Days spent: 2
Days recommended: 2
Where we slept: Kasaguadua, an eco friendly kind of petite hippie village, right in the middle of the cloud forest. A good hour walk from Salento, half of it on an unpaved road, the other half through the thick flora of a national reserve. It’s far away enough from other humans to allow a jaw dropping view of the stars at night, and also, to scare the s### out of you while trying to get back in the utter darkness.
What we ate: American biscuit with gravy @ Brunch (a cozy backpackers retreat, offering American breakfasts, unlimited Colombian coffee, a suitcase drop service and a videotheque), few veggie meals cooked by our hosts at the eco lodge, and set menus (trout or chorizo with patacones -fried smashed plantains- rice, beans and chips) at the no frills-attached yet extremely yummy and convenient El Rincon de Lucy.
What we drank: surprise surprise: lemonada de coco! Also several batidos de fruta and hot chocolate with cheese (trust me, in that moment, you would have had it too)
How we travelled: We took a night bus from Bogota to Armenia. The journey was supposed to last about 8 hours but we got “delivered” to Armenia’s dodgy bus terminal after only 6 hours. I remember that journey to be one of the worse ever: air condition set on glacial temperatures, loud Colombian folk music played all night long with several ladies singing passionately along, a bus-driver playing his best rally racer… In Armenia we waited for about one hour and then took a van through the hills to get to Salento.
Km walked: 36
How Salento affected our wallets: I guess it really depends on how much you want to treat yourself. There are both backpackers’ hostels and fancy travellers’ hotels. We picked an ecolodge in the wood, which was somewhere in between, and, anyway, more than affordable. Same for food.
Issues we encountered: none. Salento really felt like being in a safe, kinda out of time, bubble. Just keep in mind that the weather can be very unpredictable.
Would we recommend it? Yes Sir! The two days we spent there easily made it in our Colombian top 3. Especially the Cocora valley is something you don’t regularly come across.
Analogue tips: just make sure to make it there with different light sensitivities films. I really much hoped I had a 800 ISO with me at one point! Also, a zoom won’t hurt for a good outcome with the hummingbirds.
What to do:
- Make friends with a local stray and let him show you around Salento. We chased him around the picturesque streets of the laidback town, right in time to witness it coming to life. Carefree kids going to school, breakfasts being prepared, yawning men leaving home for their daily routines and ladies watering their beloved flowers before the heath stroke. We actually could have not hoped for a more authentic moment.
- Train your calves and bum while walking up and down the zig-zag road that runs in the middle of the dazzlingly beautiful coffee plantation hills (zona cafetera). When you get tired, just stop by a finca. If you take a tour you’ll be told everything and more about how to grow the perfect coffee bean and, finally, you will enjoy your espresso. Don’t be surprised though to find out that the Italian Lavazza tastes much better. Most of the good quality coffee beans are actually exported to Europe. Funny enough, Nespresso seems to buy all the leftovers, branches and shells included. You will stumble upon a few, hyper advertised, soulless corporate fincas, however, if you’re looking for a more genuine experience, we recommend to move few steps forward and just pick one of the family-run ones (we picked Don Helias’).
- Step in a world of green mountain passes dotted with a myriad of 45 metres tall wax palms. You can pinch yourself as long as you want but you ain’t gonna wake up. This is not Jurassic park, even if it really feels as surreal and mesmerising. La Valle de Cocora is easily one of the most unique places we ever came across and it really has a lot to offer. From totally draining yet rewarding mountain treks, to hummingbirds farms that will put your photographer’s patience under remarkable test. Are you a fan of Indian Jones-worthy dodgy suspension bridges? No worries, those are also included. Last but not least, you will have to hike through a muddy and slippery path in the middle of the cloud forest. Maybe it’s not always so bad, however, since it was literally pouring at that point of the day, I really find it hard to think of it in any other way. Luckily, once we made it out of the woods, all in one piece and, surprisingly, with my white converse not utterly covered in mud, the sky cleared up again and gifted us with another spectacular golden sunset.
Who deserves a big thank you: Linn, Lucy and Jacqueline. For proving us that young and wise can go hand in hand and for making their best for helping us finding our way in the forest. Too bad we saw none of the signs!
Canon EOS 300, Fuji Pro 200 (35) / Fuji Superia 400 (35)
Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Pro 200 (35) / Agfa Scala 200 (35, expired)
3-4/3/2017 Salento (Colombia)