Colombia 4: Cocora Palms and Salento

Palms, so hard a chainsaw cannot cut them down? This seems to be the reason that there are so many Cocora palms left. We wanted to see for ourselves.

Wir hatten von den Cocora Palmen gehört und dass es davon einen ganzen Wald gäbe. Auch dass in der unmittelbaren Nähe schmucke Dörfer lägen, welche durch ihre bunte Bemalung einen einzigartigen Charakter hätten. So beschlossen wir, dieses Gebiet ein wenig näher zu betrachten.

Our route took us back via El Espinal, as we had decided not to visit Bogotá itself at this stage. As we were travelling on the highway towards Ibagué, a loud whistling noise disturbed the air -we could at first not make out what it was. Suddenly a vehicle passed us with girls in the back, waving and whistling.

We decided to stop and find out more. It was a girls’ basket ball team on the way to Ibagué, that found it soo cool to spot an overlanding vehicle and heartily welcomed us to Colombia -again we were surprised by the friendliness of the people welcoming strangers into their country – the inevitable photo session and selfies followed.

In Ibagué we found a camping spot at the Altamira hostal/camping and at first it took some calling to get the gate to be opened what seemed to be out of season as we were the only guests and campers.

We enjoyed the pool, the view over Ibagué and the amount of birds in the gardens.

Sadly the tariff we had to pay next morning ended in some arguments as the sum was twice that we had discussed the night before. A misunderstanding? With our rudimentary knowledge of Spanish this could be the case although we had the feeling the owner instructed his personnel to ask for double the amount which meant R150 per Person ipo R75 (Peso 15000) which would have been quite reasonable.

In Ibagué we looked for a supermarket to do some shopping of essentials – a taxi driver saw us and promptly offered to drive in front of us so we could get there without problems and did not ask anything for the service. Colombian friendliness.

From Ibagué we had heavy truck and bus traffic up to Cajamarca where we turned on a small back road towards Toche. We were told that the Valle de Corcora is touristic and that this backroad offered a much more scenic route with more Cocora palms on the way.

Butterflies fluttered around in abundance.

The road was wonderful and the number of palms in the area were in the thousands.

Along the way we found ourselves a wonderful wild camp site next to the road in a curve and with a marvellous view into the valley. Since it was rainy and cold, we erected our awning and tent walls.

Towards evenings we had multiple vehicles and motorcycles stopping to chat and find out more -among them Irvin, the young teacher of a rural school just 2 km ahead and we were invited to visit there the next day. During late afternoon and the next morning we could observe humming birds close by and were fascinated by the flora.

We ensured that we stopped at the tiny school next morning and our visit was an occasion where teacher and scholars could demonstrate their activities which included planting and art. We left them a soccer ball and art material as well as some sweets which was most welcome in such a remote area.

Next we reached Salento -a village full of colourful buildings, eating places and art shops.

A short visit into the Vallé de Corcora followed -pretty busy and we decided not to camp there. We rather pressed on to reach Filandia, an equally colourful town with a good camping opportunity at El Santuario.

This post cover 20th-22nd September 2016

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and photographer with an urge to share the beauty of our planet.

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