Salento, Colombia: Hiking by the highest palm trees in the world

IMG_3179The next stop on our week’s holiday was Salento. Again, it’s in the coffee destination and it a popular trip as the Valle de Cocora is nearby with an incredible hike and the highest palm trees in the world. From Armenia it took just under 3 hours on a mini bus.

Once we arrived at the non-existing bus terminal, we walked about 10 minutes to our hostel to check in and drop off our bags. Then, we wandered to a recommended café not too far from the centre. Brunch de salento café is tiny, and once we step through the door, we thought initially, we would be able to eat here, but they gave us the film room outback with sofa and propped up some table. On the menu, there is a variety of food from MexicIMG_3169an to burgers to curry to desserts and a mixture of drinks. The prices are mid-range so not as cheap as a meal of the day from Colombia but also not as expensive as England. I decided to go for their peanut butter brownie with ice-cream, which was mouth-watering, full of flavour, chocolatey. It was an awesome choice as I just love peanut butter and brownie and ice-cream. What more would you want? All the other food, sweet and savoury, which was bought out were huge positions as well as delicious. After dying and going back to heaven, we paid for our food and wandered back to our hostel.

Late afternoon, three of us strolled to the plaza and up the main street, full of restaurants, souvenir shops and little craft places, to the start of the steps. Climbing the stone steps were not as bad as they looked and in no time, we were at the top gazing as the beautiful view of the town and surrounding valleys. It was so picturesque. At the top, there are several person vendors selling snacks and drinks.

In the evening, we met a friends of friend’s in the main plaza. Around was several food truck and street vendors selling food. We sat in one place we tables and chairs and ordered a beer whilst others got food as well: huge patacones (fried plantain squashed) or meat. I decided to go to another street vendor to buy a arepa con queso, one of my favourite Colombian snacks. It was so good alongside a beer.IMG_3176

After we went to a small place, where one can play tejo, a traditional Colombian game. Here, it’s free to play but everyone has to buy a drink so we got a round of beers. Out back was a stable like building filled with areas to play this game. Basically one has a stone, and about 3 metre in front of a line, there is a tilted space with gunpowder placed in a circle. There are 2 teams, and the aim of the game is to explode the gunpowder by throwing the stone but also to get the stone in the centre. If one hits the gunpowder, the team receives 3 points and the team closest to the centre at the end of each round get 1 point. It was a fun game to play but I was rubbish at getting it close to the centre.

Once we had played several rounds a few of us decided to head back to the hostel for some sleep.

Rising from our beds early, we showered and ate the complimentary breakfast of cereal, bread and jam with coffee or juice. Then, with our hiking gear, we all walked to the centre to find a jeep to go to Cocora de Valle. We squashed inside one with 2 people standing on the back for the 30 minute ride through windy roads.

In a muddy carpark, we paid for our fare, took a few photos of the landscape close by, used the toilet and those who needed to, rented a pair of wellies (you can do this at a shop here for a small price and leave your shoes), especially as we were told it could be muddy.

IMG_3212Now for the hike, I had no idea what to expect apart from so magnificent views. There is one main route to go but you walk either way round. We decided that we wanted to end in the beautiful valley so we continued straight, where the horse were. This is another option if one would rather not walk.

The first part was mostly flat through forestry, over bridges and alongside a river with a muddy path. Then came the extremely steep part, which felt like it went on forever up a stony path, winding through threes but more in the open. At this point our group split up into two groups, a slower and a faster one. I ended up being one of the slowest but in the faster group. I just had to remember to pace myself because I always struggle to hike up steep hills. Next, we carried on through fields and no clear paths until we came to a gate with a sign to show directions. We knew we wanted to go the hummingbird place so we strolled along the wide track to a kind of view point and place to rest. From here, we trekked downhill through muddy paths and forestry, where we could either go left to the hummingbird place or right to where we started. We went to the hummingbird place, which was way further than expected, with lots of people along these paths.

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At the humming bird place, we paid some money to go in and we received a drink of either coffee or panela in water or a fizzy drink. I think also, there was a limited choice of food for offer. This place was tiny and not worth the walk but I did see a few hummingbirds on a bird perch and a weird looking animal called coaties resembling a badger/fox.

Once we had rested for a bit, we continued our hike for the last part to Cocora de Valle. Mostly the track was flat along muddy paths and through the wood. Here it started to rain, where we didn’t get as wet as I thought we would. The last section is through the valley along a flat path in the open with the tallest palm trees in the world, green field and hills, with sheep and cows sprawled around. It was lush.

In total, we walked about 10 miles, taking about 4 hours in total.

Back at the start, we initially waited for the others but then realised, we would have to get 2 different jeeps, so we hopped in one to take us back to the centre. The rain poured and pouring, make the surroundings look miserable.
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When we got back we decided to go to the same café again, where I ordered a burrito and ice coffee. It was so tasty and filling. We met the other group here before returning to our hostel, quickly changing and running for the bus. Unfortunately, the bus was already full so we had to wait at the fake terminal, under old shelters for 2 hours for the next one. Luckily we had each other to entertain each other in the cold and rain. Of course, we bought some beers to quench our thirst for the time to fly by.

Eventually, our bus came, which had some other friends on who were going to stay in Salento for a few nights. Our next stop was Peirera just over 2 hours from Salento.

Where I stayed: El Viajero Hostel – It’s a hostel with lots of spacious dorms with its own bathrooms. The view from this hostel is incredible overlooking the hills. It includes a simple breakfast in the morning with coffee, tea, juice, cereal and bread. The hostel is about 10 minute walk from the bus station and 5 minute walk to the main plaza.

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