Day 1: Visiting the Valle de Cocora
15.02.2012 - 16.02.2012
Imagine a land of lush green hills dotted by giant Wax Palm trees towering over the landscape like guards looking over their domain. Rushing rivers cross through stunning valleys where beautiful white horses roam freely right on the dirt and rock trails you use to get from coffee farm to coffee farm. You often have to excuse Bessy the cow when she decides to block the narrow trail you are taking down the side of the steep hill to get to the river. It’s a good thing she seems to understand your Spanish.
In town, the old men wear cowboy hats, thick leather belts and ponchos and walk slowly hunched over up the steep hill that you just got completely out of breath climbing. Slow and steady wins the race here. Then you hear the distinct click-clack sound of horse hoofs and you turn around to see a cowboy straight out of an old western movie riding his horse while leading another horse by a rope. You can tell the strength of these men by their rugged weather beaten faces but they smile and their eyes light up when you greet them with a “Buenos Dias” and they return the greeting. In this land everyone greets you and treats you like a friend at first sight.
This is what you will experience if you visit the area in and around Salento and none of it is in any way scripted for the tourist. This is just the way life is around here and it’s one of the most unique experiences one can have in Colombia.
The most famous sightseeing destination in the area is Valle de Cocora where you can see some of the giant Wax Palm trees that are Colombia’s national tree. We decided this would be our destination on our first full day so we jumped on a collectivo jeep leaving from the main square and headed off to the Valley for a 6 hour hike. Here is what we saw: