Arriving in the town of Salento at night we couldn’t get much of an idea of the surrounding area or of the beauty that it may hold. We met a Dutch couple on the bus from Armenia, the nearest town to the village, and they recommended their hotel so spent the first night just off the main plaza. One of the best beds we’ve had all trip, so comfy and lots of blanket - perfect for the colder climate we weren’t used to by this point.
Salento centre at night
The reason we’d come to the village was for the hills nearby and the out of place palm trees that stand sporadically on them. The scenery (minus the palm trees) has been compared to Switzerland and although I have never been to Switzerland I could see the resemblance in places.
The following morning we got in the back of a pick-up truck to go to the Valle de Cocora. Having not read much about the valley we didn’t know what to expect apart from the wax palm trees and I remembered something about hummingbirds. Once we arrived there was a walk you could do, I think the sign said about 5km, to somewhere called Acaime. We started along the track lined by fields either side and admired the palm trees in the distance.
Entering the Valle de Cocora
However, as the path went on it got muddier, the earth churned up by the cattle that use it. It started to rain and we hadn’t got coats – clever us but we weren’t really thinking we’d be hiking! Then we came to the forest. There was a sign saying “Welcome to the Reserva Natural Acaime. Entrance 3000 colombian pesos. Included: Hot chocolate or Aguapanela with cheese” Or Spanish words to that effect. It sounded good so we carried on and came across the river. There were logs tied together that span the river to form a bridge. There was no hand rail but it wasn’t too hard to cross. This wasn’t the only one though. There must have been about eight or so of these maybe, some a lot more precarious than others. The path crisscrossed back and forth across the river for what felt like ages with one of the “Bienvenidos” signs every once in a while to entice you on. Eventually we came to a sign with a bit more information – left 800m to a La montaña mirador, right 1km to Acaime. At least we knew where we were and weren’t in some crazy Blair Witch Project style scene walking round in circles in the forest saga! (No this didn’t really cross my mind at the time but it could have!)
The river before it got wider
We decided to continue on the hunt for hot chocolate before tackling the climb to the mirador but the reserve still turned out to include a steep climb up from the river. The hot chocolate wasn’t the best but it was definitely worth it for the hummingbirds. Just by the señora’s house (it was a few buildings rather than a reserve as such) were several bird feeders and water bowls which were being greedily raided by about 10-15 hummingbirds of at least 5 different types. They were fascinating to watch and the noise their wings made was incredible, like a mini motor.
Hummingbirds coming in to land
Hummingbirds coming for a drink
Hummingbirds landing for a drink
Returning to the fork in the path by the sign we decided we might as well go back a different way, even if that way was up. I tried to guess the distance as we climbed and luckily for us I was way off in my estimation, 800m is not as far as I thought. The view was disappointing from the top although on a less cloudy day I’m sure it would have been beautiful. Then just as we began to descend the heavens opened. Despite the tree-lined path we still got soaked once again.
The palms in the mist
Peeking through the trees to the fields beyond we saw the palm trees much closer up. They looked very mysterious in the mist. As the path finally opened out onto the home stretch we saw fields after fields covered in the palms that soared high into the sky. They’re ridiculously tall, maybe up to 30m. Just look at the photo with someone stood beside one to see what I mean.
Hundreds of palms going off into the distance
Tiny person, giant palm
It was a wet and cloudy day but the mist only added to the mystery of the wax palms in their peculiar setting. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation but I prefer thinking they’re just random