The place sounded familiar when two travelers told me I must go there, but it didn’t really register until my friend Joan assured me I would like it as well.
We were at a coffee shop, Java Bean Café, a place I go for the best desserts in the city, and on this day I was there because Joan wanted to leave a bag of coffee with Jessie, one of the owners. Joan’s family has a coffee farm in Huila, one of the country’s southern departments, most famous for the archeological park in San Agustín.
We all got to talking and Joan told me about Alejandría, a town about three hours east of Medellín with several outdoor activities, the same town those travelers told me about when we were relaxing in San Jerónimo at Hostal La Finca.
Joan and I later touched base on Facebook, but before I could ask him more about Alejandría and the Golden Elephant Hostel, he asked me to connect him with Jessie, so he could find out what Jessie thought about the coffee.
I named the conversation, “Coffee Bromance,” and thanks to some careless and innocuous dialogue, I was able to have more fun with this than I thought I could.
Joan: “So what did you think?”
Jessie: “I really liked the taste.”
Me: “Are you guys talking about coffee or writing a script for gay porn?”
After a bunch of laughs and the birth of a new joke that is still going strong, I got a little more information from Joan about Alejandría and started planning my trip.
A handful of friends ended up coming with me, two of them opening their own café soon so I put them in contact with Joan as well, a Facebook chat I naturally named, “Coffee Bromance 2.”
The first one was so successful, a sequel was obvious, right?
Like most sequels, this one was lame too. No great dialogue to twist into something else, but I didn’t care at this point.
I was happy I’d be discovering a new pueblo, and that I would have friends with me on the trip.
Alejandría is a small town, home to only 4,000 people, and everybody knows everybody.
The hostel is just outside the town, along the river, which is key for the best activity you can do here.
There are two private rooms and three dorms and the owner, Diego, lives there too.
I was surprised when I emailed him to make the reservation. Even though I wrote everything in Spanish, he responded in perfect English. Turns out he grew up in California, obvious by the strong west coast accent I heard upon meeting him in person.
He left Medellín when he was 8, but returned to open the hostel last year, to show people the natural beauty of Alejandría. Both his parents are from Colombia.
Diego got the name for his hostel because gold is abundant in the mines around the town, and elephants are a symbol of prosperity in many cultures.
I mentioned that Joan had made a strong recommendation to visit the place and Diego appreciated that. I later told him the coffee bromance story, and he laughed and laughed.
That first night I went into the town but it wasn’t a wild night, even though it was for some of the locals enjoying the holiday weekend. I wanted to wake up the next day to see the sights around the town.
We walked to the big waterfall in the morning, a walk that took us about an hour or so roundtrip, then we headed back to the town for lunch. We later went to the natural swimming pools but it was not a good day for it.
The town got a lot of rain the night before, which brought the dirt from the mountains into the river, muddling the water. Too bad I can’t predict the weather.
I was disappointed but getting upset at Mother Nature is like being mad after buying a losing lottery ticket.
The last day saved the trip.
Diego loaded up the truck with large tubes and we went to the bridge that serves as the edge of the town before, Concepción. From there we would ride the tubes down the river, all the way back to the hostel.
You can jump into the water from the bridge, maybe 20 feet high, or walk down a trail and get in. Three of us elected to jump.
This was nothing, I thought, because I used to jump off an 8-story cliff into the Wailuku River in Hilo, my hometown in Hawaii.
Man, have I gotten old. The jump from that little bridge gave me a bit of a rush.
In the water we watched as a cow swam from one side of the river to the other, unable to get past the fence, so it swam back shortly after.
The current eventually picked up and we floated down the river, a couple of places with minor rapids, nothing more than class 2, but fun nonetheless.
It took about 45 minutes to get there and by then we were pretty hungry. We went into town for some typical Colombian food, about the only option you have out there, other than a pizza place that I never tried but others said it was decent.
I haven’t seen Joan since I have been back in Medellín and I have been meaning to tell him that I enjoyed the trip, thanks for the recommendation.
He messaged me recently but only to tell me he got another shipment of coffee so I asked if he had talked to Jessie, and he said, “No, he hasn’t responded to my messages.”
I knew what I had to do. I created a new Facebook conversation among us, what I called, “DON’T LET THE BROMANCE DIE!!”
I included a clip of the famous ending scene in Jerry Maguire, but put my own spin on it.
“Come on, guys,” I said, “we know how this is going to go…”
Jessie: You complete me.
Joan: Shut up! Just shut up! You had me at I really liked the taste.
Ryan’s stay was compliments of the Golden Elephant Hostel, and the featured photo was compliments of Bryan Dodd.