Fondest memory: We eventually tore ourselves away and headed back down the trail, taking a slightly different route to a reported great overlook at La Montana. It was socked in with clouds. This was after all a cloud forest so no one seemed to care. It was unlikely that any view could have surpassed the hummingbirds for me anyway. We met a nice Irish couple and spent the remainder of the hike with them, taking in the towering wax palms and talking about Colombia. Our time was nearing its end and it was nice to recount things we'd done and the few things we still had to do. We never saw them after our time in Salento and have not heard from them since returning. That's how it is on the hostel trail, making friends for a few days or even hours. Memories of them, like those of Colombia in general are sometimes fleeting. Flickering in our minds like images of cloud forest, towering palms, but mostly of hummingbirds.
There was a small group of us by now and most seemed less than enamored by the “squeaky” cheese and some complained about having to pay an entrance fee at all. In fact, there was a bit of a fracas between the owner of the small “cafe” and one of the backpackers who claimed to have paid already. His Spanish was minimal and everyone chipped in to explain that he had in fact paid his money already. To be fair, the owner was very disorganized and it was not all that amazing that she had miscounted her collection. At any rate, the snack or even the entrance fee was not the big attraction of the afternoon. It was the swarm of hummingbirds attacking the provided feeders. I would have to say that if it were not for them, even such a minimal entrance fee might have been exorbitant but with such a conglomeration of them buzzing around, it was hard to argue with having to pay unless you were on a very tight budget.
I soon left the group to try and grab some photos and was amazed at the number of birds, some of which I'd never seen before. I was glad to have a relatively fast lens as I could see many having great difficulty trying to capture the lightning quick birds, my wife included. It was easily the highlight of the hike for me and my wife was ecstatic too despite her camera woes. We even investigated the rooms available there even though there was no way we could have stayed that night since we'd already paid for one in Salento and all of our stuff was there. Still, it was nice to keep in mind for future reference and though the facilities were very basic, it was hard to argue with the setting and plethora of hummingbirds. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Our time in Valle de Cocora was short so all we got to do was the hike to Reserva Acaime but on this relatively short walk, we saw the amazing towering wax palms that make the area famous. We also saw some incredible hummingbirds and I'd have to say they were the real highlight of our visit.
Fondest memory: Though a relatively short and fairly forgiving trail, the hike to Reserva Acaime in Valle de Cocora was proving more tiring than either of us had expected. It set off through a gradual incline of farmland but we were finding it difficult to keep up with people who looked to be in far worse shape than us. OK, some were a bit younger to be certain but it seemed that with two big treks in our back pockets, this half-day hike should have been a breeze. It might not have helped that we had spent the previous couple weeks at the Colombian coast, losing the valuable acclimatization we garnered in El Cocuy National Park, where most of the terrain was over 4000 meters.
While Salento, where we were currently basing ourselves, was just under 2000 meters, the Reserva Acaime was closing in on 2800 meters. While this is not a super high altitude hike, it winded us out of the gate. Oddly enough, we caught our stride once the steeper part of the trail revealed itself and we left most of the people from our cluster behind. This made us feel a bit better. We also enjoyed the cloud forest terrain more than the rural one we'd started out on. Once at the Reserva Acaime, we enjoyed a cup of hot agua de panela with some homemade salty cheese, a surprisingly nice combination. I'm not sure I'd seek it out again but it was included in the 3000 COP ($1.50) entrance fee to the park and was much needed as the snacks we'd brought with us were woefully inadequate for the energy expenditure of a trail we had underestimated. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Carrera 7 No 6 - 45, Salento, Colombia
Good for: Business
Km. 7 Vereda Kerman, Parque Nacional de la Cultura Agropecuaria, Armenia, Colombia
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Avenida Bolivar 8N Esquina, Armenia, 00000, CO
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families