After our hostel mama Maria Claudia prepared us a most delicious french toast breakfast (with cheese?), we were on our way to Valle Del Cocora, land of the magestically tall wax palm trees. No trip to Salento would be complete without a visit. At the town plaza, we waited for the next Willy (Salento’s taxi jeep) to the valley. The jeep fits about 8-10 tightly packed passengers, not including those standing on the back of the vehicle exposed to the elements. When our ride had reached its quota, our driver finally set off. At 20 km/hr, the ride to Cocora lasted about 30 minutes, costing 3,700 COP (~$1.30). As we neared the final destination, we could see the trees stretching well above the surrounding area.
The path to the valley is circular, so one can forgo the 4-hour hike and get right to the grand finale – about 20 minutes from the entrance. But why skip to the ending? Enjoy the hike through mud, past rivers, over bridges, across water, up rugged pathways amongst dense forest, and down into a two-page spread of a Dr. Seuss book. It’s truly a beautiful hike, minus those grueling (to me, at least) uphill moments. The hike is moderate at first, becoming more difficult once into the forest. The rain didn’t help, either.
We had paused for some time at a river to take photos of the running water when a few police officers (two, I believe) approached us, and I was worried what they might say. They welcomed us to Colombia and wished us well, and the park workers alongside them gave us a bag in which to put any trash we found along the way. Armed with this new mission to save the forest floor from human disregard (a few wrappers, empty bottle, and a lighter by the end of the hike), we continued on.
We walked the 1 km out of the way to Acaime, Casa de Colibrís, where we stayed for only a moment, wanting to get ahead of the crowd. We enjoyed the hot chocolate (5,000 COP) and admired the hummingbirds, but only in passing.
Once we’d made it back to the fork in the road, the next leg of the hike was where my lungs hated me the most. The incline was steep, and I was relieved to make it to the top. We skipped the rest stop and kept walking, again wanting to leave behind the large group of people. It wasn’t much longer until those famous trees started to emerge ahead of us. A path off to the side brought us to a viewing point, but celebration was short-lived as it began to rain.
It only got worse as we neared the end, my vision compromised by wet glasses. By the time we walked into the valley, dwarfed by the tallest trees we ever did see, we were soaked and so cold, just ready to leave. We rushed past the palms and caught the next taxi out. I wished we could have spent more time and was so disappointed in the soggy (if digital files could be such a thing) photographs I’d captured through wet lens. I felt like a brat, but I did not want to leave Salento not having enjoyed Valle Del Cocora in its entirety and sans rain.
SO, we returned a few days later, skipping the hike and heading straight to the valley with the sun on our side (3,000 COP to enter). It was beautiful. Quiet, grand, quirky. Our trip to Salento now complete, we walked away in content…until I realized that I’d dropped Roscoe and had to run (read: struggle) back to the valley to retrieve him. From a distance, I saw the little stuffed lion in the grass. Roscoe safe and secured in bag, we finally closed this chapter in our book of Salento.