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High Five!

"Sucking Air"

rain 16 °C

Day 7 Monday February 5, 2018

Our 35 minute flight in an Airbus ( that made strange noises when taking off and putting our seat backs up didn't seem to be an option), took us to Armenia. We were met by a mini-bus for the drive to Salento, pop. 7000 and gateway to the Cocora Valley. Shortly after we got in the bus it started to rain, no pour; torrentially. After an hour drive on a highway we turned off onto a windy road for the last 20 minutes. The driver seemed to have an aversion to both wipers and defrosters but fortunately was able to follow the lights of the vehicles in front to get to our hotel. The rain continued to pour down and we were quite convinced that there would be no hiking today which made Fred’s decision about whether or not his knee could handle the venture easier.


We got up this morning to cloudy skies and no rain and Fred decided to go as our very accommodating trip leader, Carolina, offered to return with him if his knee bailed. We were picked up in old original Willys jeeps (Fred had a 1962 Willy Jeep pick up truck back in the day, for the ½ hour ride to the trail head. The trail is about 13k with the highest point at 2860 m (9383 feet), a 1000 m elevation change from Salento. After all the rain last night we fully expected to be in calf deep mud. Out trail guide showed up in gumboots and told us we could rent them if we wanted. We all declined and headed out on a bit of an uphill to get the heart working. After a short walk the trail opened up into a grassy valley with steep sides. The Cocora Valley is the home of Colombia’s wax palms, the palm on the Colombian flag, a threatened species due to over harvesting, habitat loss and disease. It is also home to the endangered yellow-eared parrot. The palm can grow up to 60 m. high, does not begin to reproduce until it is 80 years old and is very impressive.


The steep sides of the valley were crisscrossed by lines that turned out to be cow paths. Fred pondered over why a cow would climb that high up a hill to get grass when there appeared to be plenty on the lower slopes. He also made a new friend.


After meandering along the valley floor for a bit the trail began to climb and then the flora changed dramatically as we entered into a jungle. We still hadn’t come across any serious mud. We crisscrossed a river half a dozen times on bridges that would never meet Parks Canada standards. Carolina said to take small steps so the bridge wouldn’t swing as much. This worked well until there was a missing board, which was frequent.


As the trek became steeper then lack of oxygen became apparent. We had to stop frequently to catch our breath. After about 5 k we came to our lunch stop, a hummingbird sanctuary. We ate our lunches watching the little hummers dance around the feeders and feast on the surrounding flowers.


On we went, or that should be up we went. The trail got quite steep and breathing became more challenging. The trail wound up the hillside and eventually reached a small farm with an English garden where we rested for a bit. The rest of the hike was downhill and punctuated by spectacular views up and down the valley. We eventually returned to our starting point to wait for our jeep pick-up, only slightly muddy and smelling of manure. Our trail guide gave us High Fives for completing the trek but we returned the salute for taking us on such a wonderful journey. Fred’s knee survived, begrudgingly but stiff and painful by the end.


Back in Salento our bus picked us up and off we went to our next stay at a coffee farm about a 2 hour drive away. Most of the drive was on highways but when we got close to the farm the road narrowed, to slightly wider than the bus, as we went through a small town. It continued to narrow on the other side of the town. “May be rustic accommodations’ Fred said. We pulled into the farm to find we had comfortable rooms, a pool and a dog and good food. Life is good.

Posted by Fredricgail2017 05:34 Archived in Colombia

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