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Published: June 29th 2011
My view at breakfast every morning.
So here I sit in Salento Colombia, the scene of the crime. This is where it all started for me. The gestation of a 14 month odyssey, trek, journey, sabbatical or whatever one would chose to call this thing I am on. Salento is in the Zona Cafetera region, the coffee region of Colombia, up in the mountains. About 7-9 hours east of Bogota depending on the bus. An hour north of Armenia if you can find it on the map. The town is very small and relies on coffee, trout farming, and tourists as it is the gateway to Valle de Cocora. Cocora has great hiking up a trail to the top of a mountain passing through grassy hills and palma de cera, or wax palms. Then the cloud forest until you reach the top about a 5 hour round trip.
I absolutely love Salento. It is very quiet and peaceful set out in the country. Two of the best things about Salento are Lucy's or officially Rincon del Lucy. They have a set meal for lunch and dinner that consists of a bowl of soup with a banana (cut the banana and add to soup), and your choice of
Lunch at Lucy's
soup with a banana
troucha (trout from the trout farm), chicken, or beef, and sometimes chorizo (sausage), along with rice, beans or veggies, small salad, arepa (corn tortilla), some sort of fried cornmeal hush-puppy thing, fried plantain, and a juice of the day, fresh squeezed. All this for only $3000 COP (Colombian pesos), with the exchange rate about $1800 COP to the dollar it's $3.37.
The best thing about Salento though is La Serena eco farm and hostel owned by Jon, an expat from NYC. He married a Colombian girl and now has a baby daughter. La Serena is one of the best hostels I have stayed in. when I was here last year it was only open for about a month. It is an actual farm with cows out in the country along these rolling hills. It is set literally in the clouds. You can watch the clouds caressing the hills in the distance and then they come and envelop you in a light fog. You are at a low cloud level. La Serena was great when I was here last year but Jon has just improved on it in that time. It is a farmhouse with antiques, the rooms converted into hostel
Lunch at Lucy's
All this for only $3000 COP ($3.37)
rooms. It is beautiful and the view is picturesque.
When I travel I like to visit the cities of the world. In the US you hardly find anything over 100 years old and especially in Las Vegas where anything over 20 years old is knocked down to make way for something newer and better. So visiting cities allows you to explore new places, take a city history tour, just get out and people watch. But being in the city you feeel like you always have to be doing something. Out here in the country it is peaceful and you can just chill. The only sounds are the birds and occasional mooing from one of the cows. The town is about a 25 minute walk away and the farm. I usually go into town every 2-3 days and get enough stuff to last me a couple days and otherwise just chillax to the max. I have even gotten up a couple of times at 4:30AM to milk the cows with Horatio, not as easy as you would think, but to have fresh milk from the source is worth it.
Since I have arrived in Salento on June 21st I hiked in
Horatio milking the cows
He makes it look so easy.
Cocora once. I brought trekking poles for this trip and so far it is one of the best things that I brought with me. I didn't use them going up the mountain but coming down I made good use of them. It was muddy and slippery so they helped me from falling down a few times. Plus the fact that they helped relieve the stress on my knees. I have had minor knee discomfort before but never really had a problem until I was trekking in Nepal 2 years ago. I could make the hike up with no problems but coming down was difficult. My guide found a heavy branch and made a walking stick for me which helped out a lot. Since my last birthday I have had problems in both knees at one time or another where I had a serious limp and needed a knee brace. I'm guessing that it may be a combination of cartilage buildup and the onset of arthritis from playing football (the American kind), high school wrestling, and being in the military. But, knock on wood, I haven't had any major pain 4 months or so, we shall see.
On Saturday night I
Horatio milking the cows
Can you believe I got up at 4:30 in the morning for this??
went and played tejo with 4 other guys. I will explain tejo in another post, but it involves alcohol, gunpowder and a 1-2 pound weights. It is fun.
This past Monday (yesterday actually depending on when I finally post this) I went horseback riding with Don Alvaro the best guide in Salento. He remembered me from last year as well as the people at Lucy's restaurant. But I guess that's the benefit of having waist long dreadlocks. I went with 4 others and we went on a different route than normal, one where we could do more galloping. Since I have intermediate amount of experience riding I was given a newer horse to ride, a bit more rambunctious. So coming down from the mountain I had to walk part of the way down since it was steep and the horse wasn't trusted coming down so steep an decline with a rider. Once I got back on the horse and finished riding down everything was good until I noticed I lost my tripod. I have a backpack for my cameras and my tripod attaches to the outside. I have used this backpack for about 3 years and never had my tripod
Milking the cows
The 2nd time I got up to milk the cows 4 other people joined me. Here is Camille giving it a try.
come loose. I even used it last year while riding with Don Alvaro with no problems. I guess the extensive time spent at a cantor or gallop caused the tripod to become loose. Don Alvaro walked back up the trail to see if he could find it. After about 20 minutes I figured that I would have to pay to take the trip again the next day or in another few days to try to find it. The thing about this tripod was it was the smallest professional tripod I could find. I have another travel tripod that folds down to 18 inches (46cm) but then last year I found this one which folds down to 12 inches (30cm) so I had to get it. This one being professional quality is made of carbon fiber and very lightweight but strong. With the head it cost almost $400 so it wasn't as easy as saying I can get another one, it would have been better for me to make another trip on another day. Luckily for me after about 30 minutes Don Alvaro returned with my tripod. The cost of horseback riding for about 4 hours is $40,000 COP ($22.45 US)
Milking the cows
Here is my friend Mike from China. He and cows don't really get along.
so I tipped him an extra $20,000 COP and I got off very cheap.
So far I plan on being here until Monday which just happens to be July 4th. It's too bad Jon left for NYC as a surprise visit home as I am sure we could have fired up the grill. I can easily stay here for another week or two so that is an option. I did find contact info from someone about volunteering with some kids in Ibague which is about 2 1/2 hours from here so I will have to email them and check it out. It seems that a lot of the volunteers come to Salento for the weekend.
You know writing this damn blog is more difficult than it seems. I just reread this entry checking for grammar and coherence and it only took maybe 2 minutes. And it may not even make sense to anyone else but me. More a bunch of random ramblings? I am by no means a writer, nor do I aspire to be one. I just hope it does make some sense to those who do decide to read it. Now I have to run this through
Horses taking a break
spell check and maybe the hard part is attach corresponding images with this entry. I hate digital photography but I do have my iPhone 4 with me to take pics and some video. It does make for a more interesting blog when you have visual references. As a traditional film photographer who processes and prints all of my own black and white work I say I will never own a digital camera. So my iPhone can assist me in telling my story, but it isn't a digital camera (that's my claim and I'm sticking to it). So I hope you enjoy some of the photos but realize that I am not a travel photographer, nor a digital photographer. I wouldn't imagine ever hanging a photo on a wall that I took with my iPhone, but fear not, I do have 4 cameras with me to take proper photographs with but you will have to wait to see them. But to me that is part of the fun with shooting film, the anticipation of seeing the photographs in their final stage.
signing off for now.
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