Salento es un pueblito perdido en el tiempo, con todas casitas típicas de las fincas cafeteras, con muchos colores y muy alegre. La gente muy agradable. Apenas llegamos al mirador del pueblo, un señor (Irving) que se estaba yendo, nos vio y se dio la vuelta para charlar con nosotros. Nos recomendó lugares para visitar, y restaurantes para almorzar, hasta nos ofreció su casa para dormir, pero teníamos idea de pasar la noche en un camping. Visitamos el pueblito, L aprovechó y se tomó un par de cafés, compramos artesanías y almorzamos trucha que es la comida típica del lugar. Por la tarde nos fuimos hacia el Parque natural Valle de Cocora. En este valle se encuentra la planta nacional colombiana, la palma de cera. Una palmera de donde se sacaba cera para velas de su tronco. El lugar es muy pintoresco, es la entrada al parque nacional los nevados, que no fuimos finalmente porque se encuentra muy alto (5000 m.s.n.m) y es muy frío, asique abandonamos la idea. El camping en el valle (Donde Juan B.) muy lindo, con unas vistas increíbles, juegos para chicos, y caballos. Todos descansamos muy bien en la carpa y a la mañana siguiente, M, E y T se fueron a cabalgar. Después volvimos a Salento a almorzar y desde ahí visitamos otros pueblitos de la zona cafetera: Filandia, Quimbaya y Alcalá. Después de la siesta, volvimos a nuestro casi hogar, la finca Combia.
After our third night at Combia we decided to take a ‘break’ and head to Salento and the Valle de Cocora for a night camping. Salento is a small charming town with typical paísa (from the Antioquia region) architecture that gets busy with tourists on weekends. We arrived on a Monday so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The main street is lined with small souvenir shops, coffee shops, panaderias (bakeries) and restaurants. To be fair we became customers in at least one shop from each category. L drank a good cup of coffee made on a 100+ year old espresso machine (see pic).
The Massachusetts license plates have attracted a lot of attention throughout the trip but colombians seem to be the most interested. In Salento we met Irving when he followed us to the mirador after noticing our plates. He works for about four months in the US and then comes back and spends about four months with his family in Salento using up his savings. He gave us tips for places to eat, stay and shop. He made us try ‘solteritas’ (a fried cookie dough that is topped with a sugary creamy filling) and even offered a room in his house for us to stay. That afternoon he came to visit us at our camping spot with his wife and daughter. Have we mentioned colombians are nice people?
Salento is also a few miles away from the Valle de Cocora, a valley containing many ‘palmas de cera’ (wax palms), the largest palms in the world and Colombia’s national tree. The valley is beautiful. Hills are deep green with pastures that appear perfectly trimmed (by the cows apparently) with the palms popping up here and there. The paved road from Salento ends after about 12 km where there are five restaurants including some that allow camping and have games for children. We were received very nicely at Donde Juan B. and spent the afternoon talking, drinking mate and kicking T’s soccer ball. When it got dark we hopped inside the tent and were all in bed by 8 ready for a star-filled, peaceful night. Early next morning M, E and T went on an hour-long horseback ride deeper into the valley. The vegetation was lush and the trail was quickly covered overhead by trees. We crossed a fast-flowing river four times and it got a bit scary (water up to the shoes) but the horses made it ok. That afternoon we made it back to Finca Combia after driving through the towns of Filandia, Quimbaya and Alcalá. Definitely a nice break.