Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Medellin to Salento
We started off in a taxi to Terminal del Sur (South bus terminal) where we then boarded our bus towards Armenia (39,000pesos / $19.50ea – 6 hours). We got off at the junction to Salento to board a small bus for the final 30 minute ride (2,000pesos / $1ea). We then bought some groceries from the supermarket in the main square to keep our dinner and lunch costs down as there are no stores near our hostel.
Hostel La Serrana
We walked the 1.5km to Hostel La Serrana. Initially we had google mapped the wrong location, but the locals were extremely helpful and got us going in the right direction. Beware that google doesn’t always find the right spot. You want to head down Carrera 5 in a generally South Westerly direction and cross a yellow framed footbridge. The other option was a 6,000 peso ($3) jeep from the central park.
This accommodation had been picked by Rodora due to its natural setting, as its away from the main village (about a 15 minute walk) so it’s more of a nature retreat. The views from the hostel are absolutely amazing and it had a very relaxed and peaceful feel to it. This was great for some much needed rest and relaxation from the long bus rides.
We’d chosen dorms as this was a cheap option and they were super comfortable to sleep in (23,000 pesos / $11.50ea) including a decent but small breakfast of coffee, eggs, hot bread and fruit. We were a bit worried at first as the hostel was fully booked, and we were in an 8 bed dorm in the main lodge where everyone hangs out. However, everyone seemed to go to bed early or go elsewhere so we got a good night’s sleep.
The Cocora Valley Hike
The next day we decided to do the Cocora Valley hike famed for having an abundance of the national tree of Colombia, the Wax palm tree, the tallest palm tree in the world. We had both read from other blogs how good this hike was meant to be. One blog put it in the top 5 hikes in Colombia and the other blog had a set of photos that told us we just had to do this.
We were up early and waiting for the doors to breakfast to open at 7am so we could get on the 7.30am jeep that left from town to the valley. Unfortunately, we got sidetracked chatting at breakfast and ended up missing the jeep. We met another hiker at the hostel over breakfast by the name of Celia, so we all left together walking towards town. We decided to just go to the main square to see if we could find other people to catch a jeep with (as the next jeep wasn’t until 9.30 – weekend schedule). Luckily two other people had just arrived into town after an overnight bus from Bogota. The five of us paid the slightly higher fee of 27,000 pesos ($13.50) for the whole jeep. This worked out to be 5,400 ($2.70ea) instead of the standard fee of 3,400 ($1.70ea).
When we arrived we were asked if we needed a guide however didn’t need one as we had a sheet provided by the hostel on directions on how to do the hike on your own.
The first part of the hike was through the country side passing numerous cows and lush green land through the valley. The hike also starts at a fairly high altitude of 2,400m (7,900ft). This was relatively flat but the path was quite rough and cut up by the horses that also use it. May is a wet month so the path was also fairly muddy in places. Some of the hostels rent out gum/rubber boots (wellingtons) so hire them if you can if your shoes don’t like mud. Toby who was leading the way unfortunately took a wrong step and covered his left foot in mud.
We then followed along the river slowly climbing upwards into the cloud forest. It’s amazing how one hike can provide such contrasts in scenery. This is where we met our first of many river crossings via hand made, and barely standing cable bridges.
Our favourite adaptation of a bridge was tree logs loosely tied together across a river bed. It was really narrow hence very nerve wracking crossing this bridge, but at least there was a hand cable to hold onto for better balance.
After about 1 hour 30 minutes of hiking including stops for photos, we made it to our first official stop of Acaime at about 2,820m (9,800ft). There is a 5,000 peso ($2.50) entrance fee, but this includes a choice of hot chocolate, coffee or Aguapanela with cheese. This is a great little spot to sit and relax and also to see humming birds as they have multiple bird feeders specifically there to attract humming birds.
Rodora chose a hot chocolate and Toby tried the try the Aguapanela with cheese. Aguapanela is common in South America and is effectively sugar cane pulp in hot water that tastes and looks like liquid honey. We were told the way to eat it was to dip the cheese into the bowl and eat them together. It was a really odd taste. The cheese tasted great, and so did the honey water but, when mixed together it just didn’t taste right.
After our break, it was time to head back out on the hike again. We had to back track on the trail for about 1km (.6mi) to a junction. You can then choose to go back the way you came or climb up over La Montana. This does seem fairly tough but after about 30 minutes you should be near the top for Mountain House and the view of the area. Unfortunately we ran into a large Colombian tour group just at the start of our climb. They had quite a few locals that weren’t used to hiking. When we finally got to the top, there were a lot of others from the same group waiting for everyone at the top admiring the view along with making quite a bit of noise. No nature to be seen at this point in time.
We then decided to rush down from the viewpoint as quickly as possible to avoid the large tour group. This is unfortunately where we went wrong and accidently went on the Cascada trail thinking it was another viewpoint trail. After walking for about half an hour, on a narrower unused trail we ended up at a closed gate, so decided that we must have taken the wrong path and back tracked to the main path. Toby was now leading the pack as we nearly walked into a spider web on the way in and the girls feared getting a spider on their face.
We then hiked down the main path. As we got lost the tour group had already passed us, so we had a really peaceful hike back with no other tourists. On our way down we finally made it to the large palm trees, which are gigantically tall.
We then followed the main road back to where we started our hike and took a jeep back to town.
When we got back to town it was around 2pm so we still had the rest of the day to explore the village.
Salento is a small village of around 7,000 people. It is a very popular destination for local to visit for weekend getaways.
We decided to walk up some brightly coloured steps to get to the mirador overlooking the town.
When we got to the top there was a sign pointing to another view point so we decided to check it out. Wow, again we were amazed by the amount of beauty Colombia has to offer, by witnessing another amazing panoramic view.
We were feeling a bit hungry after all the walking so we decided to try one of the delicious baked goods on display at many of the bakeries, choosing a tasty raspberry filled doughnut (not as good as the one in Medellin- but still delicious)
As it was getting dark we decided to head back to the hostel and relax after a long day of sightseeing with some local Colombian beers.
The next day, we decided for a lazy day, so we had a late breakfast at 9am. Then we headed off past many farms until finally reaching our destination of Finca Don Elias. We chose this finca because we were told everything was manually done by hand and it was completely organic. The tour was really cheap as well at only 5,000 pesos ($2.50ea).
As soon as we entered the property, we were greeted immediately by the owner and his grandson took us on the tour. The finca is a family owned coffee farm with around 8000 coffee plants that began operating around 20 years ago. We learnt that everything was organic and they used fruit trees for shade and natural pesticides.
After touring the plantation we were then taken to their hand held machines to remove the outer shell of the beans. They are then washed and soaked in water for up to 24 hours. The good beans float and the bad beans sink. The good beans are then roasted.
Once they have been roasted (and turned brown) the beans smelt amazing. We then got to manually grind the coffee beans.
Next came the best bit of tasting the coffee. It was so delicious. They were right coffee is so much tastier when it’s fresh.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/