Waxy Palms...

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  , Quindío,
Thursday, March 29, 2012

With the best of intentions I set my alarm for 6.30am.  I've heard that the trek to the Valle de Cocora is best during the morning, as it's most likely to rain over lunchtime, with you returning like a drowned rat.  Alas I'm still in my pit at 10am, mainly down to the incredibly comfortable beds they have at hostel Tra la la.  Seriously.  Try them out. 

I'm torn between giving the whole thing a miss and heading straight to Cali, doing the trek and then trying to make Cali before nightfall, or missing the trek and Cali altogether and heading for the border.  In the end after much advice I decide that it would be a shame if I missed the trek.  My new found hostel buddy Aodhagan (that's Agon to you and me), has already tread that path while I was drooling onto my pillow yesterday morning, so he opts to head to Cali now.  If everything goes to plan I should meet him there later tonight.  Of course this is without factoring in myself attempting a five hour trek into the Colombian cloud forest wearing a t-shirt, welly boots and carrying no water.  Really I bring it upon myself.  Aodhagan makes a smart comment about bending down to pet a rabbit, only to discover in my folly that it is in fact a baby puma.  At least I have the wherewithal to tell someone where I'm going, which is one thing I remember from the BBC 999 program.  That and pack a flare gun.  Shades of climbing a volcano in Guatemala at night wrapped in a blanket, carrying a key torch.  Bear Grylls I am not.

So it is with a spring in my step that I set out to negotiate the 'not challenging' walk in the surrounding Colombian countryside.  I was adamant I wanted to do it on horseback, but the hostel owner advised against it, as some of the route is impassible to the animal.  Of course this is not the case, and I meet more people on the back of the beast than I do walking.  When I reach the base and attempt to climb the 3km up to the local ranger station, I'm turning the air blue with obscenities and cursing the Dutchman.  It damn near kills me.  If this is meant to be tame, then I need to put in some serious training before attempting the Inca trail, or other jungle and mountain treks I'm clearly kidding myself over.  Perhaps it's time to give up the smokes.  Let's look at the advantages:

1.  I can climb a hill.
2.  Doggy style becomes easier and I don't need to worry about the asthmatic face I'm pulling while blowing out my arse trying to reach a climax.

I don't know about you but I'm sold.  

A sign looms out of the greenery.  '9' it informs me.  9 what?  9 more breaths before I finally give out?  9 steps before my heart stops beating?  Although I manage to make it round, there is more than a few occasions when I think I'll be found dead in the forest by FARC rebels.  Not the end I was hoping for.  The trail isn't always clear, and since you're head is down, occupied by not stepping in pools of mud, horse dung or breaking your ankle on uneven ground, you're likely to miss important signs.  Apart from the one that said '9'.  That pretty much saved my life.

There must be a pay off to the effort.  It comes in the form of some truly astounding views during the walk down from La Montana and the ranger station.  It's here you see the famous towering wax palms, which seem to have no place striking from the earth and threatening the sky, a reminder you're not that far from the Equator.  Once again I find the photographs just can't do the scene the justice it deserves.  All joking aside, I was well rewarded for my rasping efforts.  Beautiful.

In an unprecedented turn of events, I make it back to the hostel and to the Armenia bus.  I've run out of money, and the cash machines don't take my card, yet I manage to buy a ticket to Cali on the visa, sink back into the reclining chair and freezing air conditioning I'm now used to, and lift a life giving bunch of notes once I reach my destination some five hours later.  The only downside was some women rattling through all the radio latio tunes like a monkey flailing a parrot with a cat.  The upside was the girl sitting across from me who looked nothing less than an obtainable Penelope Cruz.  By obtainable I mean she was sitting across from me.  I enjoyed the flirty glances until she disembarked at Buga and into the arms of her waiting boyfriend.  I smelled like a tramp anyway.

First impressions of Cali; I don't want to stay here very long.  That being said, I'm feeling pretty buoyant at my achievements today, so I'm ready for anything the city of crime and salsa can throw at me.  Apart from salsa and crime.

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