Happy 2020! It’s been a great few weeks of the new decade. We spent the first 10 days in Colombia for our annual January warm weather getaway, before I returned back to my second semester of my MBA. I was feeling very thankful last night as I mused on my friendships – I see many of my old friends frequently (I usually go to Boston on the weekends, since we don’t have class Fridays and it’s very similar to the consulting M-TH travel schedule anyway), but am so grateful to have met so many friends with whom to simply hang out (rather than going to parties that bschool is so well known for). One of my biggest resolutions this year is to get back into fitness, which has never really been m new year’s resolution in the past. This year I hope to get back to running, strength training, and getting back to a healthy lifestyle. I got into a great habit over winter break of working out, so hopefully I can continue when classes get back on schedule. And, I’m spending my academic time focusing on what matters to me – I’m taking my first art history class this semester, and am excited to dive into supply chain operations at SOM.
Of course, I’m looking forward to some fun, but sustainable travels this year. Colombia really did blow all our expectations out of the water. We traveled through Bogota, Salento, Medellin, San Andres Island, and Cartagena. Salento was one of our favorite places, so this will be the first blog post of the Colombia series!
Salento is a little town in the middle of the coffee region of Colombia. We flew from Bogota to Periera, then organized a car to pick us up for the 1.25 hour drive into Salento. My biggest bucket list item for Colombia was to visit the Cocora Valley, with the tallest palm trees in the world, so we saved an entire day to hike the valley.
We stayed at Coffee House Boutique Hostel, which will probably be our last hostel experience of our lives, even though it was a wonderful, clean stay and really beautiful. I think we (mostly M, tbh) are past the point in our lives to stay in a shared hostel, although when I booked it I figured we would be out all day anyway. Additionally, most of the nice accommodations in the town were fully booked since we happened to visit during the Salento Independence Festival.
To get to Cocora Valley, we picked up a jeep in the central square (the entire town is maybe a kilometer across, so very easy for find the main square) which took a truckload of us directly to the valley ($5 roundtrip). From there, we hiked the entire 6-7 hour trek, with lots of stops on the way to take photos and enjoy some snacks. It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done; we climbed mountains to get to the viewpoint for the valley, but also went through some river crossings, swinging bridge crossings, and gorgeous farmland. It was a difficult hike overall since it was so long, but I am glad we went the clockwise way since it was longer but not as steep. We also stopped by the hummingbird house on the way back, which to me was a little anti-climatic because we saw some wild hummingbirds on the way! So you can skip the house if you’re short on time (the path up to the house is also a really steep 2 kms).
Once we finished the hike, we lined up to take the jeeps back to Salento. After a much-needed shower, we went out to eat the famous local grilled trout for dinner, explored the main streets of town, then played Tejo the rest of the night. Tejo is this fun game where you throw rocks at a clay board full of small packets of gunpowder, and try to make them explode! We made a few packets explode and it was exhilarating.
The next day we wanted to do a horseback ride to a coffee plantation, and found a company ahead of time with great reviews on TripAdvisor. They told us to meet at the main square, which we did…then accidentally followed the wrong horseback riding company. Because of the language barrier, we ended up trekking a few hours to a waterfall and just passing by the coffee plantations on the way. It was still beautiful, but there was a stretch of trail (not pictured) that was a tiny path straight down a mountain with really loose rubble. I consider it proper horseback riding, even though the fastest we went was a canter – M was a champ! We spent some lovely time at Cascada Santa Rita, and spent the rest of the day trekking back to Salento.
Because our days around Salento were pretty strenuous, we didn’t go up the stairs at the end of Calle Real. But we spent a good amount of time enjoying the festival, window shopping, and people watching. We also spent a great afternoon at a local spa to recover a bit. Overall this was our favorite place in Colombia and really introduced us to how beautiful the country is!