Saturday 24 August - Monday 26 August
Although Salento is still part of the coffee region, our choice to stop off here was not to see and taste more beans but to get a glimpse of country life and hike through the Valle de Cocora, where they have the tallest palm trees in the world. So another local bus trip south from Manizales through Perreira to Armenia and a change of buses to get to Salento from there. No fuss other than an industrial strike on the roads into Perreira with hundreds of trucks blocking the roads holding us up for about half an hour or so.......had the potential to be much longer but the strikers were kind enough to let buses slowly pass on through.
We arrived in the small picturesque country town of Salento just in time for lunch which we'd been advised had to be the local offering of trucha (trout). There were many little food stalls around the main square serving up what they all claim to be the best trucha around, but with my stomach still as unpredictable as a roulette table we headed for the safety of a good looking pub. Good choice too.....top trout, funny thing is I remember more of Donsy's dish than I do of mine, a rare win for her, a butterflied trout covered with cheese pineapple and bacon.....trucha hawaiiano. Sounds odd.....tastes the opposite. Suitably stuffed, we made our way to the hostel, a nice ranch style farm house just in the hills out of town called La Serrana, just in time to stream a Boks game.
In the morning we strolled into town to catch a jeep taxi out to the much heard about Valle de Cocora. Great timing as we bumped into our Finnish mates Janne and Merja (from the Panama-Colombia boat trip) just getting into another jeep headed for the valley of Quindio wax palms. Together we hiked up through the long and muddy, steep and slippery valley's horse trail alongside a small river criss-crossing over small bridges, stopping for pics and praying for the rain to stay away, eventually reaching Acaime where they had a small cafe offering some much needed warm refreshments. A little wooden cabin run by some locals offering steaming cups of 'chocolate con queso' drinks.....that's a hot chocolate with a large chunk of cheese dropping in it.....again strange but 'yummy' so Dons tells me.
Some more steep uphills, thick mist and drizzling rain after the break took their toll on my sickly state....fair to say it was hard going but oh so worth it (including the miserable rain). The last part of the loop brings you out right in the middle of the sparse forest of obscenely tall wax palms growing in the midst of rolling lush green hills and valleys, no beach in sight. Very different and VERY beautiful. Luckily for us the rain and mist started to ease off at this point for us to get some decent pics in. A little jog back to the Jeep collection point and our day was a ripper, finished off with dinner, cold beer and coffee, but sadly goodbye to Janne and Merja, for now.
The next day we took it slow at the hostel enjoying some down time while it rained outside. We stuck around till about 7pm and made our way back to Armenia to catch an overnight bus to the Capital.