June 26, 2011

Hiking in Valle de Cocora with Anna

When Anna and I headed off to Salento for the weekend we didn't just plan to hang around the pretty hostel or look at pretty doorways, but go on a hike!

My co-workers raved to me about the Valle de Cocora outside Salento, so I knew we needed to go there. The hike is famous because of the tall wax palms (the national tree of Colombia) that line the valley.

Anna and I started out from the main plaza in Salento with water and snacks in hand at about 9 AM on Saturday. A jeep took us and a few other hikers to the small hamlet of Cocora, about 30 minutes from Salento. After a quick conversation with some girls who had encountered a map of the hike, we found the starting point and set out on our way!

Immediately the rolling green hills, majestic trees and quiet country setting had me in love with this hike. After about an hour in the valley the scenery changed a bit as we headed into more of the forest around the river (Rio Quindio). Several bridge crossings and a few hills later we arrived at the Acaime Lodge for some snacks and hot chocolate. We ended up seeing lots of other hikers there who were also staying at our hostel so we compared hiking notes before continuing to the next stop on the map, La Montana (The Mountain).

Well, the mountain it was, because the next .8 km felt like 5 km because they were straight uphill. We were warned about this going into it, but this part of the hike still felt especially difficult because we were at altitudes about 9,000 ft. Finally arriving at La Montana, three hours from the start of our hike, we looked out over the surrounding hills only to discover that we couldn't see very far in the distance. We were so high that the clouds blocked our sight lines! A quick picture of the elevation sign later and we started down the road back into the valley. The walk down, while hard on the knees, was the best part of the hike yet!! The valley on this side was even more striking that the beginning and we couldn't help but stop for some classic jumping photos :)

A surprising 45 minutes to an hour later and we were back at the start of the trail! Turns out when you have a road to walk on, lots of catching up to do, and a straight downhill path, time flies! We caught a jeep back to Salento just as the rain started to fall and headed to the hostel in search of a hot shower to ease our limbs :)

The basic game plan for our hike.

On the trail!

One of the first bridges we had to cross - make of logs thrown across the river.

Anna captured this bridge on camera and I just love how the picture turned out!
Another bridge!

Happy hiker :)

Looking over the hills and valley...through the cloud layer.

FINALLY made it to the top (La Montana) at 2,860 meters (9,383 ft!).

The wax palms coming through the valley. The pictures really cannot do the 360-views justice. The sight of all these trees was stunning!

Anna makes the next add for Colombian tourism!

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