Published on April 21st, 2013 | by Charu Suri
4 In Colombia, Kayak a Glacial River and Go Coffee Picking
As I make my way to the Juan Valdez Café on East 57th Street in New York City, I was excited to meet Mr. Vadez himself, ever since practically inhaling a cup of Arequipe Latte a few years ago. Arequipe is Dulce de Leche, and also a traditional Colombian dessert, fondly referred to as manjar blanco. The latte tastes faintly like toffee and is sweet but not saccharine, and hardly overdone. Paired with delicious Colombian coffee, it is practically heaven.
“For years Colombia has been struggling with its image,” says Daniel Reyes, Communications Director. “We need to tell the world what we have because most people don’t know us mostly because we haven’t been loud enough.” And as part of a new international strategy to attract fresh consumers and new eyes to the country, Colombia chose New York City for its cultural display in Times Square between April 18 to April 28.
The Ibero-American Festival is the largest theater festival in the world
Colombia is home to hundreds of coffee plantations, almost all in the Colombia Coffee-Growers Axis
Cartagena, Colombia’s walled city, now has three non stop flights from New York per week
Bogota is an impressive metropolis
Cultural mini-displays are an excellent way to get into the spirit of a country, and visitors can enjoy the presence (and pipes) of two-time Latin Grammy winner, Fonseca, along with coffee from legend mascot Juan Valdez. The sweetly decked Queen of the 2013 Barranquilla Carnival, Daniela Cepeda Tarud, is a lively young thing, and leader of the local Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia. The display will feature some of the items the country is known for, including 5,000 Colombian flowers since Colombia is the second largest exporter of flowers in the world.
The clincher is an auction of six unique cultural experiences the country has to offer (think: a coffee trip to Colombia with Juan Valdez). All the social media interaction happens from 3-5:30pm on 46th and Broadway. To win, you need to download an app and convince your friends on social media that you can win. “Times Square is the crossroads of the world and you have people coming there every minute of the day,” says Daniel, explaining the rationale.
Colombia gives you several regions all neatly packaged into one country: from whale watching, glacial river kayaking, hike the only snow-capped mountain at sea level in the world to a brilliant coastal carnival (Barranquilla), the country woos luxury, adventure, family travelers alike. “This is the only place in the world you can kayak on glacier water, all the way into the Caribbean Ocean,” says Reyes. Needless to say, the country produces some of the best coffee in the world.
It’s one of those places where you can, as an eco-lover, help rear a whale, relive history in a walled city (Cartagena), and go coffee picking after kayaking. Sighting of humpback whales in the Colombian Pacific is one of those memories that don’t come by as often as a Starbucks store; if you’re an arts and culture lover, take in the Ibero-American Festival, the largest theater festival in the world.
“I’m not going to try to compete with Macchu Pichu,” says Reyes. “But we do have treasures and drives and beaches that are world class.” From family travel, cultural itineraries to luxury, there’s a slice of the Colombia cake for just about every type of traveler. Now, Cartagena / New York offers three flights a week, and Bogota/ New York offers three flights a day, so direct accessibility from the East Coast is a non-issue.
Side note: did you know it is the largest exporter of auto parts to the U.S.? Reyes laughs as my jaw drops and says, teasingly, “See, this is not the country you thought you knew.”
For New Yorkers who want to win one of six cultural dream trips to Colombia, stop by Times Square (near 46th and Broadway, right in front of the TKTS Bleachers) and try your luck. Visit TheAnswerisColombia.co to download the app.