I mainly go trekking in the Department of Antioquia, within a three hour radius by bus from the Metropolitan area of Medellin which includes Envigado, where I live. A Department in Colombia is like a State in North America or a County in Britain. To the south of Antioquia is the Department of Caldas where I have also been trekking on one occasion. Medellin is the capital of Antioquia and the capital of Caldas is Manizales. In total there are thirty-two Departments that make up Colombia. In the future I hope to explore further afield and trek in many other parts of Colombia.
However, what has a more detrimental effect on my energy or physical strength when hiking in Colombia is actually when I am at the lower altitudes, because that invariably means that the temperature is higher and the heat really saps my energy and I struggle. I much prefer walking at 1500 m or higher, 2000 m is perfect.
Usually the lower the altitude when trekking in Colombia the more liquid you will need to carry with you. I usually take one and a half litres, or two if it is going to be hot. Each litre of liquid weighs approximately one kilogram so add that to the weight of my camera, my cape in case it rains and some food and i guess I start out my treks carrying about four kilograms or maybe a little more. I certainly notice the reduction in weight as I consume the liquid. Occasionally we encounter small shops where we can buy some refreshments, though it's not common and often the choice is limited and the drinks not that chilled and therefore not very thirst quenching
It is not certain when coffee arrived in Colombia, but it's possible that it came with Jesuit priests in the seventeenth century. What is know is that the first export was in 1835, when 2,500 pounds of coffee was shipped from Colombia to the United States.
The coffee grown in Colombia is the Arabica bean which originated in the mountains of Eastern Africa.It needs specific climate conditions for its cultivation, the ideal conditions being altitudes between 1,200 m and 1,800 m above sea level, temperatures between 17 and 23 degrees centigrade, and about 200 cm of rainfall per year. I'm not sure if higher temperatures are good or bad for coffee production, but since I first came to Colombia in 1980, the maximum temperature in the region has risen from 28 degrees to 32 or more at times.
Another important factor is the soil quality, and in the coffee growing regions where I walk it is common characteristic, especially in Caldas, that the earth is mixed with volcanic ash, and this favours coffee cultivation.
In the coffee plantations I see when I am walking in the mountains it is common to see the coffee bushes growing alongside plantain which provides partial shade. Many of the plantations are small and often they are on the steep slopes of the mountains which makes the harvesting very hard and labour intensive. Often I see coffee beans laying on sacks in the sun to dry or occasionally in an old fashioned drying contraption as shown in the photograph below. maybe this drying contraption has an official name but I have no idea what it could be.
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