After a few days in Bogota, we had had enough of the big city and jumped on a night bus to another mountain village called Salento. Salento is in a mountain range southwest of Bogota, and is best known as the only place in the world where a special kind of mountain palm grows.It is a village that is worth a visit in itself as it is very quiet and surrounded by picturesque mountains.
The first day we rented horses. Fortunately, the horses came with a guide who knew how to control them. I've never ridden a horse before, so was not quite ready to tame the beast on my own. It turned out that it was relatively easy, just a little kick with my foot and it ran off like greased lightning. The first part out from the town was along the road, so we rode quite slowly. We went straight down from Salento into a very beautiful green valley with a river running through it.
That's where the fun began. We took off the road onto a narrow path that went along the river into the valley. This was our first opportunity to test out our horses. Mine gallopped as if its like was at stake, and Torunn's followed more lazily behind us. I jumped up and down in the saddle like a puppet, and I was laughing out loud all the way. It was just like a circus attraction, only with much finer views and no barriers or restrictions. We rode across various rivers until we got deep into the woods to a nice little waterfall. It was way too cold for a swim.
The return trip went very steeply up a muddy path. It was so steep that I was seriously worried that I would fall backwards and end up with a horse on me, though it did amazingly a very good job at getting me up safely!
We will definitely rent horses or other cloven animals several times since it was actually a lot of fun. I've ridden some camels earlier, but they cause a bit too much pain in the backside to endure more than an hour or two.
We felt it really well in our riding muscles after 4 hours in the saddle.
The next day we got a jeep to drive us further up in the mountains so we could go up in the cloudforest to find the unique high mountain palm trees. Unfortunately the only way to get to the mountains was to take a jeep that gets crowded with tourists all doing the same thing . We met up for the first departure at 07.30, but there were 30 other tourists that had done the same. So when we got to where the trail began, we were the first ones out of the car and on to the trail. It was a fantastic (almost untouched) trek. Just like walking in the Norwegian mountains, only with hummingbirds, donkeys, tropical jungles and mountains palms. We met several dairy farmers on the way back from the milking of cows with milk cans safely secured on the donkeys. I was glad we got ahead of all the other tourists. Nature is not quite as magical when you have a group of 10 Germans ahead of you, and within hearing range.
After an hour of walking we got further up the mountain where a cloud forest started. In many places they had built bridges across the river where the trail went, but the bridges were in some places just a simple timber log.
After 2,5 hours we came to a cottage where the local Colombians served us a local specialty; hot chocolate with cheese! It was perfect with some hot chocolate in the cold mountain air. The house was surrounded by lots of different species of hummingbird that came to the cottage . to suck nectar from the flowers they had planted in the garden. There was also a cute little raccoon-like creature from the jungle. The locals fed it bananas. We relaxed for a while there before we moved on to the top of the mountain.
When we reached the top of the mountain there was blue sky and sunny, but we saw some clouds in the horizon. Before we knew it, the clouds drifted along the mountain sides and obstructed our views, og fog was a fact. Maybe that's why they call it the cloud forest.
On the way back we took a different route that took us past the huge palm trees. Some of the giant palms can get to 80 meters tall, and grows in 100 years. It is a peculiar sight. A sight we got to enjoy all to ourselves as the other tourists were miles behind us.
We went back to Salento and tried some local food; Fresh trout in mushroom sauce with a giant tortilla (almost like a flatbread). Afterwards we went to the local pub and tasted Colombias favorite liquor - Aguardiente; a clear liquor that tastes like Ouzo (Licorice).
The other days in Salento, we had something called "Set menu". It is a combination of dishes where you first get a vegetable soup, then rice, salad, beans, fried banana, and either chicken or beef. It is enough food to get really stuffed, but rarely costs more than 15-20 Norwegian kroner(14$) ". It often also includes a fruit juice, which in itself would cost 30-40 kroner in good old Norway. Being abroad is really quite nice.
After 5 weeks in Colombia we thought it was time to move on, although we easily could have stayed there 2 months longer. Unfortunately, we have a kind of schedule to stick to. It's not so easy when you only have 15 months to travel, It's tough to decide where to go and where to skip. It's simply hard to be us.
Next, our goal was a town called Otavalo located in northern Ecuador. It was the longest travel distance we had done so far on the trip. It took 5 buses, one taxi and 20 hours to get to Otavalo. We passed the spectacular mountain ranges in southern Colombia on the way, and crossed the border into Ecuador without problems.