Writing this evening ought to come easy as there is so much to tell but finding the words could confound me. I am fuelled by a strong coffee which I had at 5pm to cap off a tour of the ‘finca’ , the small, organic coffee farm at which have spent the past few nights. Neither words nor photographs can truly describe the breathtaking landscapes we have seen over the past two days.
We left Medellin early yesterday morning. The city of Medellin is about the centre of Colombia (if you exclude the Amazon basin which encompasses the eastern half of this country). Medellin lies between two of the three mountain ranges that form the backbone of Colombia. To reach Salento we climbed by bus up one side of the the central mountains and down their other side. By necessity, the road snaked back and forth. One switchback after the next until we were literally traversing the ridge along the top of the mountains. For a time one could see down from both sides of the ridge into both valleys stretching far away. Our descent seemed as though we were plunging into the heart of Colombia. Huge stands of bamboo, dark green mounds of the coffee plantations, broad paddle-like leaves of the banana, foliage of every description. Then, most amazing of all, there appeared the towering wax palms. These trees are some 60 meters tall, the tallest palm tree in the world and no bigger around than a telephone pole. Their trunks are smooth grey, reaching forever toward the sky and are finally topped with a spray of palm leaves. In silouhette they look like fireworks on a stem and seem to defy laws of physics by standing so impossibly tall and still. Early this morning we boarded a jeep from the town square to the beginning of a trail where, with two others, we set out on a hike hoping to reach the part of the Cocora valley that is home to a large stand of the spectacular wax palm.
Along with us was Rod, a man from California who is 73 years old and who has visited 160 countries and Beata, a brilliant young woman from Poland, a mere 28 years old and already a cardiologist. Beata was pleased that Rod had brought along his asprin, and I was pleased to tell her that we have a son who is single. Rod simply wore his blue jeans and loafers while the rest of us were fitted-out with hiking boots, day packs, water bottles etc. We climbed for several hours up and into the cloud forest all the while wondering if we were even going in the right direction. Then when coming down, the cloud forest suddenly opened and there they were !! The towering wax palms, each standing alone, a good distance from one another in a broad valley as if they were guarding the green rippled hillsides. This haunting landscape stretched as far as the eye could see. The cows were mere specks on the valley floor. Truly breathtaking and very surreal. It was impossible to capture in a photograph and is impossible for me to capture in words. You will just have to come and see it for yourselves. This evening we were once again sitting in the town square sharing stories and a meal of local trout with Beata and the invincible Rod, who did just fine in his street shoes and did not require his asprin after all. People strolled, Juan Valdez and his friend clopped by on horseback, several dogs came for a scratch and Spanish guitar music spilled into the street. Before I go I want to tell you about our game of ‘tejo’ one of Colombia’s oldest sports . First rule of the game is: as long as you are drinking beer you can continue to play. The game itself involves tossing a 2 kg steel disc into a 3′ x 4′ box of clay set on a slant a fair distance away…about like a horseshoe pit. Set into the centre of the box of clay is a steel ring. Small triangular packets of gunpowder (yes gunpowder!) are stuck into the thin layer of clay over the steel ring. The objective of the game is to miss the packets of gunpowder when you toss your disc and have it stick into the centre. But of course it’s much more fun to hit the packets of gunpowder and have them explode! (But you won’t get as many points for that) It is as loud as a rifle going off in the room. It blows the metal disc right out of the clay and sets off a gale of freaky laughter. It was one of the things that Randy really wanted to do in Colombia so it was good he also got to win the game. And so, buenos noches to you all, Love Monika and Randy