We’ve covered a lot of territory since Bogota. On Friday the 21st, we took off from Bogota and flew to Armenia in the Zona Cafetera, the major coffee growing region of Columbia. The Andes splits into 3 spines through Columbia. One range to the east, where Bogota is; the middle one, where Armenia and Medellin are; and another one further west. The middle spine has the highest volcanic peaks of the three, over 17,000 feet. It really is steep everywhere – the larger cities have tramways and exterior escalators moving people from place to place and there are a multitude of Willys Jeeps carrying coffee workers, equipment and us, gringos.
From Armenia, we took the local bus to Salento on the south western edge of Parque Nacional los Nevados. We headed out the next day for a hike with a new friend, Tudor, from Romania, just outside the park in the Corcora Valley, that is known for its views and the Wax Palms, the tallest palms in the world and the Columbian national tree.
What we couldn’t understand while we hiked is why we weren’t seeing any baby palms. The next day we got our answer, when we visited Carlos and Nicholas, who have created a preserve, Kasaguadua. It turns out that the vistas we saw in the Corcora valley of the palms standing alone is due to farming. Also, cutting them down wasn’t banned until about 30 years ago. The native environment for these palms is in the cloud forest amongst other trees. Initially, they look like a fern buried below dense cover. In 15 years the palm fronds grow to their full 10 meter size at which point the trunk starts to grow up out of the forest, topping out at about 160 feet.
Carlos and Nicholas also taught us about Guadua, the bamboo native to Columbia. It grows like crazy and is used in construction. In fact, we saw toll booths on the highway built with it and Kasaguadua will have structures you can stay in built of it within the year
After Salento, we headed north to a coffee farm outside of Manizales, just north of the National Park. We treated ourselves to a nice hacienda, learned about coffee and, one day went into the park and up to 14,500 feet to the base of one of the active volcanos.
We are just amazed by the biodiversity here in Columbia. The variety and numbers of plants and animals is astonishing. In fact, Columbia is second only to Brazil as most bio-diverse in the world. After all of this nature, we are headed north to the Caribbean – Cartagena first.