Salento / Valle de Cocora, Colombia
Salento: A small village in the coffee region in Colombia. 7 hours on busses south of Medellin.
Valle de Cocora: Valley where the tallest palm trees in the world grow. 30 minutes in a jeep plus 5 hour hike from Salento.
Sometimes you come across places that inspire and move you on a different level. Salento and the nearby Valle de Cocora was like that for me. Maybe it was because I had just come out of a week of being sick from a stomach virus and I finally regained some energy again to explore and enjoy. Maybe it was because of the humble and generous people I met or because of the fact that the surrounding mountains look different every time you look at them. Located in the heart of Colombias coffee region, Salento is surrounded by lush green mountains and often covered in fog. I love fog. And I love mountains. And I love palm trees.
After spending 8 hours on busses from Medellin, I spent the first few days in a beautiful hostel on the edge of the village. I was still recovering, using the downtime to catch up with some work I had not been able to finish due to spending days on end in the bathroom. Ugh. Obviously there are better things to do in a place like this than spending time in front of a laptop. But there are few places I would rather be to get some work done. I had the place to myself during the day, because most other guests were out doing tourist stuff.
The Valle de Cocora was on my list of “must sees” in Colombia. Who would want to miss the tallest palm trees in the world? As it happens while traveling, you always find other people whose plans align with yours for a few days or weeks. So my lone hike to a mystical valley turned into a group thing before it even started.
The weather forecast looked promising until the afternoon, so we set out early. On the main square of the little town, the eight (!) of us caught one of the jeep taxis that drove us closer towards the valley. Cramped in the back of the car, some standing, holding on to the back of the roof and eyes watery from the wind. We figured, something wasn´t quite right with the jeep as we had to stop quite a few times and some locals got to work on the engine with worried faces. The jeep appeared to have issues with the brakes (very very old car), which meant, we didn´t get to our destination as early as we wanted. But we got there after all. Alive.
I guess that´s what matters.
We still opted for the hike instead of the tourist shortcut to the valley. It had rained heavily a few days before, which turned some parts of the trail into fields of mud and caused other parts of the trail to be closed due to broken bridges and raging rivers. Add so much fog to the scene that you can´t even really see the view, one might be disappointed. But honestly, I find excitement in these unexpected hurdles. It makes travel unpredictable and fun and turns boring days into stories one wants to tell and listen to.
And then, as it started to rain, some of the fog cleared and revealed breathtaking views of mountains and palm trees above clouds.