Out for a drive south of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 6, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist! Arrive December 8th.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The fascinating scenery at Valle de Cocora, Colombia

This area is why we came to Salento to begin with. Of course we had seen pictures on the web while doing our research for this trip, and that was the instigator to come here. But pictures never do it justice, and that's certainly the case here. Being there in person is far better.

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.

Fancy ceiling!

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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40 comments:

  1. The church is gorgeous!
    The wax palm trees are amazing. Can't image how strong those trucks are. It is amazing to be in the only place where they grow. WOW.

    What an awesome hike. I love the Inca jay. What a fabulous area! Thanks for sharing the video.

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    1. The church was certainly different from others we have seen. Very colourful!

      We think it is amazing as well that this is the only place that they grow. So happy that we finally were able to do this hike.

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  2. Wow beautiful hike, church, and lovely bird....no food posted? LOL I like to see what locals eat.

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    1. Thanks Rita! No, no food in this post, I did the cooking today back at the hostel.

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  3. Nice post! What a beautiful spot, the town too is cool. I'm enjoying this trip with you, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Peter, we really enjoyed that area as well. I wish I had felt better earlier in the week though so we could have done some more exploring.

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  4. Love those Wax Palms, they are huge !

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  5. Surprised the Wax Palms stay so straight and don't bend!

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    1. So were we, I think they have a very strong root system.

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous - everything - the church, the bird, the wax palm trees, waterfalls, hike - even colorful Salento! Can't thank you enough for choosing Colombia - learning so much - love it all!

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    1. So happy that you are enjoying Colombia so much through our eyes. We are glad that choose Colombia too!

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  7. What a terrific trip you are having! So glad it's going well and Ruth is feeling better!

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    1. Yes, we are having a wonderful trip so far and we aren't quite half way through! Other than an almost constant headache (possible side effect from the antibiotic) I am feeling almost 100% again. :-)

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  8. Well worth the wait to see those palms. Neat video.

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    1. Definitely worth the wait. We weren't leaving the area without seeing this. What a magical place.

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  9. Super post. Loved the interior of the church, photo of Ruth and the giant palm, the beautiful Inca Jay, plus the video. Great to tag along with you. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you Dianne, we are so glad that you got to tag along with us. I really wish that we could have got a better picture of the Inca Jay, it was so pretty but at least we did manage to
      get this one.

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  10. Great shot of the bird, they are so colorful there. Those trees are very cool, I can see why you wanted to see them.

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    1. We would have loved to have been able to get a better one but it just wouldn't cooperate for us and this was the best we could do. Really hoping to see some more colourful ones.

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  11. Either those trees are very deeply rooted or it never gets windy there.

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    1. I believe they have a huge root system. Apparently you will never see two of these trees living next to each other because they won't compete for resources.

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  12. yep those wax palms are pretty cool, indeed!

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    Replies
    1. It has been a very unique experience and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to have seen them.

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  13. Very interesting, the things you don't know about places. Amazing scenery and what a beautiful church.

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    1. That's why travel is such a great thing, it opens your eyes to some much and makes you realize how huge and diverse the world can be :-)

      I think this is probably our most colorful church that we have seen so far.

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  14. What a beautiful church! The colours are amazing. The chandeliers don't help though with the cheap fluorescent bulbs but I'm sure there are financial considerations.
    The Wax Palms are stunning. it almost seems the clear the foliage around them. I'm sure it's not the case. Or is it pasture land around them where the cattle keep the underbrush down?
    Fantastic trip...and happy to hear Ruth is feeling better.

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    1. I think just about every church we have entered in Mexico as well as here in Colombia uses these bulbs. We agree it would be so much prettier with nicer bulbs but as you say it may have to do with economics. Electricity is quite expensive in these countries.

      Yes they are in pasture land and a little further down there were some cattle grazing.

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  15. What a great time. I do not recall seeing a church with such bright colors before-I like it:)

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    1. It was an amazing day! I'm not sure if we have seen a church so colourful either.

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  16. I love the Colombian countryside. You guys are really getting a good experience. Great pics and cool video.

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    1. We are really loving the countryside as well with the mountains, valleys and the lush green growth.
      This is definitely our cup of tea!

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  17. Those trees blow me away. I can't believe how TALL they are! What's so odd is that there are leaves at the top but no trace of the old leaves on the trunk. Not like the ones I've seen in this area. They have to get cranes to get up to the top and trim the old dead leaves off. These look so tidy and clean. Lovely photos of this unique countryside. Nice video, too!

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    1. They did the same to us, totally took our breath away! They really are huge. I guess they must be a self pruning kind of tree because I can pretty much guarantee that nobody climbs up there to trim them! ;-)

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  18. Those trees are kinda cool looking. Like big dandelions. Or those alien trees from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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    1. They were very cool looking! I don't remember what the trees looked like in that movie and I don't think I want to watch it again just to see. ;-)

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  19. How tall do the trees get? Fascinating! Glad to hear you are feeling a bit better Ruth.

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    1. Under ideal growing conditions they grow to about 50m (160ft) and some can grow as high as 60m (200ft) although that height is rare. Yes, truly amazing!

      I am happy to be feeling well again too. :-)

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