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Published: April 16th 2018
Our next stop was Salento, 6 hours and 3 buses away. Salento is a small town in coffee country where we joined a British couple who we met in Jardin for a nice hike and coffee farm tour. There was a big cycling race finishing a stage in Salento that day and the town was full of teams and fans. Our hiking route took us on the gravel road into town where there was a constant stream of amateur mountain bikers following the tour at their own pace. After the long hike we had a phenomenal dinner at a lovely restaurant called Brunch run by an American expat. The other main reason for coming to Salento is to hike in the Cocora Valley. It's a stunning valley comprised of small farms, dense forests, interesting birdlife and the famous 60 m tall wax palm trees, the tallest palms in the world. After some helpful advice and a box lunch from Brunch we were off. We stopped at the hummingbird house which is a simple building serving breakfast and drinks to tired hikers with the added bonus of non stop activity at their hummingbird feeders. We spent more than half an hour in
a near trance state watching the non stop feeding and flitting of many types of hummingbirds. Back on the trail it was a climb to the mirador with even more hummingbirds and an amazing view over the valley. The walk down followed a road and allowed even more views of the valley and the wax palms. Back in town we rewarded ourselves with super nachos at Brunch, which we couldn't finish even after the long hike.
Our next stop was Popayan near the Ecuador border. It has neat whitewashed buildings and churches dating to the 16th century. It was here that we planned our border crossing. We had heard that due to large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing their county, it may take up to 9 hours to get through immigration. As a result, we made the tough decision to skip the Santuario Las Lajas church near the border town of Ipiales, and instead aim to arrive at the border by 7 am before it got too busy. Either it was a quiet day at the border or we beat the crowds because we were through to Ecuador in just one hour. Before we could realise our fortune we
were hustled onto a bus to Quito.
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