An easy bus from Medellin, Salento was our first arrival at night as we missed the earlier bus…fortunately, there couldn’t be a better place for it. Our journey was almost a private coach hire experience, sharing our oranges with the driver and watching Netflix with no one else on board, we pulled into Salento’s cobbled square. A few blocks in and a local had given us more directions to our hostel just four blocks away. I loved this place already.
We decided to hit the ground running, rising early the next day to catch a jeep out to Valle de Cocura. The jeeps in the main square leave regularly (and only when full with three people stood on the back) to head to the beautiful valley of palms. Stocked up with snacks and lunch, we bundled into the car, excited to be in another small town. Upon arrival, we discovered the road forks at the park entrance so you have the option to start or end the trail with the jaw-dropping valley. Obviously, we chose the harder route with the more rewarding end. Either way, you need to pay to enter – there really is no such thing as a free lunch. This two-hour long hike is filled with a variety of vegetation, swinging bridges, mules and rocky mud slides – although trying and hot at times, this route thankfully doesn’t require good fitness!
I hadn’t expected trees to affect me quite like they did in Salento but as we reached the summit and rounded the corner, the view was spectacular. Perhaps to mask exhaustion but primarily in awe, we joined the other tourists on the open patch of grass and sat down to drink in the view. The valleys rolled endlessly and as far as the eye could see, there was tree after tree, each one taller than the last with the sun reflecting off each waxy leaf as it swayed in the wind. Breathless, I didn’t want to leave.
The last leg of the journey was spent descending into the mouth of the valley, each trunk growing in size around you as if you were Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter was about to throw down his top hat. Eventually, we emerged out of our temporary Wonderland and grabbed one of the most delicious tomate de arbol juices before marvelling at Reid’s ability to juggle granadillas and catching our jeep back to town.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying some mouthwatering pork at the local open air market with a beer, some new friends and a pack of cards. We also ended up ordering some of the local cuisine (patecon) as a result of food envy for the neighbouring family’s dish. As if Salento coudnt sweep me off my feet anymore, we then discovered that the same family had paid our bill for us, delighted to have shared in our discovery of a new and delicious Colombian meal. This country and its people are just something else!
It was a groggy but prompt start to fit in a coffee plantation tour the next day. There are a few options along a dusty path outside of town, after the bridge and it was a competitive strip with many boasting free welcome coffee, cheap prices and arguably…the same thing. A hungover decision later and we were learning all about the journey of the coffee bean (it can take years) and how it is a costly process if not done properly. Tragically, 90% of Colombia’s coffee is actually exported and so we hadn’t found many cups worth drinking. Therefore, with quality caffeine coursing round our body, we gratefully bought some of our own beans and hitched a ride back to town.
That night we completed the small walk through the artisanal market and up a few hundred steps to the high-point with some rum-spiked natural juices to watch the sunset. It was seriously disappointing – do not force yourself up if you haven’t got the energy! Unfased, we picked ourselves up with some competitive pool playing in the local pub, learnt salsa in the street and bid goodnight to this sleepy but glorious town.
Seconds to make count
Research the coffee plantation you want to visit, Salento isn’t the only place to go (it’s one of the most touristy) and so if you’re passionate about coffee, it would be worth looking into
You can find out if your shop-bought coffee is the real deal simply by asking the seller from which farm (finca) they bought it, if they don’t know, chances are it’s not worth buying
Waterproof cards really do help you make friends
Hostel: Coffee Tree Boutique, Duration: 3 nights