After our coffee experience at a farm near Manizales we wanted to keep that flavour going, so we headed to Salento, a little beautiful village in the Colombian coffee region. After having spent most of our time in Colombia without spotting many tourists, it strucked us to see that the amount of foreigners in Salento is pretty damn high. A main reason for that is that this little place is the base camp to go visit the Cocora valley, where you can see the majestic wax palms, Colombian national tree, as well as the highest palms in the world.
The city itself is nice, cosy and colorful, the only thing was that prices in here seem to be slightly higher than the ones we had come across before. As always, after arriving Kasia stood with the bags and I went to knock on some doors to find a nice price for our budget. Quite a surprise was to find out that the cheapest rooms, even in dorms, were around 25k per person, which basically meant spending 90% of our daily budget in lodging. That wasn’t an option. Finally I found a place (hostal luna y sol) where they would let us put the tent, with access to the kitchen and bathroom for 10k each. Now that was more like it. Here’s how our place in Salento looked like:
As the rest of the tourists, we also came here to visit the Cocora valley. We took one day off resting, as Kasia felt quite bad, but the next morning we were ready to go. The transport to the valley is organized in little jeeps called Willy, that for 3.6k give you the ride to the valley. It’s a curios ride as some people sit inside, but also 4 people can stand on the rear end of the jeep, grabbing the top part. This last way of traveling is really amazing and makes you enjoy the landscapes all the way, as well as getting the fresh air straight to your face. Obviously any safety concerns are not considered here, but well, it’s part of the fun!
The valley is breathtaking: the palms, the hills, the fog, the incredible green color all around you, it’s just a great experience.
There are different routes to take there. Most of the people walk up the path for 4.8km, towards the natural reserve called Acaime, where they charge 5,000 pesos for the entry, a hot beverage and a piece of cheese. The place is great for resting a bit, and also for spotting humming birds. Here we finally saw the ones with the long tail, one could just watch these birds fly for hours. The sound when they pass right next to you is incredible, as if a chopper was flying right next to your ear. It’s a really beautiful show to watch.
After resting in Acaime, we decided we wanted to walk more, so we would go to the next stop in the map, called “Estrella de Agua” (Water star). That was 4.3km more uphill. We didn’t know what it was, we thought it would be the pike of one of the mountains, so we started walking up.
The route till Acaime is very pleaseant, only the last part is a bit steep, but not that much. After Acaime though, it’s another story. The path becomes more steep and covered by trees, as you pass by the so called fog forest. In such environment, it’s very normal to get few drops in your head, so it’s good to take your rain coats with you.
It was a very nice hike, with great views around, and all the vegetation surrounding us. It help to enjoy it more the fact that we were alone in this path, we only found a group of teenagers that were heading to the same place. One of them was dying after every 100 meters, so their pace wasn’t quite like Usain Bolt running for his life.
After having walked few kilometers we saw that the path was not going to lead us to the top of any hill, so we started to wonder where the hell where we going and why. As we already had walked a lot, we decided to continue until we would reach the end, where as it turned out, a nice little house was placed in the middle of a pretty big flat area. The owner sold us a hot beverage, we rested for a while listening to the man’s stories and then headed back with a strange feeling of accomplishment. We really hoped to get amazing views of the valley from one of the pikes, but instead we saw a house surrounded by mountains. It was though still an almost 20km hike through amazing landscapes, more than good enough.
On the next day, Kasia found that in Salento there was a place where you could play Tejo. Tejo is the crazy game we were told about in Bogota, the one involving gun powder and little explosions. The Spanish petanca with dynamite. Of course, if one gets the chance to explode little papers filled with gun powder by throwing a metal ball at them from a certain distance while having a beer, one just does that. We didn’t expect the explosion to be that big. Yes, the building didn’t shake and nobody flew away by the expansion wave, but trust me, it’s a pretty big boom. Turns out we were pretty damn good at this! And it was a great deal of fun also, we Europeans are so much behind when it comes to this kind of entertainment.
Back in Salento we had one last spot we wanted to visit called “La Aldea del Artesano” (The craftsman village). In there, one of the neighbors organized a nice little path with many different trees and plants from all over the country, and each of them has a little label explaining its properties and uses. After we finished the path, we were really lucky the woman saw us from her balcony and invited us up to show us her and her husband’s work. It was really amazing, these guys did everything out of recycled materials: lamps, music instruments, bracelets, shelves, you name it! It was funny when her neighbour from the house next door joined us and when introducing himself I realized he was a fellow Catalan! He had been living in Salento already for quite some time and had bought a coffee farm. He told us great stories and gave us good advice to work and travel abroad and also gave us some of his coffee grains. We were talking for quite some time and when it got dark it was time for us to go. Salento is a very touristic place indeed, but all places that have this much to offer tend to be, it didn’t prevent us from enjoying very very much our time there, highly recommended!