Ruth had not been feeling well last week, so we never made it there on our schedule. But we weren't leaving the area without seeing the giant wax palm trees! So we hung around a few more days until Ruth recovered. Yesterday, was the day...
We had stayed the weekend in nearby Filandia. Not as touristy as Salento and we actually like it better. But it isn't as convenient if you want to go to Valle de Cocora.
First, we stopped at the church in Filandia. I promised you some photos of the interior...
They're just finishing renovations.
From the church, we had to take a bus heading from Filandia to the small city of Armenia and ask the driver to let us off at Los Flores, where we could cross the highway and then flag a bus going to Salento in the opposite direction. No problem, as we had to do this last Saturday when we came to Filandia so we were familiar with the procedure.
Then, at the central plaza in Salento, you take a collectivo (shared) jeep for 20 minutes to get to village of Cocora. It costs 3,400 pesos ($1.60 CAD) each for the 20 minute ride. And it's a long 20 minutes! They have a bunch of old Willys jeeps here that were inmported to the area in the 1950's. They sold like hotcakes at the time because the coffee farmers loved them. Still lots of them around, and in many towns they are used as local public transportation.
Now picture 14 people (including the driver) in one of these jeeps. Actually, not quite in, because three people were standing on a brace on the rear bumper! Too funny.
The jeep lets you off at Cocora, and there are a lot of touristy food stands and coffee shops and horse rental stables.
Ruth, and one of the giant wax palm trees.
Yesterday was another public holiday here in Colombia, so it was busier than normal.
From here, you have some choices. Many people set off to the right hand side of the road and take the a loop trail that goes to a hummingbird place up in the mountains, then back down where the giant wax palms are towards the end of the trail. We originally had planned to do that trail, but since a lot of other people were heading that way we thought we would do it in reverse.
Or, you can rent a horse to get close to a waterfall or the back entrance to the palm tree valley. Many Colombian visitors seem to go the horse rental route, but don't take advantage of the option to see the palm trees. We found that strange.
Anyhow, we started hiking and we passed a place where a guy was sitting at the corner of private property advertising a 3,000 peso ($1.43 CAD) entrance fee to a farm. We passed it by because at the time we didn't see the point.
We were fortunate to have some blue sky and sunshine for the beginning of the day.
The Cocora Valley is called a "cloud forest". Why? Because the climate is such that it is almost always cloudy, misty, and rainy. So it was very rare indeed that we saw some blue sky up there. It didn't last long, but it was nice while we had it!
A sketchy bridge to cross. The sign says "For your safety, one ta a time please!"
Another sketchy bridge.
The horses follow much of the same trail and usually it's very muddy. But it hadn't rained here for about four days now and the mud was actually starting to dry up.
We spotted one fancy bird along the way. I wish the focus was better, but it was the best I could do! He didn't hang around very long. This is an Inca jay.
Ruth, at a pretty spot along the way.
We figured out at that little waterfall above that we had actually made a wrong turn somewhere. Some of the trails showed up on my mapping program on the iPhone, but others didn't. We found one signed trail that I knew would take us to where we wanted to go but it didn't look well used. We decided to simply retrace our steps and see where we went wrong.
Well it turns out that we went wrong very close to the beginning! That little entrance stand where the guy is charging 3,000 pesos is actually the back way into that loop trail.
This is where you need to pay 3,000 pesos to enter the back way for the loop trail. It's also where you need to enter to get the best views of the wax palms.
The giant wax palm tree was almost extinct in the early 1900's. It had been used for candle making before electricity arrived. It takes an exact mix of soil and climate conditions for this tree to grow naturally, and this is the only place in the world where it does. That's hard to imagine, isn't it? This little valley in Colombia is the only place in the world to find these odd looking trees.
Notice that the clouds have moved in.
Yes, this is a cloud forest.
Looking back at where we came from.
And to where we're going!
It's very surreal scenery.
We know it's not the same as being there, and pictures don't really do it justice. So I took a short 30 second video for you...
Can you see Kevin?
Admiring the scenery.
Can't believe it's not busier.
These trees grow to between 50-60 meters (160 -200 feet) high!
We had already hiked about 8 kms (5 miles) and we had now seen what we came there to see, so we didn't continue on the reverse hike back through to the hummingbird place.
We turned around and went back down to the entrance, happy with our experience for the day.
Back in Salento, we couldn't believe how busy it was!
Yikes! Try to avoid this place on the weekends!
Travel day today! We're heading to the city of Buga (pop 98,000) about 130 kms (81 miles) away. It's at a lower elevation, and will be much warmer temperatures. We've got two nights booked there, but can extend if we feel like it.
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