All the pics save for the last one were taken in the parking lot of the Christ the King site in Belalcázar. The lot was empty save for our car so I had no qualms about running around to take pictures of the botanical delights on offer. Had there been people about they probably would have thought I wasn’t firing on all cylinders since the main attraction was the thingey on top of the hill.
The stunner in the second pic is (I think, but don’t hold me at gunpoint about it) Bauhinia variegata. The Spanish name is “casco de vaca,” which seems odd since “casco” is the word for motorcycle helmet. “Cow’s Motorcycle Helmet” seems wholly improbable as a common name for any plant, let alone one as ravishing as the one in the pic. So “casco” must have some other meaning that escapes me in my ignorance. I’m happy to stick with Bauhinia, anyway, so I won’t worry my pretty little head over it.
The selfsame wild chrysanthemum in the next two pics grows on the road to Bucari in the mountains of Panay Island in the Philippines. It’s a gorgeous thing and I’ve seen it in several places here in the Coffee Triangle. Maybe Fluellen is right in saying, “but ’tis all one, ’tis alike as my fingers is to my fingers, and there is salmons in both.” There are certainly wild chrysanthemums in both, that much is undeniable.
The flowers of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) are gorgeous, orchid-like inflorescences that make the family as important to horticulturalists as it is to the cooks of the world. I suspect the one in the pic is a wild species. There are lots of wild ginger species casting about the tropics, including the Coffee Triangle where Jack Frost never gets a foot in the door. What a delight to see such a lovely spread of the blooms on the edge of that gorgeous landscape.
The last pic comes from La Rochela where a cocoa plantation is in full swing. There’s a large stand of trees owned by a chocolate company (I have no idea which one but I can report confidently that it’s not Hersheys) on what little piece of flat land La Rochela has to offer. So it’s obviously the king of crops since it gets the best real estate. I’m such a coffeeholic that I’ve not tried Colombian hot chocolate. It’s made with agua panela which puts me off the idea. Agua panela is a concoction composed of raw cane sugar (the panela part) boiled in water (the agua part). Panela is common here. I see it in stores piled high but have never bought it. It looks like the saucer-sized excrescence of some large animal — say, an elephant. Its culinary properties and delights remain outside my zone of delectation. Things were only made worse by seeing a friend order for breakfast one morning agua panela con queso — out came a bowl of steaming brown liquid with a piece of farmer’s cheese thrown into it and some arepas on the side, which are the thick corn griddle cakes that serve as the Colombian answer to the Mexican tortilla. The farmer’s cheese is supposed to melt in the agua panela and the tough, brittle arepas are dipped in to scoop out the goodness. It looked like the dog’s dinner to me and I’d no more order it than ask for a side dish of tripe. I’m a culinary adventurer but I have my limits and they stop well short of agua panela con queso. I’ll stick to my cappuccino and croissant, thanks very much. If I find a toothsome Colombian chocolate bar I’ll waste no time in reporting it. 🙂
Once we reached Chinchiná it was clear sailing on the main highway between Manizales and Pereira. I commented to my friends that it boggles my mind to find the landscapes so different in different parts of the Coffee Triangle. The area of Caldas Department we went through is completely different from the landscapes of Quindío Department, where a plain has been dissected by watercourses into a tableland with steep ravines. The geological complexity and multifariousness of the region continues to astonish me the more I discover it. That’s a thumbs up, not a complaint. The more the geography bends my mind, the better I like it. As we have it from that modern Delphic oracle, Paris Hilton: “There is no sin worse in life than being boring …” Ain’t gonna happen with the landscapes in the Coffee Triangle, trust me.