What do coffee and a game of explosives have in common? A little coffee-growing, Tejo-throwing town called Salento, that’s what.
After a month-long siesta in Buenos Aires (yup…we loved it so much we went back), we are now on the road again. This time we’re exploring the once off-limits Colombia. After spending our first few days in the country in the capital city of Bogota, we were itching to indulge ourselves in Colombia’s “other drug,” coffee.
To our surprise it’s actually a bit difficult to find a great cup of joe in the big cities of Colombia, a country known worldwide as one of the top coffee-growing nations. Turns out that Colombians export their best beans and keep the second tier crop for themselves.
So to get our fix, we planned a short trip straight to the caffeine source, a coffee growing region in the hills northwest of Bogota, known as the “coffee triangle,” and its little charming town of Salento.
After about 10 hours on buses from Bogota, we arrived to Salento on a Sunday evening, and the main square was buzzing with food vendors and musicians that gather there every weekend. We were excited for our little “getaway” and some good espresso.
Salento didn't disappoint. We did in fact find some good java at the fincas (farms) surrounding the town. We took tours to learn about the process and gained a new appreciation for our daily morning jolt. However, the coffee didn’t end up being the highlight of this getaway.
One night after spending the day hiking the Cocora Valley with its famously tall wax palm trees (the tallest in the world), we wandered into a little hole-in-the-wall bar, called Los Amigos. It looked empty, but didn’t sound empty. After passing through two large vacated rooms, we followed the screams, shouts and explosions to the bar’s backside.
Out back we found a covered area with dirt floors, free-flowing beer, and lots of screaming men throwing rocks at explosives. Coffee may be what gets you up in Salento, but this game is what will keep you up. The game is called Tejo and you get to blow stuff up!
Although you might have guessed fútbol to be the national sport in Colombia, it’s not. As of the year 2000 Tejo is, and it’s particularly popular around these parts.
The game started hundreds of years ago in Colombia prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. However, it was the Spaniards that added the explosives to it. High-class establishments exist for playing the game, but by and large it’s a sport of the popular class.
The particular bar we played the game at housed three lanes about 20-30 meters long with the width of bowling lanes. The game is a bit like our American lawn game, cornhole, but instead of wooden backboards, you have clay, and instead of tossing harmless beanbags at a hole in the wood, you toss steel discs (“tejos”) at little paper triangles filled with gunpowder (“mechas”). Points are scored for landing your tejo on the clay board, hitting the center of the board, and, of course, hitting and thus blowing up the mechas.
Gambling is often involved and the looser has to pick up the tab for the beers and the rental of the tejo court, or in the case of our group, the cost of fixing the light bulb that was broken by a rogue steel disk and an inexperienced player.
Kapow! Good times.
To watch the new up and coming Tejo champion at work (that’s me!), and see one of the explosions, watch this video:
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!