Saturday, 31 December 2016

The 29th - A trek in Val de Cocora, Salento

 It's the morning of 31st December - 8am - and I'm due to leave for the airport soon to go to Medellín. So, because I have my large screen here in my apartment, I tweaked some of the photos in Photoshop and placed them here. I will add text later. That is easy to do on my laptop!

....I just arrived in the hotel in Medellín so I can connect to the hotel wifi. I am getting ahead of myself, I will write about Medellín later! I wrote most of the following text offline in Word in both airports, so now I can paste it into this post.....

Today was not what I was expecting but it turned out to be a wonderful (and tiring!) day. Alejandra picked me up outside my apartment as usual and her two children were with her in the back of the car. We drove to Salento which is where I went with Nini and her family – we went horse-riding, remember?

This time we went a lot further, beyond Salento and into the hills above the town, Val de Cocora. The scenery was spectacular as you can see from the photos. After driving for about 30 minutes, I began to see signs of humanity, a tourist area. Horses for hire, several cafés. We parked the car and went to a restaurant which Alejandra explained was the very first here when it was far less of a tourist centre. She also started dropping hints about a 2 hour walk! We had lunch – more hints about getting plenty of fuel - but it was still quite early, about mid-day. 

We took some more photos, with Gustavo and Raquel. Alejandra took the photo of me standing up against a palm tree, you have to look closely to see me!

And then we headed off into the hills. I had my jacket and a note pad in a shopping bag which was definitely not cool. The path took us upwards and it was shared with riders on horses who had taken the easy option. Some of the going was quite tough, parts of the track were very muddy and we had to dive under barbed wire into the adjoining field in order to traverse the track. At one point, I overbalanced and caught a sharp bit of metal. This also posed other risks, brown and squelchy, because there were cattle in fields. We stopped to drink from a stream. I hesitated for a moment until Alejandra goaded me, calling me gringo. For some reason, totally wrong, I think it is insulting but, noo. It is simply a word to describe a foreigner. Unlike giri where I live in Spain which is definitely insulting – foreigners who don’t get round to speaking  the language!

This track ran gently uphill for quite some distance, I can’t remember for quite how long we were walking, maybe an hour. The forests around us were spectacular, steep wooded hills, skinny palm trees. 

We stopped many times to take photos and to take the occasional rest. Finally we reached the woods which led to our objective, a house deep in the forest. The photos by the river were taken there and there is a photo of me and Alejandra by a sign. I look enormous compared to her but I think it is simply that I am on higher ground.

The next few photos by the river were very close to where we stopped by the sign.

We dived into the woods and the going got quite tough. Steep rocky inclines, we crossed the river three times on rope bridges, only one person allowed at a time. Alejandra had no idea beforehand whether I was fit or not. In fact I am fit due to cycling and swimming but she didn’t know that. In a way, it was a bit of a risk  - she asked me at one stage if I wanted to continue. “Ningun problema!” Later I made her promise to forget my real age; we agreed on 60. That was my deal with her for my completing the course with no problems. And all the time I was thinking, we have to go back this way! 
After about 2½ hours after leaving the car park, we arrived at our destination, a house deep in the woods. Full of pictures of various birds. By now it was quite late, well after 4pm and we were the last visitors. I was getting a little anxious but Alejandra was cool. We all had lights in our phones if it got dark before we arrived back.

I paid 5mils for each of us for a drink and to help maintain the trail. We watched the birds drinking from the bird-bath. An occasional humming-bird whizzed by. The clouds rolled in, at our height.

Finally we started heading back. I was glad I had brought my jacket because the temperature plummeted. I gave my drawing pad to Alejandra to put in her back-pack so my hands were now free of the stupid shopping bag. Our descent was rapid. She was right, we were soon back at the entrance to the forest by the sign and now we descended back down the track in the gathering gloom, dodging back and forth under the barbed wire. The sun set at 6pm as usual and I think we got back at around 6.30. We were all very tired. We had been walking for about 5 hours. I tended to feel that tired after one of my 75km cycle rides to the coast, so that gives you an idea how tough it was. The two children did very well, I thought.

In the final stages, I was crossing a rope bridge, steadying myself with the cables on either side when I felt a sharp pain in my hand. Where the cable was supported were wire junctions with unprotected ends. I couldn’t see that because it was dark. It wasn’t serious but Alejandra was more worried about the mud on my hands so she insisted that I wash my hand thoroughly in the stream. Many years ago, my brother picked up something quite serious simply in his garden. Bare metal doesn’t carry too many risks but the earth contains all kinds of dangers if they enter the blood.

We sat down exhausted by the bar where the car was parked, Alejandra and I had a beer. I drank from a glass, she drank from the can and looked really cool, like a teenager!

And that more or less is how it ended. We drove back to Pereira, the children asleep in the back. I was in two minds whether to invite them out for a meal but we were all very tired and I think the children just wanted to crash out at home. We drove to their home and then Alejandra and Raquel came with me to the street to look for a taxi. Instead a number 39 bus came by flashing its lights looking for customers. We waved it down and I was on my way home. I know the 39 bus because it goes past Nini’s home.

I went to the hotel restaurant and had a meal of steak with red wine. Maybe I said, wine is not easy to find here. The first glass was corked (or just left open too long). I drank about half of it and ordered another. I Heard the reassuring plop of a cork being released. The second glass was fine and the waiter replaced the wine in the original glass.

And then I headed back across the road to my apartment. End of a super day!

I have been rather lazy formatting these posts. I think I can use word-wrap (around photos) instead of having a photo centred in the page. I promise to do better in future!