Early on Saturday 3rd April, I took a bus with Chris, a guy I had met in my dorm the previous night, bound for Salento in the heart of the ‘Zona Cafeteria’, or the Coffee Region to you and I. Not originally part of my itinerary, I included this place because of the positive comments I had heard from other travellers. It was supposed to be beautiful, peaceful and a vast difference from anything else Colombia has to offer. How right they were! On arrival, the first thing I noticed was how peaceful everything was, with people going about there business in a very tranquil manner. We were recommended the Plantation House hostel which a century ago used to be a working coffee plantation but has recently been turned into a hostel by an eccentric Englishman, Tim, and his Colombian wife.
The place was basic to say the least and for me to say that really means it is basic. It was a roof over our heads, but apart from that offered little else, sufficient for a couple of nights. It was raining when we arrived so Chris and I found our own entertainment in the form of a chess
board. Having only played a handful of times, I was aware of the rules but lacked considerably in strategy. And this is where I got to know Chris a bit better, who is a great lad on the verge of qualifying as a doctor. He had a lot of fascinating stories and has led an interesting life so far, although I think he has socialised in slightly higher circles than my good self. At least that was the impression I got, especially when I was put in ‘check mate’ within about 5 minutes of the first chess game commencing, where he then happened to drop into conversation that he had played a ‘few times’ whilst at school.
That evening we headed into town, which was little more than a town square, where local people served trout amongst other more typical foods, such as burgers and hot dogs. Being Easter, there was a lot of activity around the church and at 21:15 a service was conducted outside the entrance for the community to enjoy. The highlight was to be a flame sent down a wire to light a bonfire at the bottom, however the wind blew it out half way
down the wire, leading to a very large anticlimax with the bonfire was lit by hand…and with the help of some gasoline!
We made an effort to get up early the next day and trek into the Valle de Cocora, where the famous wax palm trees grow individually from the hillside and tower spectacularly above the cloud line. We took a jeep from the centre of Salento, arriving in Cocora 35 minutes later at the start of the trail, which is clearly sign posted. The trek isn’t too difficult but does get the heart racing in place, something that was needed after the last few days of laziness and booziness! Once above the clouds the views are remarkable and it is hard to remember you are only a few hundred kilometres from the equator. The scenery is not too different from some of the places back home and far different from anything else Colombia has to offer. We walked about 10kms and was a thoroughly enjoyable morning, the highlight of which for Chris, was seeing an armadillo scuttle into the bushes. It was certainly impressive to see one in the wild, although the only thing that sprang to mind
was the Dime Bar advert back in the day!
The ride back into Salento was interesting, with Chris and I standing on the back of the jeep for the 11km journey. Just the 2 of us was fine, in fact it was nice to have the wind in my face and being elevated, allowed a better view of the stunning surroundings. It became a bit more complicated when the driver decided to pick up more passengers en route and at one stage counted 16 people in the jeep, 5 of which were hanging on the back. Nothing we could do but laugh…and take photos!
That afternoon we went on a visit to the attached coffee plantation of the hostel we were staying at and enjoyed a tour run by Tim, that was both informative and interesting…and although I wont bore you with the details, I now know how coffee is produced!
That night, Stephanie and Janine, along with a few others from Medellin, joined us for dinner, which again consisted of trout - very nice - and a few beers before goodbyes were said as we were all going our separate ways the next day. Salento is
well worth a visit and if I had more time would have certainly stayed an extra night, although maybe in different accommodation.
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