Valle de Cocora
Salento, Quindio, Colombia
A Challenging Hike in Colombia's Coffee TriangleWe were drawn to an unplanned trek on the Los Nevados National Park Valle de Cocora 7.5 miles loop trail, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation to Finca La Montana at an elevation of 9,400 feet, crisscrossing the Quindio River a half dozen times on rickety foot bridges with split wood planks, 2” apart, holding on to wire railings. Because of the rains, we were forced to put on our rubber boots to slog through the mud and ford streams. Along the way, we would come across other outdoors fans, some on horseback, others wearing tennis shoes, blazing on by us. Our ascent took 3.5 hours, straight up most of the way, stopping to catch our breath so many times we lost count. Just before reaching the 9,400 foot apex, we stopped for 15 minutes just to take in our accomplishment and the immense beauty before us.
Hearing thunder in the distance, we hurried to the top, through the gate and down the gravel road that was the other half of this loop travel, which we were very thankful for. We shed our boots, put on our better-suited foot wear and hot-footed it through the lowering misty cloud cover that would result in some eerie pictures of the Palma de Ceras (Wax palms), Colombia’s national tree, which grows to heights of 200 feet. The vegetation consisted of bamboo and pine trees and lushness that was a cross between Kauai, Jurassic Park, and the Austrian Alps, a pastoral hillside and valley floor catering to cows grazing in the mists and fallen Wax palms strewn about. We were forced to breach a couple of gates across the road, going underneath barbed wire of off to the sides. Coming down into the valley we came across a group of weekend horse riders, moseying along beside us and our tired bodies. We hired a jeep back to El Cairo, our B & B, just as the impending deluge of rain hit!