I arrived in Salento Monday the 15th after travelling on buses most of the day. Salento is a small town of 3500 people in the centre of the coffee region of Colombia. It's located amidst gorgeous mountains at an altitude of 1900 metres.
I was staying in a hostel called The Plantation House at the entrance to town, owned by a British man and his Colombian wife. I had a horrible first night there because there were mosquitoes in my room (and this was the one night I decided not to wear earplugs so I could hear the buzzing around my head). Fortunately I solved that problem with a variety of means: little device that plugs in the wall - not sure how it works, blocking all the cracks around the window frames with newspapers, and wearing a vitamin B1 patch on my arm.
So, what does one do in Salento? Drink coffee, go on a coffee tour, drink coffee, hike in the Valle de Cocora where one can see wax palms, the national tree of Colombia. Drink more coffee. :) This is the first time I see wax palm trees. They have a very tall and skinny trunk, topped by a few fronds. They're quite striking when seen in a group against a mountain landscape. I did the hike on Thursday. Part of it was through meadows surrounded by mountains where the wax palms grew, part of it was through cloud forest and involved crossing a small river several times across dubious bridges, from a few stones, to tree trunks thrown across, to a rickety bridge made of planks (see photo). After a short break at a finca (farm) for refreshments, there was an arduous climb up to another finca with more great views. Of course being really out of shape I was exhausted by the time I made it back to the hostel, my body aching everywhere.
I spent time walking around the small town, seeking the best viewpoints to admire the scenery all around the town, browsing gift shops, observing local life, and drinking coffee. I discovered a few favourite cafes and restaurants. :)
A lot of the population in this town is involved in coffee farming, and the sight of coffee farmers (in coffee farmer garb) and their horses is a common sight. At night they all gather in pool halls. One of these plays tango music which I find funny.
After a few days you start running into the same foreign tourists again and again. Almost all are backpackers, on trips ranging from 2 months to a year. I am told that on week-ends things change as this is when the Colombian tourists arrive.
Note: I have now moved on to Villa de Leyva, an authentic colonial town in the mountains 4 hours north of Bogota. My last day in Salento was rather interesting so if I find the time I'll write up a separate entry for it.