We spent two days in and around the town of Salento just on the outskirts of the zona de café. The draw to Salento, aside from its charm, is the Valle de Cocora. The cocora are the world’s tallest wax palms and can crest over 200 feet. The valley is home to groves of these spindly trees that stand tall and proud compared to the short vegetation that surrounds them. After exploring some of the valley on foot we hopped back in the van and headed into the heart of coffee country. The plan was to find a coffee finca to park for the night, maybe on a hill with a view of the surrounding area, maybe with access to bathrooms, and maybe just maybe a place where we could buy a couple of pounds of fresh Colombian Arabica. It’s possible we were asking for a tall order, but if we didn’t set the bar high we would always end up settling in a gas station for the night and we have learned to love the fight. We have not only developed high expectations of where we camp but we have discovered that the act of finding that perfect place is itself a large part of our adventure.
From El Cocuy we made our way to Bogota with a few choice stops along the way. Let me start by saying we didn’t come close to giving Bogota the attention it deserved. It is a huge city with countless museums, cultural events and pleasant strolling opportunities. We didn’t do any of this though. We had one focus and reason for venturing into the huge capital city: to get new tires for Blue Steel. This proved to be as complicated and frustrating as we imagined, but that ordeal is not what I’ll be writing about. I want to tell you about the Delgados.
Due to our four month hiatus in the States, we’ve had to accept the reality that we will be passing through many countries during an unfavorable time of year. In Peru, we’ll face rainy season in much of the highlands and by the time we reach Patagonia the summer days will be dwindling. So when we realized we’d be in Colombia within a few weeks of the perfect time of year for trekking in Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy, we were very excited. There are only three months of the year considered to have even reasonably good weather in this part of the Colombian Andes; outside those months, one can expect daily rain or snow and freezing temperatures.
After four days bouncing around the Caribbean, it was back to reality and back to work. Our van was still in a container in the port of Cartagena and in order to drive her off we had miles of red tape to unravel. Before beginning the process there was the matter of getting ourselves from Capurganá, a small Caribbean village near the Panamanian border, to the city of Cartagena. It would be a long grueling day of travel which included a two hour boat ride through rough seas, a five hour bus ride over terrible back roads, a second five and a half hour bus ride over even worse roads and, finally, a 45 minute taxi ride into the center of town. All of this after staying up late to watch the US presidential election results come in (at last we could breath a sigh of relief). Luckily for us we had two amazing friends along for the ride who would take some of the sting away from a long and arduous process. When you are at the mercy of so many factors outside of your control, the value of people with whom to share your misery cannot be overstated.