Panama and Colombia - Winter 2010 travel blog

My favourite coffee shop

On the main plaza

 

Main street

Salento from the viewpoint

Salento set lunch (trout)

Hike in Cocora Valley

Rickety bridge

Wax palms

 

Jeep to get to Cocora (fits 12 - no kidding)

Church

Nightfall

The type of view you have from town

Coffee farmers and horses

My hostel

The main plaza at sunset


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.

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