Salento, Colombia: Gun Powder, Palm Trees & Waterfalls

Salento is well known coffee region in Colombia. Being tea drinkers, the biggest draw for us wasn't the coffee, it was a game called Tejo.

WELCOME TO SALENTO

Salento is well known coffee region in Colombia. Being tea drinkers, the biggest draw for us wasn’t the coffee, it was a game called Tejo. I first heard about it from my best friend who went to Colombia and thought “que!?!? This can’t be real!” Turns out it is. Okay, I won’t leave you hanging any longer. The heading probably gave you some idea – gun powder. And whoa, before you start thinking that Daniel and I joined a Colombian drug cartel and got ourselves messed up in some nasty business, let me clear things up. The real basic of Tejo is this:

  1. Put some gunpowder in a piece of paper and fold a little triangle. Make a few of these.
  2. Place dangerous gunpowder filled pieces on a small metal ring target in the middle of a 1×1 metre clay filled pit set at a forty-five degree angle.
  3. Throw a metal puck (approx 1kg) from a few metres away aiming to hit the firecrackers.

There is one place to play Tejo in Salento – Los Amigos. You play for free if you buy beers. Not sure if gunpowder and alcohol is the best combo but these guys at the front of the bar seemed fine.

Los Amigos Tejo

Sounds easy enough, right? It isn’t. We played with our friends, Stef and Joe (over at Hiato) and between the 4 of us, only 2 managed to actually hit the target (yep, it was the boys). Here’s a 2 second clip of Joe nailing it.

VALLE DE COCORA (THE COCORA VALLEY)

Now, what Salento is actually famous for is the Cocora Valley – a natural cloud forrest that is home to the tallest palm trees in the world. We decide to do the full loop hike of the Valley – an estimated 5-6 hours that will take us through diverse landscapes with plenty of photo ops. Stef and Joe come over to our hostel and we madly scramble looking for gumboots for 30 minutes. We know that this hike is going to be muddy and wet – not the best combo for regular sneakers.

Cocora Valley Salento Colombia

Getting our Jeep ride to Valle de Cocora

We catch a jeep to the start of the valley. The air is cool and crisp, and I enjoy a moment of breathing before we start our hike. We traverse through muddy paths, waterfalls, rivers and hanging bridges (thank God my fear of heights and bridges is mostly gone). We all agree that the gumboots are life savers, especially when we see the other hikers slipping and sliding through the river. After a couple of hours, we arrive at a hummingbird house. The house is set up with feeding stations for…you guessed it, humming birds. I’ve never seen hummingbirds up close so this is a real treat for me.

Cocora Valley Salento Colombia

Glad to be in our gumboots!

Read:  Photos to Inspire Wanderlust: COLOMBIA

We continue on until we are eventually among giants. Towering at over 60 m (200 ft) high, this gigantic wax palm tree is the national tree of Colombia. We watch the clouds roll over the sky and very quickly, we can’t see a thing. I guess this is why they call it a cloud forest!

Cocora Valley Salento Colombia

Hiking path

Cocora Valley Salento Colombia

Tallest palm trees in the world!

HORSERIDING TO WATERFALLS IN SANTA RITA

With the gorgeous landscapes of the Cocora Valley exceeding our expectations, we decide to go horse-riding to the waterfalls in Santa Rita the next day (it was that or hike another few hours). We ride for about 2 hours through idyllic green fields that Stef tells me reminds her of Wales. We make plans for Stef and Joe to come to Perth and for us to travel to UK. One of the things I love most about travelling is meeting people you would have never met – and these guys are sure to be some of our best mates for life. We arrive at the waterfalls and despite the water being freeeeeeezing, we grit our teeth and jump in anyway. I mean, we paid $20AUD for the 3.5 horse ride so we had better get our money’s worth!

Salento horseriding waterfalls Colombia

The Crew!

CESAR & LILIANA 

On our first night in Salento, we go to a bar to listen to live music. The bar is small, housing only 8 or so tables. The artists playing are extremely talented and we are loving the music so want to stay. There are no free tables and a couple invite us to share a table with them. We eventually get to chatting and between our broken Spanish and their patience, they invite us to have lunch with their family the next day.

