Salento & Valle de Cocora
I’ve been hearing about the little town of Salento since arriving in Colombia making me more than a little curious when I roll into town one sunny afternoon. The holy week of Semana Santa (Easter) is in full swing, so thousands of people have descended on the town to celebrate. The atmosphere is amazing, with street parties all day long and parades in the evening. The town square has a carnival atmosphere with rides for children and street vendors all over the place.
Nearby is the beautiful Valle de Cocora, which actually touches into the western side of Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. I set out on a small hiking loop, following a river up a lush valley into the mountains. At the end of the trail a family farm has taken advantage of the tourist potential and for $1.50 I get a drink of my choice and viewing of the hummingbirds that are too numerous to count. I sit and watch as the father and two sons load a horse with gear to take down the trail, which they do in the most untroubled manner.
From the farm I hike up to a lookout on a mountaintop which is totally socked in with clouds before looping back to the start. On the way I pass through an extremely green valley filled with the famous wax palm trees – some are over 200 years old. A torrential storm rolls in complete with thunder and lightning, an event I get used to over the coming days. Every morning I get up at sunrise to beautiful blue skies and warm weather and by two or three in the afternoon a huge storm moves over town, dumps enormous amounts of rain then clears again by nightfall.
I love the atmosphere and friendly people so much I stay for five days, wandering around town and the surrounding hills. The farmers here are a dedicated bunch, farming hills so steep it’s a challenge to walk up and down them and it’s great to see the mixed agriculture in the area. In one plot I spot coffee, bananas, pineapples, avocado and bamboo which is used a lot for construction here.