We are leaving Bogota for Salento. It will take us more than one day by hitchhiking. Today our journey ends in the small town of Cajamarca. A pleasant, and quiet town amidst mountains has also a beautiful church and square. There are no tourists, just several skaters. Sort of a typical small town in Colombia.
Salento is crowded with tourists. Especially on the weekends, there are Colombians and foreign tourists alike. Therefore, it is better to visit the city during the work week even though there are many tourists anyway. There are many hotels, restaurants, and bars scattered around the city. It was founded in 1842. Situated at 1895 meters, it main square is Plaza Bolivar with Nuestra Señora del Carmen church. The square is a great place to take a rest. There is even an open-air film projection.
Hlavním místem pro nákup suvenýrů je ulice Calle Real street is the main souvenir shopping destination. What we see there are hand-made jewels, bracelets, cloths, bamboo decoration, and all sorts of crafted items. At the end of the street, there begins a Way of the Cross. 238 steps run up to the Cerro Mirador Salento scenic point where you can get an amazing vista over El Valle del Cocora. Fertile land in El Valle del Cocora makes coffee tree thrive there. Also, Palma de Cera (Ceroxylon quindiuense), the Colombian national tree grows there. The palm grows 40 meters high and can tall even 60 meters. It grows between 1800 – 3100 meters above sea level. The palm is vital for survival Ognorhynchus icterotis. The parrot nests inside its trunk and eat its fruit.
We plan to add a hummingbird reserve (Reserva Natural Acaime) to our itiniery when walking down the Valle de Cocora. This means that we wake up early. As soon as half past eight we are waiting for a jeep. It is quite well-organized here. Once we paid for a jeep ride, we are waiting before it is full. Then we set off. The jeep gets us to a parking lot. We walk from there. Nature around here is amazing. The road is well marked. If you are not sure with getting the directions right, better have a GPS in your cell. The trail follows the Quindio river. The trail crosses several wooden bridges. Quite a fun I must say. Reserva Natural Acaime is about 5,5 kilometres away and an entry charge applies. Hummingbirds are really there to see for there are special sippy cups with nectar they fly over drink. Seems they are used to people so you can take pictures of them. It is really nice to see a hummingbird from up close. But we were slightly disappointed that that was about it. A ring-tailed coati uplifted our mood. It came close to us, begging for something to eat. There are other birds next to hummingbirds. You just need to walk in the forest quietly and look up into the trees.
We cross La Montaña a El Sodo hill on our way back. There we enjoy amazing view over the surrounding mountains. The entire trail is 12 kilometers long. The elevation is around 600 meters; in other words - no strenous hike. Once we get back at the parking lot, we don't want to wait for the jeep. We spot an older couple loading their trunk. We asked them if they drive through Salento. They offered us a lift. They tell us that the palms are protected and it is forbidden to cut them. These palms grow very slowly which makes them basically irreplacable They can grow to be as much as 200 years old.
The surrounding landscape amazed us more than the hummingbird reserve. The mountains, the palm trees... when you see it is difficult to realize these things are there together. Somehow mountains and palm trees don't click together. But it is simply there! And we can see such a combination only here in Valle del Cocora in Colombia.
Text and photos: Tomáš Novák
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