Bandeja de paisa Colombia

Bandeja de Paisa

Cesar and Liliana pick us up from Salento (they live in a nearby town, Armenia) and take us to a famous restaurant to try a traditional dish, bandeja de paisa. It is basically just a whole lotta meat with rice and beans. Afterwards, they drive us to Filandia, a colourful small town nearby, for coffee and photos. They tell us stories about Colombia and ask us what people back home think of their country – though they already know the answer. They taught us that Colombians are love their country, they are proud of their country and just want people to see it for themselves and love it too. Drugs, cartels and violence only make up one chapter of Colombia’s story, there is still the entire book to read.

Read:  Photos to Inspire Wanderlust: COLOMBIA

This day with Cesar and Liliana will stick with us forever and we have officially adopted them as our Colombian parents. We have never received so much kindness from strangers and it was very difficult saying goodbye to them. We hope to see them again one day.

Cesar y Liliana, gracias por todo lo que hiciste por nosotros. Gracias por su amabilidad y por pasar tiempo con nosotros. Los extrañamos mucho mucho mucho. Dios los bendiga.

Colombian people are the best

We wrap up our time in Salento celebrating Stef’s birthday with delicious food and cake. Our time in Colombia is just beginning and we are already so smitten. Join us next week as we continue our Colombian adventures through Medellín, the home town of Pablo Escobar.

12 Comments

  1. January 28, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    I’m not a coffee drinker either, but I would love playing Tejo, difficult as it may be. More than that, though, the hike and horse ride look amazing (and I love the colorful boots you found). I’m definitely putting this on my list of places to visit (and buy boots)!

    • February 6, 2017 / 1:51 am

      You won’t need to buy boots of your hotel/hostel provides them (and they should). Tejo, though difficult, was super fun so I definitely recommend it!

  2. January 28, 2017 / 11:05 pm

    Wow! Tejo sounds fun, would love to try it out some day. Humming birds are beautiful. You guys did have a wonderful time.

  3. January 29, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    Sounds like quite the Colombian adventure! That trek looked worthwhile though. I’ve been wanting to explore more of South America and Colombia is something to consider.

  4. January 29, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    Awesome adventure. Tejo looks like the perfect game to play after a few drinks, even though it is a little dangerous. Thanks for the video. The greenery in Colombia is amazing and the waterfall looks mighty refreshing. Loved the colourful architecture of the houses in the end.

    Salento looks like a wonderful charming place. I love when locals are so friendly and they invite you over to their houses on the spur of the moment, That’s what traveling is all about.

  5. January 29, 2017 / 5:10 pm

    wow this is one incredible trip! i’m actually in awe of your photography, those landscapes and bird shots are unreal, amazing work. Never heard of that valley before but now its well and truly on the bucketlist! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. January 30, 2017 / 7:49 am

    Are gumboots the same as rainboots? 🙂 It’s so sad that so many places in Central and South America get such a bad rap. We had a similar conversation with the people we met in Guatemala and they said the same thing, that they wish more people could give them a chance.

  7. January 30, 2017 / 10:03 am

    I would love to get to Colombia one day. The game with the gunpowder sounds very interesting and combining that with the beer sounds like quite risky business 🙂 It is nice to see that Colombia has returned to the tourist map as for many years it was too dangerous to get there. The bird also looked magnificent.

  8. January 30, 2017 / 11:31 pm

    I’ve been twice to Colombia but didn’t make it to Salento (it wasn’t very popular back then) but I plan on going back as I really want to see the Cocora Valley. Good thing you (mostly) got over your fear of heights & bridges allowing you to experience the beauty of the valley. And your gumboots are really cute!

  9. March 10, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    This is so informative. Colombia is on my bucket lists so thanks for sharing! will save it for later as well!

  10. philippa
    April 19, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    Haha so funny – I’m Welsh and loving in Colombia and say it reminds me of Wales a lot! People who don’t know Wales think I’m bonkers, glad to see someone else thinks it too!!

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