While in Colombia, we spent two weeks volunteering on yet another great project we found through Workaway: an eco-tourism Bed & Breakfast (B&B) called “Finca Agrreste”. The name is inspired from the word “agreste” with one “r” which means “savage” or “wild” in Spanish. The property lies a few hours North of Bogota, between the towns of Nemocon – known for its salt mine – and Suesca.
The manager, Felipe Galindo, used to work in petrochemical engineering. Today, he manages six B&B properties in the general region of the capital city of Bogota. One of the properties, “Casa Agrreste”, belongs to him and has been a highly rated Booking.com and AirBnB rental since 2015. The others are newer additions to his portfolio, but also centered around finding a comfortable home away from home where delicious food can be enjoyed with great views and in pleasant company.
It was fascinating to hear about his environmentally-friendly concept for an Agrreste brand, which he wants to become synonymous to zero waste.
During our time at Finca Agrreste, we shared the space with a rooster we nicknamed “Roosty” who never ceased to amaze us with his singing voice and ability to seduce wild chickens into coming home with him (true story).
On most days, we gave the house some tender love and care – repainting ceilings, rooms, a bathroom, and door and window frames as well as fixing cracks in the walls. We also turned some old animal feeding troughs into planters, built a compost, and (I admit, with the help of 60-year old Jairo, his garden hoe, and his tireless back muscles) started a vegetable garden! That included everything from design to soil prep, planting and nurturing seeds, and planting a first round of veggies: potatoes, garlic, and carrots among others.In-between the days of DIY, we never tired of seeing the myriad butterflies dance around the meadow in the afternoon sun, or of winding down by the fire as we watched the sun set through the trees. All wonderful reminders that living life in the slow lane can be absolutely off-the-charts wonderful.
We welcomed a few guests over the weekend. Rose petals for the couple celebrating an anniversary, and dinner for all. We made spaghetti with a tomato sauce full of veggies, deemed “spicy” because of the black pepper we mixed in (turns out Colombians have a very low tolerance level for spice, who knew). It must have tasted ok though, because they asked us what the name of the recipe was! That caught me off guard because we don’t cook with a recipe book, so from now on in case of doubt I might just say it’s my grandmother’s recipe. Knowing her, she would approve.
Sunday morning, we served pancakes and scrambled eggs – with arepas (a Colombian staple, made of maize flour and water) of course, followed a few hours later by one of our specialties for lunch: oven baked veggies with ginger honey garlic chicken.
Our time with Agrreste wasn’t all work (aside from the butterflies and sunsets), either. We took a day off to go to the salt mine in Nemocon, which is where they filmed “The 33” and have spectacular underground water mirrors. A few days later, as a belated birthday present for Francois, we made our way to Sopo to go paragliding with Parapente Paraiso! To state the obvious, flying is amazing.
To wrap up our two weeks, we went to Villa de Leyva for a day and a half to stay at the B&B there (Villa Agrreste) – a beautiful house with fossils encrusted in the walls! – and test an excursion to potentially be offered to clients. That meant visiting easy-access waterfalls at La Honda before venturing into almost unchartered territory full of dense vegetation to another wilder waterfall. Ten minutes into the hike we could see our objective, the nameless waterfall. It seemed almost unattainable. An hour, a few mosquito bites, and quite a bit of sweat later, we made it! We were apparently the first foreigners to set foot there, so after we went for a swim – in water that reminded me of Switzerland given how cold it was! – the land owner and Felipe had the idea that we should name the place. To stay within the theme of the lifestyle brand, we suggested “Cascada Agrreste”…
By the time we got back to Bogota a few days later, we were more ready than ever to embark on our own eco-tourism journey in Portugal. But first, we had to make it to Bolivia by bus, spend a month in my motherland, and a month in Costa Rica. Stay tuned to see how that went.