Valle de cocoa

Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  , Quindío,
Sunday, January 15, 2012

I decided to get out of Bogota for a few days and visit Salento, Colombia which is nestled in the unbelievably gorgeous Valle de Cocoa.  I stayed at a hacienda hostel about 2km outside of town.  It was a very relaxing hostel hidden in the hills.  My first night at ate dinner at the hostel and met these two wonderful Argentinian girls.  We decided to go hike the Valle de Cocoa the next day.  So at 8am we set out to the center of town in Selento and grabbed a jeep for a few soles each that would take us to the entrance to the park.  When we got there (or where we thought was 'there') we jumped out of the jeep and started walking.  There weren't any maps of information about which direction to go and we probably should have done some more homework ahead of time because we had absolutely no idea which path to take or where to go.

So we just started walking with no real idea of where we were walking to but assuming that at the very least the whole path would be a big loop.  After about 2.5-3 hours of walking we see a sign for a mirador (look-out point) so we are hoping we are going to be able to see up above the whole Valle.  Towards the mirador there is a sign saying private property and 3,000 pesos to enter.  Since we have been seeing signs like that all over the park we decide to ignore it and proceed walking up.  After another 30 min straight up hill we arrive at a woman's house (kinda).  There are other tourists there as well eating soup and cheese.  As we're looking around and realizing there is no mirador the woman of the house starts frantically yelling at us about what we want to eat.  Well, clearly, we don't want to eat anything but she says no it's free.  But actually, no, it's not free.  It's 'free' after we pay the 3,000 peso cover charge which we are required to pay anyway. Claro.  We keep trying to tell her we don't want anything that we just want the lookout point and we're happy to pay for that (but it doesn't seem to exist).  After about 10min of all out latino-style fighting we pay the 3,000 pesos each and get a bowl of hot water and the grossest cheese i have ever tried.  I also heard later that the cheese has been known to make a lot of people sick so at least I can be grateful I didn't walk away with that.  After she gives us the 'free food' and calms down a bit, we ask about the mirador which she then tells us is another 30min straight up hill in the wrong direction.  Awesome.

At this point we need to start heading towards the entrance because the last bus leaves at 4pm and we have no idea how far the entrance is from where we are.  So we leave the ladies house and keep hiking.  About 1.5-2 hours later we reach the actual mirador and who do we see sitting on the grass at the top?  A bunch of people from our hostel who left 2 hours after us but took the direct route to the top (who knew?).  Anyway, the mirador was actually too cloudy to see anything but as we started to descend the clouds started to clear and we were greeted with the most beautiful landscape of the Valle de Cocoa.  It was truly breathtaking.  We took the more direct route back to the entrance, jumped in jeeps and headed back to the hotel.  We finished the day with an amazing dinner at the hostel and went out that night to celebrate the birthday of a guy in our hostel.  Salento has a lot to offer but nightlife, unfortunately, isn't on of them.  Regardless we had a fun night dancing in the center of the plaza and a left the next day to head back to Bogota.
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