After a week in Medellin we decided to head south to Salento, a small town in the Zona Cafeteria area in Colombia that is famous for its coffee and amazing scenery.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon after a six-hour bus ride to Pareira, followed by a one hour drive in a local bus. The bus dropped us off outside the town’s fire station and we made the short 150 meter walk to our hostel, The Plantation House. When we reached the end of the road and had the option of turning left or right, we were greeted by a young boy about three years old who enthusiastically yelled in Spanish and pointed in the direction of our hostel.
After spending all day on the bus we were restless so we checked in, dropped our bags and headed to the town square. It was about 5pm and the square was buzzing! There were food vendors everywhere, bars were pumping out the tunes, competing for whose system was the loudest and Colombian tourists filled the streets. We spent some time walking the square, grabbed some groceries and were about to head back to our room to freshen up until we noticed the stunning sunset. Of course every sunset should be enjoyed with a beer or wine in hand so we picked up a few Club Colmbias and enjoyed the sunset from the square.
We had heard that Salento is a very sleepy little town that only gets going on Friday and Saturday nights so we had no option but to check out the scene. We started with beers at a corner bar that had a small dance floor going. I coud have spent the entire night there watching everyone dance but Bret dragged me out to grab a quick bite to eat.
After dinner Sally dragged me back to the first bar with dancing on her mind. She had salsa on her mind since the day we touched down in Colombia and had yet to dance a single step. As we were getting ready to step into the first bar (where the dancing was) a 20-something Colombian kid approched us. He didn’t speak English but gestured for us to join him and his friends. This had warning signs written all over it. We had actually received a lecture from our Pablo tourguide not to drink with anyone we didn’t know. There is a drug here in Colombia that is pretty much a functional ruffie. There is no odour, no taste, and it whipes your memory. You are pretty much at the disposal of your predator. But the bar was crowded, we were in a small town, and besides, they had a table! We sat down and were introduced to his two friends. The rest of the night consisited of a little Spanish, a little English, and a lot of hand gestures. Two of the kids were
pretty good dancers and were able to get Sally was able to get out on the dance floor.
We managed to keep each other entertained until the bar closed down. Afterwords the group of us poured into the street with the rest of the locals. It didn’t take long to notice we were the only gringos in sight. We felt pretty lucky to have been selected by the locals to hang out. The group of us decided the party wasn’t over and managed to find a back street booze vender that was willing to “open” (slide a bottle through a cracked door) and sell us a bottle of rum. Mixers weren’t available so we had to drink Colombian style, shots. We ended up saying goodbye to our kick ass hosts around four in the morning. Sally and I both agree that it was the best night out in Colombia by far.
Coffee Plantation tour
The Plantation House hostel was originally one of the first coffee plantations in Salento. The owner, Tim bought the property when the land became more valuable as real estate than the coffee it was producing. About three years ago he brought the coffee back to the Plantation House by buying some neighboring coffee fields. He does tours of his coffee field and production plant. He takes you through all the different stages of producing coffee. At the end of the tour he takes the final skin off some beans, roasts them, grinds the beans down, and brews up what I consider the best cup of black coffee I have ever had. Sally doesn’t like coffee at all but was a trooper and tried it. She didn’t get very far though.
Valle de Cocora
Valle de Cocora (Vally of Palms) has a collection of wax palms that can reach up to 60 meters and live up to 120 years. The popular valley is a must do in Colombia, as we soon found out when we came to the country. The valley is a short 40 minute Willy Jeep ride from Salento and can be hiked in various ways. Sally and I opted for the five-hour round trip hike that took us up a parallel valley to a humming-bird sanctuary and down into the valley from the top of the ridge. As we set off on our journey, to our amusement, a local dog decided to follow us.
The path starts by weaving its way through some local farm fields where you spend most of your time trying to dodge the horse shit, then quickly turns into a jungle hike. As we began to navigate our way through woods, over several rickety bridges and up the steep path, we began to chat with several of the hikers that were trekking at the same pace. Justin from San Fransisco, Owen from England, Sarah from Sweden, and to our surprise the dog (soon to be named Chico) from the beginning of the hike.
After about two hours the group of us made it to the humming-bird sanctuary. Chico must have been familiar with their warning not to bring pets because as we went through the gate he scampered off. The humming-bird sanctuary was really quite amazing. An old couple was there to great us and provide a cold beverage. They claimed to have six different humming-bird breeds on the property but during our 45 minute rest, unfortunately we only managed to see three.
Once the feet were rested and we fulfilled our goal of taking a million photos of the humming birds, we set off to complete our journey. As we made our way down to the entrance of the sanctuary our guide Chico was waiting on us! We continued to hike what quickly became very steep terrain. At the top at La Montana we were blown away by the amazing view of the area we just hiked. A quick rain sent us all ducking for cover and helped cool us off quite nicely. As we set off to walk down the valley we lost Chico to a group of hikers that were sitting down to have lunch. I guess when it comes to dogs one thing holds true, food trumps all.
The descent down the dirt road into the valley is nothing short of amazing. Massive Wax Palms sprinkle the lush green valley as far as the eye can see. I would try to continue to describe the magnificent scenery but I’ll leave you with a link to some photos instead.
Our last day in Salento was spent wandering the town some more, taking plenty of photos, eating trout, taking in the sunset over the stunning countryside and playing Tejo! Tejo is one of the most kick ass games I think I have seen created. It is all the skill of horseshoes with a little Colombian flair! There are two clay pits that stand 80 meters apart. Each pit is about 3 ft by 5 ft. There is a metal circle placed in the middle of the pit about the size of a softball. Four folded-up triangle gun powder packets are placed around the metal circle. Each player throws a softball size solid piece of steel toward the clay pit (half court for beginners and gringos or the starter/kids pit). If you stick in the clay and are closer than your opponent, you score a point. If you throw and explode one of the gunpowder packets, you get three points. If you land in the middle of the circle it’s six and if you land in the middle of the circle and blow up all of the gunpowder, it´s nine. There is no cost to play the game, you get to stay on the court as long as you continue to buy drinks! Bret and I actually did quite well our first time playing (on the kids/gringo court)!
Salento was well worth the 12-hour round trip from Medellin. It’s such a peaceful town and the locals are incredibly friendly.