Sweet Salento (29/04/2018-02/05/2018)
Salento: an incredibly charming, quaint colonial town in the heart of Colombia's coffee region. Known for it's friendly locals, world-class hiking, and an explosive game you'll not want to miss out on. Our "5 hour" bus ride turned into an 8 hour ride. Typical. The bus was long, the leg room was minimal (I couldn't even get my legs in front of me, and had them sticking out in the isle the whole journey), and the bends were very bendy. Therefore napping was not an option, sadly. But at least I had a seat.. one guys seat had totally broken, so he removed it and sat uncomfortably on his bag the whole journey, much to his friends amusement. Poor guy. Valle de Cocora
Just outside of the town of Salento, is the picturesque Cocora Valley. This area is super special because the national tree of Colombia (the Wax Palm) grows here. Studding the beautiful landscape are these cartoon-like, 60m high wax palm trees. These crazy trees tower over the cloud forests they thrive in. You have to catch a "Willy" (a half Jeep.. half truck) from town to get there, and the journey took 20 minutes.
We chose to do the full hike, which would have us ascending 1000 meters, and would take about roughly 4 hours. We hiked through streams, crossed more precarious bridges, and gawped at the beautiful scenery. Tejo
Tejo is a national throwing sport in Colombia. Using heavy metal rocks, you aim at a metal ring in a box of thick clay. Lots of gunpowder is placed around the ring and when you hit the ring with your rock, it causes an explosion. I had my eyes peeled for Tejo throughout Colombia, but here in Salento was the first place I had seen it. The Tejo bar, Los Amigos, is small but well stocked (but with no non-alcoholic beverages, poor Sal). The locals are all sat around the bar in clouds of cigarette smoke. Above your head hangs a large bulls ball-sack which you have to rub for good luck upon entry to the Tejo barn. The smell of gunpowder immediately fills your nostrils. Drinking cervesa
here is pretty much compulsory, so I ordered an ice cold Club Colombia to quench my thirst. Tejo is a tricky game, but I managed two explosions, so I was very proud of myself! Horse Riding
As well as via foot, another way of seeing Salento's beautiful scenery is by horse back; so I dragged Sal along to go horse riding for the day. 20 minutes after enquiring at our hostel, our handsome Colombian caballos
were saddled up and waiting outside for us. For the next four hours (a long time on a horse if you are not used to it), we rode down into a very steep valley (they put me in front because "I looked like an expert", yikes!). The ride took us through several streams and deep river crossings (my feet were very wet), through pitch black tunnels built a hundred years ago for a train that never showed up, and to our final destination, a beautiful waterfall. On our way back, it started to rain and thunder, which I felt only added to the ambiance of this lush green place. Needless to say, we were all pretty saddle sore and horsey-smelling afterwards. Café Colombiano
Colombian coffee is world-famous, and Salento is set smack bang in the middle of Colombia’s coffee triangle. I chose the most traditional finca
(farm) tour, owned by a chap named Don Elias. His finca was
beautiful and the tour was incredibly interesting. Fun Fact: they add egg shells to the soil for healthy plant growth because egg shells are loaded with calcium.
We learnt that the vast majority of Colombia’s high-quality coffee gets exported around the World, and there’s not nearly as much of a coffee culture in most of the country as you would think.. But if you look hard enough (which I have done), you can find an excellent cup. Just like the one I had at the Dons! Other Shenanigans
I cannot finish this blog without mentioning "Brunch De Salento". Colombian food can get rather boring after a while (sorry Colombia), so we went to this recommended restaurant for some seriously good burgers. I'm talking a huge, juicy, burger smothered in chilli con carne, with guacamole and a chocolate brownie and peanut butter milkshake for pudding. This place was so good, I went back 3 times! So long, sweet Salento
I absolutely adored Salento.. this tiny town packed a punch! For me, it had the perfect amount of local vs touristic vibe. Compared to the rest of Colombia, this cosy little town was by far the friendliest. I loved how
you could hear the locals singing happy songs as you walked down the little streets. They were super welcoming and seemed so pleased to have us. Now it was time to catch a bus to my final (and most sketchy) Colombian destination, Cali. This is also where me and Sal would part ways as he would be heading back home to Canada. Cali, here I come!
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