Colombia

San Agustín, Huila (Colombia)

After 3 months in the city we had itchy feet. We could hear Mother Nature’s call echoing in the wind… convincing us to set off to some place more wild. Also, we just really wanted to go on a nice holiday – drink wine in hammocks, read our books and dreamily throw away our alarm clocks for forever more.

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So we planned a mini adventure during our week off for Semana Santa. First a few days in San Agustín before heading to Putumayo to the edge of the Amazon!

As soon as we arrived in San Agustín we felt this huge sense of relief and calm that we’d been missing in the big city. It sounds cliche, but we needed a big dose of Colombian countryside to magic us back to normal. So the sweet little village of San Agustin seemed like the perfect place for our wine-in-hammock daydreaming...

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Surrounded by hills of forest green, the air felt perfectly fresh and crisp as we ventured from our bamboo cabin each morning. The town itself is quiet and pleasant, with a mixture of quaint streets, artisan shops and friendly locals.

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San Agustín is famous for its archaeological parks and somewhat mystical past. Over 500 ruins and tombstones have been discovered in this area, but incredibly, very little is known about the people who once lived here.

Many of the ruins and carvings here are up to 2000 years old, resembling a mysterious mixture of human, monsters and sacred animals. Visiting the ruins is a pretty nice day activity and is perfect for getting out into the town’s picturesque green surroundings.

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There are a few archaeological sites  to visit, but we just opted for the main one (Parque Arquelogico) which is UNESCO world heritage site and has the main collection! On day two, we did a mini hike to la chaquira, which ends with incredible hillside views that make you feel small in the best way possible. 

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Aside from this, we have to admit that the rest of our time in San  Agustín was happily spent in this little spot...

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But that's what holidays are for, right? 

Life in Cali (March Update)

Here's a little peak into our world this month - the new, the old and the tasty..

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Cali

So we're pretty settled into life in Cali now. After so many months of dorm rooms and travel, our backpacks stuffed full like fat little pastries, we're actually pretty happy to unpack, slow down and have a 'normal person' routine going on for a while. 

Not that we're becoming too normal or applying for a mortgage anytime soon ...(sorry mum).

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But anyway, as far as big South American cities go, Cali is a really cool, energetic place to live. It isn't the prettiest place in Colombia, but there really is such a lively atmosphere here and such a noticeable rhythm of life amongst the peeople.  Caleños are generally very happy people -  the sun shines bright in Cali and they love to dance salsa, so that's probably why!

The central part of the city is loud, busy and unapolagetically chaotic. The hot streets are paved with vendors selling everything from guarapo (sugar cane juice) to tea towels to little pots of shredded mango.

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We're living in San Antonio, a pretty little barrio in the northern part of the city. This is where most of the hostels are, but it's also got good foodie spots (with tons of vegetarian restaurants), nice street art and independent little shops. There's even a beautiful spice shop (La Bascula) with every spice you can think of and different dhals to choose from.

You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find different spices in Colombia, so we were pretty happy cooks when we found ourselves here!

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 Fermenting

Now we've finally got our own place, we've been going a little crazy with fermenting things! This month we've been making fennel infused sauerkraut, pickled jalapenos, fermented carrots with mustard seeds, preserved limes and kombucha.
We plan on doing some recipes for a few of the above soon, but in the mean time here's our recipe for kombucha

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 Watching

One of the best films we've seen recently is 'El Abrazo de la Serpiente' (The Embrace of the Serpent)- A magical colombian film based around indigenous culture and the beautiful nature of the Amazon. Really reccomend this to anyone interested in traveling or different cultures!

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We also watched the documentary 'Cowspiracy' on Netflix recently... Completely mind blowing and a big eye opener to how the meat/dairy industry is effecting global warming right now. It's co produced by Leonardo Dicaprio and is on Netflix if that's a big enough seal of approval! 

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Writing 

30 days of Journalling via The Messy Heads 

I (Gabby) love the messy Heads blog, a really cool online space for creative, messy, cool women! If you like writing or doing a daily journal, this list of prompts is a really self reflective/fun way to change up your writing for a month! 

