Through fog and rain to Zona Cafetera

There are places that everyone tells you to avoid and there are places that EVERYONE tells you to go to. So far I’d been mostly visiting the “don’t go there places” in Colombia and had a great time. Over the years I've found that to generally be the case. The places people tell you to avoid are amazing and the ones everyone raves on about are very likely to leave you disappointed.

When something is perceived as great – crowds gather, prices go up and countless regulations on everything are put into place. Nevertheless, when you’re talking about nature, even if things aren’t ideal, they’re still bearable and possibly worthwhile. So, with this thought in mind, I went to Zona Cafetera.

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So, I did what made the most sense. I got rid of my photographic limitations – I bought a drone. 

Zona Cafetera is stunningly beautiful, I was told. I had already seen some stunning beauty during this journey and felt that I was pretty limited in capturing it. On my way to Zona Cafetera I would stay a few days in Medellin – the second largest city in Colombia. For a traveler that means a place to get things you can't get elsewhere. So, I did what made the most sense. I got rid of my photographic limitations – I bought a drone. 

Yes, I do already have two other drones. Phantom 3 and Phantom 4, but the 3 is half-broken and the 4 is in Georgia. The Phantoms are really too large to transport around the world comfortably. I got myself a Mavic, an amazing little piece of technology that I will write about separately at some stage.

My final destination was Salento – a mountain town near Valle de Cocora, which was supposed to be one of the more spectacular of the spectacular places that Zona Cafetera was full of. I decided to take a quiet, minor road, to ensure that I could stop anywhere I wanted, and capture some of the beauty.

It rained on the day of the journey and it was foggy almost the entire way through the mountains. I love the fog, so whenever the rain calmed down I jumped out of the car and took photos – with the drone and without. Above is a little video snippet of some of the scenery along the way.

Lots of horses in Zona Cafetera. Horses are generally scared of drones, at least in my experience. This was half true here. Two horses immediately ran off and the other two just froze and kept staring at the drone. No matter where I moved it, they just kept turning their heads towards it and stared. 

I did some more shopping while at Medellin. I got a rooftop tent for the Landcruiser. My plan is to travel from Colombia all the way south to Argentina, visiting all the countries along the way. I want to go to remote places, to be able to overnight virtually anywhere and, to do it with a bit of comfort. You can make out the rooftop tent in the fog in the photo above, but, it's really more about the ambience, to show what the way was like. 

Large hats seem to be part of the uniform for the coffee farmers. The Colombians in general are very friendly folk, lovely people. Same case in this area. No one seems to mind a quick chat or a photo. I love these chance encounters and capturing the people I see – unposed, virtually not noticing my little Lumix GX80.

I remember the dogs barking and the horses and cows running in different directions before this man appeared out of the fog. I was ready with my camera. He didn't pay attention as I clicked away, just went about his business – talked to the other farmers before they all dissapeared into the fog again.

When I think back on it, I could have spent that entire foggy day just shooting along the road. People would magically appear out of nowhere and dissapear again. 

Our opportunities are always limited. Gotta take advantage of those when they present themselves. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. 

Valle de Cocora was as spectacular as advertised. But... it was also as packed with visitors and as regulated as I imagined too. Don't drive past here. Don't go there without a ticket. Don't camp anywhere outside the designated areas. When I talk about camping by the way, I'm only referring to parking my car and opening up the rooftop tent. Somewhat disappointingly I've come to see that most land in Zona Cafetera is fenced off and private. You can't just find a nice spot and stop there for the night. 

Despite Salento (the neighbouring town) being one of the most pleasant little towns I've been to in recent memory, I decided not to stay long. I want to see as much of Colombia as I can and time is running out.

I didn't have much luck with light in Valle de Cocora. It was overcast most of the time. Braving the morning cold (relative cold) was unrewarded. The sun only appeared when it was already quite high above the horizon. The above image is a drone shot from the afternoon of my arrival. There were a few short windows of light. Our opportunities are always limited. Gotta take advantage of those when they present themselves. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. 

It's time to test the rooftop tent and the Mavic Pro. My next journey will be to somewhere I can do both, and enjoy some more amazing scenery. 

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