Oh Jardín (Har-dean). The sweet, quaint, Pueblo town in the heart of the mountains, right on the outskirts of the coffee region. This is where we spent our second half of the trip.
After exploring and LOVING all the hustle and bustle of Medellín (you can read Part 1 of our trip to Colombia here), we were excited to slow down a bit and figured the mountains were the perfect place to do it. We could explore when we wanted to explore and sit and read a book when we wanted that pace instead.
I’m so darn glad we decided to split up our trip this way. We got to know a bit of the city and we got to know a bit of the mountains. We stayed in a rustic house (aka no hot water or electricity - read on my friend), took a once in a lifetime horseback trip through the jungle, and got to meet and interact with different people in Jardín through street photography.
Here’s a bit of what we did.
DAY 5: THE MOUNTAINS
I left off the story with the drive to the mountains. Let me reiterate just how darn obnoxious this ride was. Up and down and over and left and right and then hard left again around the mountains as we made our way from Medellín to Jardín.
Luckily the views were incredible and it was totally worth being awake for it all. We passed so many fincas (ranch-ish, country-esque style homes) with cows, often accompanied by the white, cattle egret bird, slowly grazing the terraces, and around each curve was a new view that took our breath away.
When we arrived in Jardín, it was like we STRAIGHT UP stepped back in time. We heard hooves on the cobblestone road as a man on a horse trotted past us. All the men were wearing cowboy hats and had a poncho thrown over their shoulder and everyone and their grandma was out and about in the main square drinking coffee and spending time together on a lazy Sunday.
We had to find our way via tuk-tuk (enclosed, 3 wheeled motorcycle cab) to our previously booked Airbnb which was just a little ways out of town. As we started driving away from the main square, we could hardly handle how magical this place was.
The Chocolate House is a “rustic” experience. It has no electricity or hot water, an open door plan (yes door, not floor) and was built by hand 30 some years ago. Legit, they went out and harvested the bamboo, guava trees, and whatever else they needed to make this thing be one with nature. We're just as confused as you are as to why it's called the "Chocolate House" and still don't have an answer for ya.
And while I’m ALWAYS down for an adventure, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of this place. However, like most things Scott plans for us, it was better than we could have even hoped for.
We arrived and met with Gladys, the lady who built this sanctuary and lives nearby. She didn’t speak much English but you know those people who are a shining light the moment you meet them? That was Gladys. She welcomed us with multiple hugs, side kisses (ask Scott about this one), and in a way that you could literally feel her soul. She’s one of those people that made me feel the way I hope I, even in some small way, make others feel.
We got a rundown of the house and just like that, Gladys was gone. We were in our new home, surrounded by the mountains, the birds, and all things nature for the next three nights.
We headed into town and on the way a giant red bird flew right over my head and into the tree outside of our house. The well known, but elusive Cock-of-the-Rock had a place of its own right where we were staying. We knew this place was pretty special.
Every blog we read said that one of the main things to do in Jardín is just people watch. We grabbed some street food and some coffee and did just that. If there's one thing I learned in Colombia it's that it's always the right time for coffee. We very quickly adjusted to this new, slower pace of life.
DAY 6: SUPPER IN THE CANDLELIGHT
It rained all morning. We took our time enjoying the morning and cooked up eggs, rice, and instant coffee with leftover milk from the people who stayed before us. Keep in mind we didn’t have a fridge. It’s funny how quickly we adapt to our surroundings and are suddenly perfectly fine with the milk and eggs sitting out for more than a day. We’re still alive and well amiright?
Once the rain went away, we ventured off hiking down a path next to our home. We were told there were waterfalls up ahead. Man oh man we just took our sweet time getting lost and taking photos of the mountains around us. Ok, we never got lost but it was just so darn peaceful out there. The banana trees, animals, fincas, water, birds, insects, cows, terraces….we loved just getting outside and being in nature.
Then, we headed into town to buy food for the next few days. A way to save money while you travel is to make some of your own meals and we were excited for the challenge of doing it in the Chocolate House. We loaded up on plantains, rice, and candles and headed back to our place.
We had the best time setting up all the candles, getting our Luci lights (they were a lifesaver on this trip) ready, and cooking supper on two little propane burners. It makes you feel like you can do just about anything when you conquer even the simplest of challenges while traveling.
DAY 7: THE MOST RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME EXPERIENCE WE’VE EVER HAD
I was startled awake at 6:45 the next morning. Someone or something was downstairs. We didn’t even have doors so it wasn’t too hard to believe that a mystery was down there. Lucky for us it was a someone, however, later in the trip two dogs diiiid found their way into the kitchen. Scott made his way down and chatted with a gal from the Airbnb who was helping us with a guide trek. There was a change of plans and we were to meet our guide at 9 am. We made breakfast and watched the birds again and then headed out for our adventure.
We walked up to the house and lo and behold, 3 horses and a man named Allibarro were waiting for us. He spoke even less English than we did Spanish. That didn’t stop us from communicating though, we just didn’t do it with words more like acting and hand gestures and learning new words as we went. We hopped on our horses and took off. The ride was easy at first. We went up the side of a mountain trotting through what looked like Scotland-esque countryside with vivid green grass and cows lazily grazing the terraces around us. I swear it was a dream. Seriously, I can't even count the number of times Scott said, "Oh my gosh, what!?" on this trip.
