The travel day to Salento was a bit sad since it was Irina’s depature day to Germany ;( At some point even grandparents run out of vacation 😉 We took a 8:15am minivan from Buenaventura’s terminal (again 27,000 COP per person) to Cali and reached the terminal there three hours later. After a quick lunch Lothar accompanied Irina to the airport shuttle where their ways separated for two more weeks.
Both of us were very sad but at the same time also thankful that we had to the opportunity to have a short kids free travel time 😉
Irina’s shuttle (8,000 COP) broke down on the way to the airport but was quickly replaced by another one such that she made it right on time to Cali’s airport. From there she took a flight to Bogota from where her international flight to Frankfurt left four hours after her arrival. Ultimately, she arrived safely to Germany where 18 degrees Celsius and rain greeted her – what a stereotypical German summer 😉
Lothar carried on by bus (22,000 COP) to Armenia. After three and a half hours he caught a connecting bus to Salento which took another hour a costed 4,000 COP. On the bus he met two American sisters of Venezuelan origin, Clara and Michelle, and they decided to head to the same hostel spontaneously. In fact, they got lucky and there were three spots available in the dorm (25,000 COP/night including breakfast).
Lothar and the girls walked up to a lookout point of the Corcora Valley and ate dinner at a Venezuelan food truck. Afterwards it was Tejo time! Tejo is a Colombian game (similar to corn hole) where each player gets a rock (which looks like a grenade) and has to target a metal circle where small triangle explosives lie. The player with the closest rock to the ring obtains one point, an explosion yields three points, a hit within the ring six and explosion plus inner ring nine points. Winner is who reaches 21 points first.
It’s a fun game for a night out but our group did not manage to get one loud explosion! Lothar jumped everytime when another group on another playing field got an explosion 😉 The only thing what occurred when someone of our group hit a triangle was white smoke. Still a good game to play from time to time 🙂
At the next morning, the two girls and Robin, a German guy who slept in their hostel the same night, and Lothar (from now on “we”) took a Willy (Jeep taxi) from the Plaza Central to the start of the trail in the Concora Valley. The return ticket was 8,000 COP and it took 30min to get there.
Upon arrival we could immediately the tall wax palm trees this valley is known for. They can grow up to 60m and are the national symbol of Colombia! The trail covered a distance of 12km and a altitude difference of 1200m and loops around a mountain range and along a river and ends ultimately at the same place from where you start.
We walked the trek clockwise although Lothar read before that anti-clockwise is the nicer route as it has less impact on the knees (while descending) and ends in a garden of wax palm trees. Anyhow, after a couple of meters in altitude a lot of clouds were drawn into the valley which made the views rather mediocre.
After 2h we reached the highest point, Finca la Montaña, at 2850m. As well, from here we had a very cloudy view. At least we saw a beautiful colibri with long silver-blue tail. After a short snack break we started the steep descent.
After an hour or so we reached the river and walked along it over multiple small wooden suspension bridges which was quite adventurous. Then after another hour we left the forest which surrounded the river and came to open fields.
At this point of time the sun showed first time her beautiful face and broke through the clouds. We had nice views into the valley and of wax palm trees along the steep hills. After 5:20h we reached the parking lot of the Willys where we started the track. On the way, we had to pay in total 7,000 COP since we walked over private land.
The next day I spent the day by myself since the other ones had other plans. I started to walk west of town along carretera 8 towards the Reserva Natural Kasaguada and reached it after 40min. I got lucky since the only tour of the day was just starting at 10am. The owner, Carlos, is a very passionate and knowledgeable biologist who bought the land 12 years ago.
He ran his tour (30,000 COP per person) for a little bit less than two hours and explained in very easy words a lot about sand banks, the mistakes of the first Spanish settlers w.r.t. cultivating the land, wax palm trees (shadow provider), emphasized the differences between the tropics where there are no seasons vs. Europe where there are four, etc.
He showed us different plants of the cloud forest, trees covered by moos, and bambo-like trees called Guadado which he and his two partners used to build sustainable bungalows in the middle of the cloud forest. Also he mentioned the importance of ants who protect a plant which is called Guama which usually is a sign that the ecosystem is functional. He provided so much information that I felt a little bit overwhelmed and felt like being back at college 😉 Anyhow, great tour and great owner.
Afterwards, I walked another 10min along the same track and reached the coffee plantation Finca Las Acacias. After half an hour wait and a decent Americano from a good coffee machine one of the guides, Cristian, showed me and two other tourists around.
First, we learned that many other things such as bananas, mandarins, lemons, wax palm trees, flowers are planted on the Finca’s land. Second, we went through the process of coffee planting until the fermentation. We learned that a new coffee plant needs 5 years until they give their maximum harvest. Coffee beans are put into sandy soil where they grow for 5 weeks. Then they are transferred to a normal soil (still in a pot under observation) for up to six months until they are finally transferred to the real soil.
Coffee beans from lower altitudes taste sweeter than the ones from higher but are stronger in taste. At the same time they are more prone to insects and hence the higher the coffee grow the higher is the likelihood that it is organic coffee.
On this Finca they exclusively sell coffee to tourists but many other coffee farms export coffee to North America (most important market) and Europe and hence are subject to the world market price of coffee. Arabica is by the way the only type of coffee which is grown in Colombia. Arabica has a 75% world market share, Robust the remainder.
After the second tour I walked back to town to eat a yummy Filet Mignon with vegetables and fries and half an hour later I took a bus to Medellin. The coffee region around Salento is a great place to visit and I recommend it.
Since the picture storage is completely full pictures can be found here temporarily: