On Saturday morning, according to plan, I went back to Pereira for my battery and my charger, which took 3h30 of my time. It could have been less. But I got lost on my way back to the hotel. Before I left home, a friend suggested to keep a spreadsheet to keep track of all the things I would lose along the way – such as a battery and a charger – and one with the buses, trains, boats, and planes I would miss. I should have done that. Plus one with the number of times I got lost myself.
We then directly left with a “willy” – a colourful 4×4 – to the Valley of Cocora. A friend had put me in touch with someone he knew who is an eco-guide in Salento; which I found an interesting option. But Dorine and I weren’t travelling on the same budget. And she had adapted her own plans so that she could visit it together with me. I solved the problem the Sarah way. I just went twice. Once with Dorine and once with Blaney. With Dorine, I spent an afternoon on it. Walking fast because we – well… I – lost time in the morning and, at the same time, needed to catch the last willy at 18.00. I finished quite exhausted, especially because of the uphill bits I had to manage at high heighth and speed. But the walk had been really beautiful. Halfway through it, we got to a lovely place called “La casa de los colibris” – “The hummingbirds’ house”. And it is just literally what it promises: hummingbirds in all types and colours, buzzing around while you have a hot chocolate and a piece of cheese, which are offered to you the moment you get there. Not unwelcome after having spent two hours in a hot and humid forest. You get some strength to continue.
With Blaney, we took another tour, and spent nine full hours amongst trees, birds and gorgeous landscapes.
It was the second time since the start of my trip that I was visiting a place with a guide. I have done it a few more times since and would recommend anyone who has the means to go for it any time they have the opportunity. You just learn more. See things differently. Are taught how to interact respectfully with the environment you are in. It probably sounds quite obvious to most of you but there are always things you don’t think about, such as lowering your tone of voice not to frighten the birds. Not mentioning the fact that, if you’re not going with a big agency but opt for independent guides, you support the local economy and, even more important, the project of individuals who are passionate about what they are doing.
Though the walks were different, I basically saw the same kind of things. What I didn’t know the first time is that, if nothing is done, the very particular landscape of the valley will disappear within 50 years. In order to gain grazing space for cows, part of the forest has been destroyed. Except for some palm trees, and they grow very slowly. And because the cows eat them before they get to two years of age, there are no new trees growing anymore. They are inside the forest of course. But as the existing trees are dying out, the sky line is being modified.
The whole explanation about the functioning of the cloud forests and how these are authentic water factories was equally fascinating. As well as many other things Blaney is knowledgeable about. I also enjoyed the more personal discussions we had, about nature, god, beliefs, creation, creativity and conscience.