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El Valle del Cocora, a national natural park in the central cordillera of the Andes, is the main attraction of the colorfully-painted town of Salento. The valley is known for its towering, skinny wax palm trees, which are the tallest in the world. One can hike the forest by foot or on horseback. The end of the lush trail leads to the 'Santuario de Calibris,' or hummingbird sanctuary; an area where the small, hurried birds fly freely and abundantly. The typical way to arrive at the park is to take a Willy, an old jeep from WWII times, from the Plaza Bolivar in Salento. They leave at various times in the morning: show up early to ask the drivers when they leave. It's well worth the 3.000 Colombian pesos ($1.50 USD) each way to reach this lush and mysterious valley in the clouds!
A trip through the Coffee Triangle, the coffee- growing region of central Colombia, takes you into the small towns and wildlife-rich mountains of the Caldas, Quindío, and Risaralda departments. Base yourself at the Hacienda Bambusa, an eight-room, family-run hotel hidden among 445 acres of orchids, palms, and banana and cacao fields. To book a tour of the region, contact Betty Jo Currie at (404) 254-5677. Photo courtesy of Hacienda Bambusa. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
The signature dish of Salento, Colombia, is trucha con patacones— trout with mashed, fried plantains—and the most delicious version in town can be found at El Rincon de Lucy. The cozy, family-run eatery serves huge, inexpensive set meals with the star attractions accompanied by soup, rice, beans, cheese, eggs, arepas, fresh juice, and desserts. The basic elements stay the same, but matron and chef Lucy routinely tweaks the dishes, which keeps customers returning day after day. Located in the Zona Cafetera, or coffee-growing region, Salento draws Colombian tourists each weekend, when its streets fill with foods tents and music. Most of the food stalls serve the town’s signature dish, but my wife and I opted for paper-thin, crispy patacones with cheese, beans, tomatoes, and onions one Sunday night. While we delighted in the nachos, we experienced one of the auspicious occurrences that occasionally happen when traveling. A man approached us from across the tent, beaming and welcoming us to his country in broken English. He was all smiles and gestures, pointing to his family who waved enthusiastically. Then he told us not to pay for our meal. We protested, of course, thinking he was offering to pay, but he cut us short—he had already paid for it before coming to our table. We were astonished, humbled, and grateful at the generosity and goodwill toward strangers. It was the most memorable of many moments of hospitality and graciousness we experienced throughout Colombia.
I was now alone with simply one of the most majestic views I've ever seen. I just stared in amazement for several minutes reminding myself to breathe every now and then. It seemed ridiculous to want to close my eyes and attempt to control my breath in meditation, but after a few minutes of clearing my mind then slowly opening my eyes to that spectacular view, I think I may have experienced a brief glimpse of Nirvana. http://www.kaleidoscopeofcolor.com/galleria/colombia-2012/ © 2012 Skip Hunt
I normally hate taking photos through windows, especially dirty, grimy bus windows, but I couldn't resist. This is the palma de cero, or wax palm, the national tree of Colombia and currently the title-holder of my favorite tree in the world. These peculiar-looking giants can grow to almost 150 feet tall. This one was just hanging out by itself, somewhere on the (long) highway between Cali and Bogota -- more specifically, a bit outside of Armenia. I think it must be somewhere near the spectacular Valle de Cocora, since that's where most of these trees are.
Every 20th of July, we celebrate the Independence Day. Every house has it flag and every city or little town has a military parade with music bands. This time, General Bolivar himself was leading the parade at Salento !!!
An early morning walk with breath taking views. Hanging clouds and misty weather create such an atmospheric environment.
To get me up at the crack of dawn, it has to be worth it and trekking through Valle de Cocora certainly was. Be ready to constantly be amazed at the incredible views as you are in for a treat!
The Cocora Valley in the Coffee Triangle is very beautiful. The national tree of Colombia which is the wax palm grows here up in the clouds (6000-8000 feet above sea level.). They are very skinny, incredibly tall trees – the tallest palm trees in the world. For centuries, the Christian worshippers used to cut palm fronds from their wax palm trees to celebrate Palm Sunday, The exploitation of the indigenous people reduced the number of wax palms, prompting the Colombian government to give protection for the remaining trees. In 1985, an edict sponsored by both the Catholic Church and the government, forbid the cutting of wax palm fronds. We hike for a while along a muddy path and rickety bridges which heads up into the Andes. For more info go to http://travelwellflysafe.com/2014/05/28/the-cocora-valley-colombia/
Colombia lays claim to producing some of the finest coffee in the world. For those wishing to see first-hand the secret behind the process head to the biggest coffee region in Colombia. Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda all make up what is known as the coffee triangle: A region which enjoys the perfect climate for producing the most delicious coffee beans. One of the major cities in the region is Pereria and here many local coffee producers open their doors to tourists wanting to learn about the process. Café Don Manolo is one such family-run company, and its owner Hector takes you through each production step as well as offering eye-opening samples throughout. A bus journey takes about five hours while flights are available from the small airstrip in Medellin.
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