26.08.2016 – 29.08.2016
Huh? What happened? Did we seriously arrive EARLIER in Pereira than we were supposed to arrive? That’s something new for us, since most of the time indications of our Colombian friends so far failed miserably and we always arrived later than expected! 🙂 Well, 5am in Pereira, waiting for our next bus to Salento, which doesn’t leave until 6:40am. Lucky us that Colombians have great coffee and the bus terminal is filled with cafés and bakeries. Our bus ride was comfortable, although we didn’t sleep that much… one reason for our lack of sleep might have been the temperature in the bus, which was probably around 15C!
Stunning nature and green green green – that’s what we see the closer we get to Salento. This small mountain village is surrounded by a beautiful landscape inviting us to do some hiking and coffee tours during the next 3 days. We enjoy another cup of coffee and coca tea on our mountain view terrace in the hostel and – another surprise! Who is sitting there next to us? James, our friend from the sailing trip San Blas! 🙂 In the end, the world can be a small village and sooner or later you meet your travel companions again. Unfortunately, James was about to leave Salento with Nush, another friend from the boat and we said “hi” and “good-bye” at the same time.
Our day started in the afternoon with a nice walk through the landscape of Salento and we ended the tour at a small coffee plantation, where we learnt more about their business, had some coffee (I think by now, we might be addicted to at least 3 cups of coffee a day), and met Ali & Pieter, an American couple, as well as Frauke, a girl from Germany. We decided to extend our walk and all together took the longer way back, having lunch on the way. For the next day, we agreed to go visit the Cocora Valley Park together and start early in the morning at 7:30am.
Everyone was very punctual the next day when we met at the main plaza to hop on one of the Jeeps called “Willy”, which would bring us fully loaded with people to the park. Well, that’s also something typical Colombian to us: only when the vehicle is packed up to the last millimeter of possible space, the driver starts the engine – so thoughtful in an economical way. 😉 Another girl joined our group, who we invited from our hostel to join us for our day trip: Emma from New Zealand. What we read about Cocora Valley sounded promising and it is actually quite famous:
In a country full of beautiful landscapes, Cocora is one of the most striking. It stretches east of Salento into the lower reaches of PNN Los Nevados, with a broad green valley framed by sharp peaks. Everywhere you’ll see palma de cera (wax palm), the largest palm in the world (up to 60m tall). It’s Colombia’s national tree. Set amid the misty green hills, they are breathtaking to behold [read more on: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia/valle-de-cocora/introduction#ixzz4JaVemimf].
We expected a lot from our hiking day…our expectations were exceeded. This tour was one of the richest in variety we have done so far and we enjoyed it a lot! We started the hike walking the left trail (you can choose between right and left) and it mainly lead us through dense cloud forest trails steadily uphill. Unfortunately, after 1 hour our friend Frauke needed to return to the valley feeling very sick. We continued uphill, narrow trails and beautiful views over the valley were our reward.
After 2 hours, Cocora Valley astonished us again with an amazing vast overview of the region.
Continuing further through forest trails, we reached our first destination “Acaime”. It’s a small cottage where you can find plenty of hummingbirds feeding and the owner offers hot chocolate with cheese…yes, with cheese! Quiet a new mix. 😉 With new strength in the legs, we made our last 2 hours back to the start of our trail, which led us mainly though grassland and we felt like being in a movie set of “Lord of the Rings” – that’s how great the nature was! We rewarded ourselves with a great dinner this evening and went happy but exhausted to bed.
The next day was a Sunday, so we decided to take it easy and rent some mountain bikes – no hiking today! 😉 Approximately after 5 minutes on the bike I realized that “taking it easy” on a mountain bike in that region is impossible…it was actually hell. 🙂 Anyway, we enjoyed nice roads, a short trip to a waterfall and then real hell began. The last 2km of our trip was a concrete road, winding its way to the village, steadily uphill. In the lowest gear and with one small break we made it all the way up, but it was so exhausting! We were more than happy to return the bikes and get off that uncomfortable saddle at the end of the day, haha.
Our last evening in Salento we spent playing the famous local game “Tejo”, which rules are basically to throw a stone on small gunpowder filled envelopes and make them explode – we threw stones from a distance of 4m, the locals, however threw them from 15m!
Good night, Salento, it was wonderful here! But now we wanna discover the next city in Colombia. It used to be the most dangerous city in the world a couple of years ago and when we hear the name of it, we think of the criminal history and get goose bumps…Medellin, we’re coming! 🙂