Impossibly Tall Palm Trees

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Salento is cute, even a little kitch. Houses are covered with decorative wood panels in contrasting colours... the kind of place where you pay a little bit extra for everyhting because it's a place that tourists like to visit. That's not to say we don't like it. We're wandering the streets with backpacks on looking for a good value place when a kid invites us into his home and shows us a psychadelic red room with wood floor and ensuite. We take it with a discount for 2 nights and a TV thrown in (which they have to fetch from the neighbour!). Lalo, the owner, is a friendly baker, his hands covered in flour.

Breakfast of huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with tomato and onion) and mora batidos (blackberry milkshake) at Rincon de Lucy a local institution. It's mid-morning and already the guys in the tall white cowboy hats are sucking on coffees inside the pool bars. We're in the heart of coffee country, the Zona Cafetera.

We share a jeep with a morose Israeli couple to Valley Cocora. From the bench seats in the back we can see the idyllic looking fields roll out behind. Our walk today will take us up Cocora Valley to a reservation, and then in a wide circle back along the ridge to our starting point. Two hours later we're climbing our way along a narrow path, following a water course and a new friend called Oscar, an old man carrying supplies to the reservation on his horse. Entry to the reserve is around a dollar, and when we arrive Gladys (Oscar's wife) is in a bit of a state. Apparently a couple (who we identify as the Israelis) entered the reservation and left wthout paying, despite a myriad of signs on the way up indicating payment is required. This is an event that impacts their bottom line since they receive so few visitors at this time of year. We take some agua de panela (sugar cane tea) with home-made cheese and pass a peaceful hour chatting with our hosts. In that time I count at least 9 different species of hummingbird, irridescent green, blue and purple in the afternoon sun.

Clouds have blown over and as we wave goodbye the rain starts to fall. Fortunately the canopy shelters us through the worst of it as we climb steeply for an hour to reach the ridge. There, we're greeted by a young mum and her baby standing in the garden outside their house, and what a view they have. It stretches from the mountains that rise above us at the left, to the depths of the valley extending several kilometres to the right. Also visible are the famous palm trees unique at this altitude, impossibly tall and thin, and sprouting up from the hillsides like unruly stalks on a well-tended lawn.

It's 5.30pm and the only jeep back to Salento (a distant 12km away) is full. Anna is very successful at hitching a lift from a local farmer, but when he discovers I'm also part of the bargain, Anna is unceremoniously dumped.

A little further along we meet Lydia pedalling up a slight incline. She's in Colombia to support her husband's election campaign in a nearby city, and is very keen to invite us to their home in the US. "But what happens if he wins?" we ask her. "He's not going to win" she answers confidently! To be truthful, in some of the local elections, it seems that there are more candidates than residents.

When night comes, we're still walking, following the river, and soaking in the stillness. Further down the track we fall in step with a man who has been fishing to catch his family's dinner. He has another 2 hours journey to reach home and we comment that it's a long way to go. He gestures to the night, "I love walking". I have to agree.

An hour later the road climbs steeply, a 45 minute sting in the tail at the end of a beautiful day, and when we arrive, it's a challenge overcome.

For fellow travellers: we stayed with Lalo, Calle 5a #4-02, ph 310 4331013.
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