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Happy Easter everyone! X

Where Cacao comes from (La Candelaria, Minca)

A few weeks ago, in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, we visited La Candelaria- a beautiful, historic farm located in the misty hills above Minca. With organic avocados, bananas, lemons, coffee and cacao growing on the land, we quickly declared this place as farmland-paradise. After a 40 minute hike we were greeted with delicious homemade lemonade and incredible views, before learning all about where chocolate comes from (and tasting as much as possible of course!) 

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Coffee Beans at La Candelaria  

Coffee Beans at La Candelaria  

Roasted Cacao Beans  

Roasted Cacao Beans  

It’s a big statement, but we think it’s fair to say that chocolate is one of the best things on earth. It’s universally and historically loved; a perfect thing in both the best and worst of times in life. 

But the more we’ve pursued our passion for healthy cooking in the past few years, the more our bodies have begun craving chocolate in its purest form. A processed chocolate bar may give you a quick sugar fix, but you miss out on all of the rich, satisfying, healthy goodness that pure cacao contains.

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Unprocessed Cacao is literally full of antioxidants, iron, calcium, magnesium and much more, as well as boosting your serotonin and theobromine levels to make life a little happier. So chocolate is good for your health, but do your research and buy dark and organic whenever possible. The majority of Chocolate plantations use huge amounts of pesticides and fertilisers, as well as being incredibly unethical in how they treat their workers… so fair trade is always better if it’s on offer.

So, all chocolate starts its life growing from a Cacao tree. Each tree produces flowers and fruits, with each fruit pod containing 20-60 cacao beans. When you open up a pod, the beans are coated in a white, sticky and sweet liquid. 

Cacao tree flower  

Cacao tree flower  

A ripe cacao fruit  

A ripe cacao fruit  

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These beans are then fermented for around 7 days, in order to enhance taste and remove any residue. And then the beans are dried for a further 7 days. It's true that good things come to those who wait...

This is where two options happen: either the beans are roasted at high temperatures to produce Cocoa -or the beans are kept raw as Cacao. Raw cacao is a lot richer in nutrients than its processed partner, however Cocoa definitely still has benefits if you avoid products with added sugar.

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At La Candelaria, the beans were slowly roasted on a low heat to preserve nutrients, and then ground them into a paste. This was then moulded into blocks to be used for hot chocolate, homemade chocolates or to add into smoothies. And the most important bit: it tasted incredible, we could have eaten it all afternoon!

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Back in England, we love using raw cacao powder in smoothies, to make energy balls, mixed into porridge or even in our Mexican bean dish.  We've got a couple of simple recipes coming soon to show how we love to use this amazing ingredient. 

In the meanwhile, here’s some photos from our time in Minca; peaceful days amongst the trees, and star filled nights with lots of hot chocolate.

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Our hostel in Minca - Oscar's Place  

Our hostel in Minca - Oscar's Place  

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La Candelaria  

La Candelaria  

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Coffee Beans drying in the sun

Coffee Beans drying in the sun

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What's your favourite kind of chocolate? Have you ever tried using cacao powder? 

Bogotá, Colombia: Part 1 (Plaza de Mercado Paloquemao )

Our idea of a perfect morning would most likely involve breakfast in bed, hot cacao and a wander through a local food market. So after reading about Bogotá's Plaza de Mercado Paloquemao, we couldn't wait to get there and experience true tropical fruit paradise...

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In terms of fresh produce, Paloquemao has just about everything you could imagine... plus plenty of new, amazing fruits to discover! We spent our morning dreamily wandering around the stalls, buying ingredients and feeling like we'd been thrown into a wonderful explosion of colour. 

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True avocado heaven! 

True avocado heaven! 

As well as all the fruit and vegetables, there are also a few small health stalls selling things like bee pollen, Aloe Vera leaves, moringa, quinoa and more! As well as our bags of fruit and veggies, we picked up some local herbs and fresh chamomile for making tea.

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If you're in Bogotá, we definitely recommend heading here to see the incredible displays and do some people watching over a fresh juice. Our favourite combination is banana and passion fruit! The market is located on Calle 19, #25 - 04. 

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For more foreign market inspiration, check out our Indian market experience in Pondicherry here!