This morning I decided to prioritise my blog over continuing the struggle that is “sorting” through a lifetime’s worth of hoarding, i.e. my room, so sit back and relax while I reminisce about Colombia’s stunning Eje Cafetero.
The Eje Cafetero is Colombia’s coffee growing triangle and comprises the departments of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio, about 7 hours west of Bogota. When originally planning this trip I had intended to spend a weekend in the Eje Cafetero, and not a whole week, however my plans to go to Popayán with a group of friends went awry thanks to agricultural protests blocking the road there. Much to my annoyance (at the time) Salento became our new destination of choice, despite my having planned to go there 4 days later. That admirable British non-confrontational spirit was displayed in bucket loads by your truly and, unperceived by everyone else, saw us actually going to Salento. In hindsight I realise that this was not the end of the world and am merely trying to provide an accurate account, for posterity and all that…
Salento is a charming little town in the department of Quindío and one that makes a convincing case for the most touristy place I have visited in Colombia. All the more so considering that, despite its size (tiny), practically every other building is a hotel/hostel of some description. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place and is clearly that popular for a reason, as you can see below.
On our first night we stayed a little outside the town in lovely cabins in a field. We met a couple from Medellín and effectively crashed their plans to visit the nearby town of Finlandia, which turned out to be an excellent idea! We ate obleas in the main square and then went for hot chocolate and almohabanas – it couldn’t have been more Colombian.
The following day we got jeeps (hilariously named “willys”) from Salento to Valle del Cocora, which is probably the most iconic part of the region. As its name would suggest Valle del Cocora is a valley. Yet it is particularly unique in that it is full of palm trees which tower above everything else in the generally non-palm like environment of Quindío and extend rather eerily into the clouds. It is, without doubt, a very unusual and incredibly beautiful place. There is a path that weaves its way many kilometres through the forest and open valley. We chose to rent horses for the first part of said path, which added a lot more excitement to the journey. After several enjoyable hours we left our four-legged friends and made our way on foot to the “Casa del Colibrí” a hummingbird sanctuary high up in the hills. Due to a terrible lack of foresight none of us had brought any food, so we were all very relieved to see that lunch was available up there. Lentils have never tasted so good. We spent a while there watching the hummingbirds fluttering to and fro (we soon abandoned any attempt at taking a half-decent photo of them).
Afterwards we continued on foot, climbing ever higher and with considerable difficulty given the altitude (we’ll blame the altitude) until we reached the highest point on the path. From there on the way was, thankfully, downhill. We emerged from the forest into the valley, where we could look out over the fields dotted with the soaring palm trees. At one point we stopped on a hill overlooking it all and, lying on the ground with my eyes squeezed shut (simultaneously blocking out the excessive selfie taking of Juan Pablo) all I could hear was the wind rippling in the palm leaves – you could be anywhere in the world, least of all the middle of Quindío. It’s quite disorientating to open your eyes to see those hundreds of palm trees lost in the clouds. Then you sit up, look around and attempt to take in the endless, rolling, green valley in which they stand, and you can’t because it’s just that amazing.