After perhaps setting off a little late from Bogotá (with hindsight) we eventually ended up on a very windy road through the mountains where we had a stunning view. However, as beautiful as it was, it was pretty annoying to be stuck in roadworks for a while and then consequently behind the world's slowest lorries. After about nine and a half hours on the first bus (meant to be seven), we had another hour bus ride then a short jeep ride to our hostel outside the town of Salento in the coffee region of Colombia. Unfortunately we had to leave Tijs and Jacqueline in town as we had ended up booking the last room at La Serrana hostel.
We arrived just before 9pm, very hungry, desperately hoping they'd kept the dinner that we'd ordered back for us. I was so happy when after quickly dumping our bags in the room, we were taken to the dining room to discover a massive plate of delicious curry and a salad.
We'd decided to splash out a bit more on this hostel as we'd heard good things about it and were extremely glad we did. The room was nice with big shelves for our things- an oversight in most hostels- the communal living room and dining room were great with their attention to detail and comfort, like any self-respecting place they had some nice dogs (huge Pablo the black lab was my favourite) and the best part was revealed to us when the clouds cleared from the hills as we ate breakfast. We had gorgeous panoramic views all around of the type of scenery you can't take your eyes off. It was so nice we extended our stay to four nights just so we could spend the third day doing very little and enjoying the views.
After a small lie in on the first day to recover from the previous day of travel, we walked the 20 minutes into town for a spot of internetting and lunch. From there we picked up Tijs and Jacqueline and walked for an hour to a small organic coffee farm where we had a tour from a nice young man who told us he'd learnt his English from listening to music. I've listened to a lot of Latin American music over the last four months and I'd say the improvement to my Spanish has been negligible except I have very thoroughly learnt the word for heart (corazón). Therefore I have concluded that Western music must be of a higher literary standard than Latin American music.
Anyway, I digress. The tour was very different from the one we went on in El Salvador. The farm was only four hectares so they don't produce much but because it's organic and of high quality, they can sell it for a reasonable amount. We learnt about how they use other plants including banana and plantain trees for shade, pineapple bushes to act as a diversion for insects and yuca plants to keep the soil stable on the steep hills. We were also told about their awful neighbour who repeatedly tries to sabotage their successful business: he leads tourists astray by pretending to be the owner of the good coffee farm and instead taking them on a bad tour of his not so good farm; he keeps taking down direction signs to the farm; they used to hire him during harvesting season but he would pick the unripe beans on purpose and he also lets his chickens wander over their farm which is bad for the farm. A most unsavoury character who we were fortunate not to meet.
We enjoyed a small cup of the premium coffee before the walk back up the hill to the hostel. We had a quiet evening, eating another great dinner at the hostel then sitting around the bonfire. The previous night there had been lots of people round it but that night it was just me, Simon and a Kiwi guy.
Apart from the coffee, another attraction of the area is the Cocora Valley which we ventured to on our second day. After being taken there in a jeep, a fairly large group of us set off along a path that followed the river first through some open land and then up through the cloud forest. It was quite hard going uphill along muddy, rocky paths and across rickety bridges as the path meandered back and forth across the river. Our group diminished when not everyone wanted to go along an add-on of the walk up to a hummingbird sanctuary. It was another 20 minute climb but it was a lovely spot to have our lunch and enjoy a hot drink included in the entrance fee whilst watching several species of hummingbird drink from flowers and feeders. Simon spent a long time trying to get good photos of the speedy birds. It was yet another example of enterprising spirit as it appeared to be a family home where they'd realised tourists would like to see hummingbirds and rest from the walk.
After going back down to the main path, refreshed from lunch and some amazing peanut butter chocolate brownie, the remaining five of us faced another steep climb up through the forest to our reward for the climb. The path back towards the start of the walk took us through open land looking out into the surreal attraction of the area: masses of insanely tall wax palms dotting the grassland. We stopped again to sit and take in the view, as well as finish the brownie. Many photo stops and six hours later, we finished the walk, feeling very satisfied but tired.
Somehow we managed to walk into town that evening (and back) for an enormous standard Colombian dinner (soup then fish/meat accompanied by rice, veg, salad, plantain and some fried things with a lemonade) at the great expense of £2 each and then met Tijs and Jacqueline for several drinks in a locals bar where we had a great evening. We were touched when they presented us with clog key rings as we were soon to be parting ways after nearly four weeks together.
Our last day of chilling out at the hostel was interspersed with a lunch and internet trip to town, so nothing too taxing. As the hostel does not serve dinner on a Saturday, a man had turned up in his self built van earlier on in the day to serve food. That evening we went to order and were invited to climb up a ladder into a tiny seating area whilst he prepared a delicious vegetable lasagne right next to us in his equally tiny kitchen. He was an interesting guy, from Colombia, but had spent many years in Europe living in artists' squats and catering for the electronic music festival circuit. After a bit we were joined by a British couple who we'd met earlier in the day, and we continued to swap travel tips as we are doing similar trips in reverse to each other. They were kind enough to share their wine with us and we had a great, if quite different, evening.