We had always planned to spend a couple of days in Cali, Columbia’s second biggest city (after the capital, Bogota) for Andre to catch up with an old friend from Germany, Stefan who has been completing his PhD here.
The Lonely Planet describes this as a city who’s business is business, not tourism, which I think is a pretty fair assessment since there isn’t an awful amount to do for your typical gringo.
Thankfully our local connection hooked us up in a great relaxed hostel at the bottom of their version of Primrose Hill; the bohemian, friendly neighbourhood of San Antonio. You can thank this place for the lengthy boring blog posts I have subjected you all to recently; days were spent chilling, catching up on admin and finally getting around to updating the dreaded CV/LinkedIn profile. Nights were spent enjoying the cool breeze eating street food (consisting of 101 ways to eat Plantaine) and sipping bear at the one of the many bakeries come bars that adorn almost every corner.
Stefan really did out do himself with his next tip; to head a little further north to trek in an area known as Valle de Cocora. With literally less than a page of coverage in the Lonely Planet you can easily drive right past this area. Thankfully we didn’t since it has to be my favourite place in the world.
I won’t even bother trying to describe it because to be quite honest, I can’t really find the right words. What I will say is that this place left me speechless (much to Andre’s delight! ) and somehow didn’t quite feel real.
You begin your trek from a charming little town called Salento, where you catch a ride on a local jeep (often hanging on for your life standing at the back!) for about half an hour driving through the actual valley that from a distance looks more alpine than rain forest.
The splattering of wax palms throughout the region (the national tree of Columbia) reveals that deep within these hills is in fact an all together different landscape; lush damp rain forest that is home to some of the most colourful birds.
It’s also home to over 132 types of humming bird, thankfully we were lucky enough to see a handful of them.
The trek is done in half a day leaving plenty of time to enjoy the town and the neighbouring coffee plantations that call this beautiful part of the world home.
We actually spent the night in a working coffee plantation. Ironically even tough Columbia has some of the worlds best coffee there isn’t actually much of it here in Columbia since it’s all exported, leaving the lesser quality coffee for local consumption. As with most of South America, finding a good strong coffee that’s not made almost entirely of condensed milk is nearly impossible! Even the coffee at the plantation wasn’t much to write home about 😦