Suddenly, the terrain took a drastic change and we were in straight up jungle my friend. ANNDDDD going straight up. These horses freaking worked their horseshoes right off. They were climbing switchback after switchback up and up and up the side of the mountain with loose rock, boulders, and full on rivers in their path. At one point there was a boulder as high as my hip and the horse had to JUMP AND TURN all at once to stay on the path…..WITH ME ON IT! We were getting whacked by tree branches and bees in our hair and every so often Allibarro would whip out his machete and chop down said branch AFTER he had brought up the rear. It was ridiculously funny and fun and I wanted to ask Allibarro, but instead I just kept asking Scott, how in the heck we were going to get back down this thing! You guys. I'm not exaggerating one bit. This was the most ridiculous thing we've ever done. It was steeper than any trail we've ever physically hiked on foot and we were on horses. HORSES! And they were slipping! And there were cliffs! And waterfalls and rapids and you'll just have to believe me on this one.
Finally, we came to a spot where we tied up the horses and followed Allibarro through a barbed wire fence. Remember, we couldn’t communicate very well with him and we weren’t sure what this trek was all about. Basically, every new leg of the journey was a surprise and we never knew what we should be expecting. It made it that much more exciting.
We started hiking down a path that looked like grasslands. Then, again with a sudden change, we were back in the jungle. We started descending the side of the mountain, using ropes that the guides had tied to roots of the trees to help us on our way down, and climbing up and over obstacles along the path. We hiked and hiked and hiked, crossed a couple rivers and then hiked some more and suddenly reached our destination, a clearing of open rock area with a giant waterfall. It was straight up magic. I got teary-eyed, it was just so beautiful.
Allibarro had lunch for us, he handed us two square meals wrapped in giant green banana leaves. Inside was a homemade, traditional Colombian meal, bandeja paisa made up of rice, beans, plantains, chicken, chicharrón, potatoes, and a boiled egg. We ate like kings and was the best meal we had in Colombia. (Isn't it funny how EVERYTHING tastes better when you eat it in nature? Like why does a simple turkey and cheese sandwich taste like freakin heaven on a sandy beach in the summertime?)
We headed back up and took a detour to another waterfall and then found our way back to the horses. It was time to go down and it was just as terrifying as I’d suspected. The worst part? We had to walk the horses a few times. Imagine holding on to a rope next to this GIANT million pound animal while you’re trying to find your own footing on the loose rock and it’s trying to find its footing on the loose rock and you’re just praying that you both make it back without any broken bones or falling off the side of the mountain episodes.
At the home stretch of making our way back, there was a flat part and suddenly the horses took off like bandits and started STRAIGHT UP GALLOPING like two Kindergarteners racing in the Olympics. I held on for dear life as the binoculars around my neck bounced every which way and I avoided death by tree branch decapitation. We pulled up to the house, tears in our eyes from laughing so hard and just the magic of the day. Those are the best kinds of moments, the best memories. The ones where you weren’t expecting much and you leave without words to even begin to describe what you just experienced.
We rinsed off in the nearby waterfall and spent the evening carving and reading in the hammocks overlooking the mountains. We made another meal by candlelight and reminisced about the day that was already one of our favorite travel memories.
DAY 8: A DAY IN JARDÍN
We had one more night in Jardín but this time we would spend it in town. We had a late breakfast and spent as much time as we could at the Chocolate House before heading down the mountain.
We booked a $16, yes…$16 private room, complete with personal bathroom, in a hostel right in the main streets of Jardín, with not one but TWO balconies. We spent the evening walking around and taking photos. One of Scott’s favorite things is to do street photography while we travel. He loves getting to photograph people and scenes in new places.
We ended the night with pizza, wine, and Monopoly Deal while people watching in the main square.
DAY 9: OUR LAST DAY
We woke up and went straight to have coffee in the main square with the locals. When they said people watching was a thing, they weren’t lying!
We spent the rest of the day buying gifts for our family and taking more photos along the way. Scott had a really cool interaction with a group of ladies while taking their photo. You can read about it on his Instagram but that’s truly one of the reasons we love traveling the most, getting to interact and peek into the lives of people from a totally different place.
We hopped on the bus at 2 pm and 2 bus rides, 3 flights, and 27 hours later we were back in Detroit with a 4 hour drive still ahead of us. It was all worth it.
Colombia was seriously one of our favorite trips. It was just so unexpected. The people, the history, the mountains. Everything about it we loved. There's so much to explore and we're already excited to go back (seriously, Lost City trek anyone?)
I would love to answer any and all questions you have about Colombia and if you’ve ever been there, hear what you think and how it compared to our trip. Leave me a comment below!
Hasta luego mis amigos,
Here are 5 things we’re glad we packed for our trip in Jardín.
Luci Lights: These were a lifesaver, especially in the Chocolate House. We’d let them charge during the day and use them at night to help light the house.
Monopoly Deal: This is our new favorite game. Monopoly in under 15 minutes. We would grab a coffee or a beer and play while people watching for hours!
Drone: We love love love our travel drone. It fits right into our day bags and goes with us everywhere.
Google Pixel: These are our phones and we got them specifically because of the quality of photos they take. They’re ridiculously good and the majority of photos in this blog were taken with them.
Moment Lens: This is a wide angle lens that attaches to the case on our phone. We use it ALLLLLL the time!