an individual of that country, I represent my country for years in every country I visit. It is unacceptable, men to come to the question of whether you are single or married and ask for a relationship in places where they take a break all over the country. Okay, you may encounter malicious people in many parts of the world, this is not unique to Turkey, but if you have been harassed from the east to the west of a country, it is obvious that there is a social problem in the relationship between men and women in that country. Anyone who reads this post will also agree.

What a magnificent woman that, after her experiences in Turkey, she could say “Gurkan my home, is your home.”.

  • Juanita, I’m so sorry for this bad experience. If you ever come back to Turkey, I believe that many people will open their houses for you, as well as my home, along the entire route. I will be glad if you know Turkey as your home from now on.

I said this, but it was too late. If I have a chance in the future, I will pay everything from flight tickets to accommodation and take her around the country by bike. I promise. We spent two days together, Juanita gave good details about her country. She will set out again because she wants to go as far as Alaska. She’s currently working and saving money on a tour of Alaska in her city. Who knows, maybe we will meet on the road in the coming months or years and we will pedal together. Yes, continue on your way to Bogota.

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