Sunday, November 13, 2016

Eje Cafetero: Salento

Salento church

Salento is a small picturesque town in the Eje Cafetero region. It is easily reached by bus from either Pereira or Armenia.

Although the town is very much set up for tourism, it still retains a traditional country town charm. As in many country towns in Colombia there us a Tejo court, and because the town has many tourists, the locals are keen to teach visitors about the traditional game.

Tejo consists of throwing metal weights at a clay filled box to try and land the weight in a metal ring embedded in the clay.

Tejo weights

To spice up the game, the metal ring has small packets of gunpowder which explode when hit by the weights (gaining the player extra points). 

The court is in Carrera 4 just outside of the town centre - just ask for "Amigos Tejo". The games are free with purchasing drinks. I started by drinking beer but the locals told me that drinking Aguardiente (the local anise-flavoured liquor) would improve my game - and after a few shots, I was rewarded with several explosions.

After a few more drinks we amped up the game by adding more explosives

The town has two lookouts in the surrounding hills that give a beautiful view of the town and the cocora valley behind the town.

Salento

The Cocora valley

The Cocora valley is famous for its tall wax Palms and there are several walking trails through the valley to see them. The best trail is the 5 1/2 hour trail through the jungle in the surrounding hills.

To get to the trail you need to take one of the jeeps from the main square for $COP3000 (about $A1.50). The best time to go is to catch the 7:30am cars before the trail gets too crowded.

The trail starts through farmland

Farms with the wax palms growing on the hills

before entering the jungle.

A bridge crossing the river

The trail leads up into the mountains until it reaches a small hummingbird sanctuary where for $COP6000 (around $A3) you can enjoy a hot chocolate and piece of the local cheese.

Hummingbird

The trail then continues up the mountain until you reach a farmhouse at the top of the hill.

The top of the hill

The road then leads back down the hills until it passes the majestic wax palms.

Wax palms


Wax palm in the mist


Farmland with wax palms

The trail then leads past more farmland until you reach the dropoff point where you can take a jeep back to Salento.

The last stand of palms before catching the jeep




Friday, November 11, 2016

Eje Cafetero: Pereira and Santa Rosa

Parque El Largo, Pereira

The Eje Cafetero region is a famous coffee growing region in Colombia. One of the largest cities in the zone is Pereira. The city itself is a large regional hub for visiting the more tourist oriented towns in the zone which usually makes Pereira just a quick stop off.

Pereira church

The town of Florida on the outskirts of Pereira is easily reachable by local bus and contains several short walks along the river and through a nature reserve.

The trail through the nature reserve

The trail is very flat and mostly along a dirt road through pretty farmland.

Farmland in Florida

Birds on a fence

Until you reach the river.
The river

Looking upstream

Another short trip from Pereira is the little town of Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa is famous for its natural hot springs which are easily accessible by shared taxi (you catch them from outside the main market) and are open until late in tge night. Which is perfect for relaxing after seeing Santa Rosa's other attraction - San Vicente Falls.

The trail to the falls starts just outside of town (10 mins by taxi) beside the Don Lol restaurant.

View from the top of the trail

The trail heads down a steep valley through farmland until it reaches the bottom of the valley.

The trail heading down

And crosses the river over a rickety bridge.

Sturdier than it looks

The trail then heads up the other side of the valley

Trail heading up the valley

And through a canyon

The river flowing through the canyon

Until it finally reaches the waterfall

The waterfall

Top of the falls


The pool at the bottom

And after the 3 hr round trip, it's perfect to head up to the thermal pools to relax.

Santa Rosa hot springs

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Rio Claro river reserve

Río Claro

Río Claro reserve is around four hours drive from Medellin and is a popular destination for locals to enjoy rafting, caving and trekking through the reserve.

There is a hostal within the reserve which is economical and allows you to stay close to all the attractions in the park.

There is an easy trail from near the hostal restaurant that follows the river.

The river from the trail


The trail winds past limestone formations

A cave on the trail


and along the river.

Río Claro


Another part of Río Claro

And I was lucky enough to spot a diamond backed viper - one of the most poisonous snakes in Colombia.

Well camouflaged Diamond backed Viper

Also along the trail are several caves which can be explored with a guide from the hotel ($A10).

The cave exit accross the river

The trail to the entrance to the caves is a long and steep trail through the jungle to the entrance.

The cave entrance

The cave itself is a long underground trail with sections that require swimming.

Walking through the cave

And the exit of the cave requires swimming back accross the river after climbing down from the cave.

The cave exit


Another popular tour to do in Rio Claro is to take a raft down the river.

Rafting

There is a small amount of whitewater but it is not overly challenging.

Small whitewater

The river flows past many limestone formations

Stalactites

More limestone caverns

And plenty of opportunities to swim.

A swimming hole

Before heading back down a calm, scenic section of the river to to pickup point back to the hotel.

Rio Claro


Monday, November 7, 2016

El Peñol and Guatape: The rock and the lake

Guatape church


The town of Guatape is a small village just outside of Medellin and is a popular weekend destination for locals due to its proximity to a large lake.

The town maintains its traditional architecture, with narrow cobblestone streets and colourful buildings.

The streets of Guatape

Traditional buildings in Guatape

Just outside of the town is a giant volcanic rock - El Peñol. There are 275 steep steps to the top

El Peñol

from which you get great views of the lake and surrounding valleys.

The lake from El Peñol

Another view from the top

Looking over the lake

Both Guatape and El Peñol ate easily reached from Terminal Norte in Medellin and is an easy day trip to enjoy the lake and the rock.

The lake and valley from El Peñol