Hiking in the Valle de Cocora

Valley of Wax Palms
We were up early after a peaceful night’s sleep, and after some breakfast we were off on the jeep to the Valle de Cocora. Ramsey clung on as he stood on the back, making the most of the scenery as we made our twenty minute journey to the beginning of the hike. We were also joined coincidentally by some of our fellow survivors from the hike the day before. Our friends from Armenia had done the hike a few days before and warned us of the lack of signage to take the right trail, but despite the warnings we still missed the turning the first time! A dead end forced us to turn back and put us on the right trail as we followed the meandering path through the valley of wax palms, which were absolutely incredible. Their immense height and yet strength to withstand the winds that were blowing was a feat of nature that I had not seen before. The path climbed up and up, it seemed never ending, but I’m not sure what we were expecting- it was an estimated 5 hour route! We made it to the cloud forest, in which Ramsey managed to make a new friend in the form of a tiny spider-like insect that attempted to burrow itself in his skin! Eek, he was slightly shocked to say the least, as my nails came in handy and I managed to pinch the little bug(ger) and unlatch its grasp on his wrist! Nothing like enjoying beautiful views while feeling a little on edge about the wildlife! We were also quite worried about the state of the shoes of everyone who was walking in the opposite direction to us… it looked like it was going to get a bit muddy!
Lots of Wax Palms!
Hummingbird at the Sanctuary
As we arrived at a fork in the path, we left our hiking companions  and took the route that headed up to the hummingbird sanctuary- a muddy, uphill path that led us to confront a couple of bridge-less streams and a river with the first of the unsafe bridges we were going to face on the rest of the walk. This additional detour was absolutely worth it. With the entry fee to the sanctuary we were rewarded with a refreshing drink and managed to watch the hummingbirds up-close as they fed from the bird feeders. They were fascinating and extremely fast yet elegant in their flight.
The third leg of the journey brought with it the mud we had been anticipating. The hike the day before was like a warm-up for the slipping and sliding on this part of the route. We stuck to the edges, clutching on the roots and branches to avoid the muddy void that looked like it would swallow my trainers and never return them! We followed the path along the river, crossing seven of the most suspiciously unstable bridges that could possibly exist. Needless to say it was quite the adventure! As if the chances of us breaking a leg in the mud and falling into the river off the bridges was not dangerous enough, Ramsey nearly knocked himself out after whacking his head on an unsuspecting tree branch.
Tackling the Mud
The path soon opened up and we found ourselves at the bottom of the valley once more with the mountains climbing up on either side of us. After a good five hours of walking, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves back where we had been dropped by the jeep. We made it back to Salento and stopped at a bar on the plaza for a celebratory drink.
Playing Tejo
As if we hadn’t already done enough walking, we went to a viewpoint to look down on the town and then headed to the restaurant owned by the man on the bike who had accompanied us when we first arrived in Salento. It was a meal with a view, after which we headed for a traditional game of Tejo. It’s Colombia’s national sport, and consists of throwing a metal disk (the ‘tejo’) at small pieces of gunpowder wrapped in paper, which are positioned on a clay board. Needless to say, hitting one makes a bang that is enough to make the unsuspected player jump! Ramsey seemed to have a knack for the game although after an hour with only three papers left which seemed impossible to hit, we soon both gave up and took to exploding them for fun!

A second peaceful night under the stars before our final day arrived. We hired bikes and made our way into the town; battling the unsuspectingly long uphill path… needless to say it was great fun on the way back! We had a final wander around the cobbled artisanal streets before it was time to return the bikes, pick up our bags and head back to Cali, ready to start at our new schools!

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