With about a week left before we flew out of Colombia we decided to hit up one more region and made our way south to Quindío in the coffee region. Our first stop was Salento to meet up with Rory McCann, another Irish frisbee player and former Barcelona resident travelling Latin America. Rory started in the southern cone and is working his way up. We had one of our best days in Colombia, with a stunning hike and tasty burgers for dinner. He also did a solid job of putting away most of a brigadero (A ridiculous Brazilian dessert made of chocolate, dulce de leche and butter). It was good to trade stories and tips although the rain meant we never got to go throwing.
Salento itself is a very pretty small town that’s been on the traveller trail for a while. There’s loads of international food, and the typical local dish is trout which they farms in the hills. We enjoyed the town but the highlight was the day hike around Valle de Cocora with Rory and a few other backpackers. It must be said that the constant rain made planning our days there a challenge.
Valle de cocora
The highlight as I said was the hike through with Rory. It’s a 5 hour loop going up by the river through the forest. There’s a detour to an amazing humming bird reserve, where dozens of humming birds buzz around you while you drink agua de panela with queso. It was lashing rain as we arrived at the highest point on the trail. The valley was full of clouds blocking any sort of view (Not unlike the scenery of the movie Avatar.) As we started to descend the sun came out and gave us the most incredible views of the Valley below and the enormous palms trees that stick out of the forest and tower above everything else. Without a doubt some of the most impressive scenery we’ve seen so far.
After Rory made his was north and another night in Salento we moved on to a nearby town called Filandia. A similar sized small pretty town in the coffee region. The rain got us a bit down the first day, but we had dinner in the hostel with three Frenchies who had signed up for a walk in the natural reserve the next morning and we quickly became inseparable. Charlotte, Sophie and Thomas basically took the same route we’ve taking, starting in San Francisco and working their way down meaning we had a lot of very similar experiences and stories to share. Over the next four nights despite the daily afternoon rain we loved Filandia and our new Francophone gang.
- After hearing howler monkeys in Mexico and Guatemala we finally got to see some in the wild when one of them casually swung by us, yawned, scratched his back on the tree and took off slowly.
- After beers and tunes in the hostel (which was great craic) a group of about 14 of us hit the local Tejo hall for a few rounds of hilarious but pretty poor quality Tejo with beers followed by a trip to the only night club in the town. The club, complete with lasers and cheap bottles of rum was hilarious. Locals and tourists dancing to everything from regaeton to salsa, and there was even a dog on the dance floor at one stage. A few locals even came up to us to welcome us to their town. Despite the sore heads the next day it was a whopper night.
- Our last day in the coffee region we hiked to a spectacular and completely wild double waterfall. There’s no signs anywhere, you just have to find a tiny path behind a house, surrounded by coffee plants and banana trees.
One night bus later and we were back in Bogotá. We had our flight to Asia on the 16th so we spent one night in Milton’s place in the big smoke before changing continents.
We happened to arrive at the same time as Fatem and Célian as they start their Colombian adventure setting up and neat changeover. We also managed to eat one last bandeja paisa, have lunch with our super host Laura and have a beer with more frisbee players. It was great to catch up with the people we met 7 weeks ago and share what we’d experienced. Despite the odds our last day in Bogotá was sunny without a drop of rain, a nice send off from the Colombian capital.
After 7 weeks in Colombia we feel like we’ve seen a lot, but like Mexico the place is so big and so diverse that we’ve only really scratched the surface. We’ve realised how ignorant we were of Colombian history before coming here and how much more we have to learn. The people and the landscapes have been by far the most impressive. The food got a little bit repetitive for a moment (meat, rice, beans and salad) but paying less that three euro for a massive dish, soup and drink is pretty great. The style is something that we’ve noticed a lot. The women are stunning, there’s perfect long black hair everywhere but the flip side is the culture of fake boobs and ass implants and the lack of subtlety compared with European standards. The complexity of the country has also blown us away. There is a mix of many many different indigenous tribes, with the Spanish and African descendents on top of extreme poverty in rural regions beside neighbourhoods in Bogotá and Medellín that feel like the posh parts of Paris. I could go on and on. We’d like to come back to Colombia and to explore the rest of the continent for sure but for now we’re ready to get out of our comfort zone again and go explore somewhere that probably couldn’t be more different, Japan.
- Rory has a travel blog too Mochileros Sucios. Best captions in Latin America.
- Transport around the region is done in jeeps called willy’s. They’re great craic.
- We had two stray dogs follow us around Filandia, Marco and Martina. We’ll miss you.
- I drank and brought a lot of coffee. So tasty.
- Mothers day in Colombia was on Sunday, it’s a massive deal.
- Pan de bono, Best thing since sliced bread.