Waking up at 6AM in Salento.. piling into a Jeep with 12 other people.. and a $1.50 will land you in the astounding Valle de Cocora.
The little trek was a bit more difficult than we had imagined.. altitude bit us hard in the butt! But we managed with smiles on our faces and laughter in our mouths. The first hour(+) of the trip took us through farmland and LOTS of mud. It was hilarious actually, our Wellingtons were practically getting stuck in the mud at every step. The squish-squish-squirt became a normal noise.. and I eventually stopped giggling. We thanked God that we decided to rent them.. at first we were hesitant and thought 'it couldn't be that bad'.. but woah buddy it was! We had river crossings to do (haven't done those before.. rolling eyes) but luckily we didn't actually have to cross them IN the river.. just on some sketchy logs. I believe we crossed the same river 7 times.. felt like home.. and a bit like The Lost City!
Once the calf deep mud was over with, we continued on up the mountain to a nature reserve, Acaime. It was WONDERFUL, we paid 3,000COP ($1.50) for a cup of hot chocolate, a chat with the cute old owners, and beautiful hummingbirds! The couple has hummingbird feeders, so we were able to see LOTS! I'm used to seeing hummingbirds, because my mom and grandmother have always had feeders.. but these birds were a bit larger with different colorings, some had really long tails, and some were black and white.
We then made our way to La Montana, which was at the top of one of the mountains and had spectacular views.. but it still wasn't the Valle de Cocora. Here, it started to rain so we decided to get a BIG 'ol cup of hot chocolate! Once the rain decided to subside, we walked down to the Valle! ::angels singing:: However, on our way down we ran into a landslide, which was wicked looking. We had been walking on an amazing path that cars actually drove up.. we didn't have to be constantly looking at our feet for once, which was great! And then all of a sudden there it was! Massive tree after tree that we had to climb over, small rocks still tumbling down the hillside, we could tell that this was very recent as the tire tracks in the road looked quite fresh. It was a bit awe-ing, and we were thankful it had happened before we arrived! We walked about a quarter of a mile more and heard a couple of more big cracks.. woah, so happy that we missed that one as well.. Jos went back to see if anyone had gotten caught in it, because there were quite a few people behind us.
The Valle was spectacular! Awesome views, and a great feeling! Although it was drizzling, and super cloudy.. it still looked amazing!! The clouds gave it a very mystical, eery feeling.. to die for! The trees in this valley are the tallest palm trees in the world. They are native to Colombia, called Wax Palm Trees, and grow up to 60 ft tall. You definitely cannot miss this if you come to Colombia. I have been staying at Tralala Hostal in Salento.. so relaxing, very chilled out GORGEOUS place, good owner, cute black cat, and peace! It is a great place to stay if you are planning on venturing to Valle de Cocora (which you should!).
EDIT: I am NO LONGER recommending Tralala Hostel ( www.hosteltralalasalento.com ). My guests just got reprimanded because they had stayed at the hostel for TWO nights previously.. checked out, and moved into a cheaper hostel that had a private room for $8 cheaper. Long story short, after they had visited twice today.. Hemmo came up to our table, it was Rob (from San Fran), me, Joss & Ness (my 2 guests):
Hemmo: (extremely upset like) "I don't understand why you're back here. You check out, I thought you had left, you come back, you said you're staying in another hostel. I thought you had left, why are you back here?"
Joss & Ness: ::jaws drop:: "Excuse me? We told you we were staying at another hostel, you asked why, we told you because it is cheaper."
Hemmo: "I don't understand why you're here, you checked out."
Me: "They're here to visit me! Am I not allowed to have guests?"
Hemmo: "No, you're allowed to have guests. I've talked to many friends and they agree."
Me: "Agree with what?! You own a business, a hostel business, this happens. People change hostels, but I'm obviously not allowed to have guests."
Hemmo: "No, you're allowed to have guets."
.. this conversation went on and on. My friends eventually left because he was so rude. Rob and I just looked at each other, like did that SERIOUSLY just happen?! And he told me that he thought I handled it well.. which I was shaking a bit because I was so angry, so I'm pretty surprised..
THEN, he came back downstairs where Rob and I still were. He began the EXACT same conversation all over again. I told him I was getting 'extremely offended' over this, and it really upset me... because it really was, if you are rude to my guests, you're being rude to me. What he said directly to us was uncalled for. He runs a hostel, not a hotel. If he is going to have restrictions on guests, maybe he should post a sign. He then, looked at Rob and asked him for his opinion (ARE WE IN HIGHSCHOOL?!). The entire situation was ridiculous, I told him again that I completely understand where he is coming from (as a business owner, who only had FIVE guests staying at the time), that I understand why he would be offended, but that my friends were in no way trying to be rude, they were visiting ME and I have paid 4 nights to stay in the hostel that allows guests, they had given him TWO nights of business, and again I'm really offended by this. I received no apology.. no lame "I'm sorry, BUT..".. nothing, other than his opinion.
So if you'd like a hostel where the owner allows guests, just not your guests.. here's your sign!
K. Rant. Finished.