Taking an 8 hour bus ride from Jardin to Salento was a different experience than I was used to. Obviously, I wasn't sure what the conditions were going to be like, or how many buses I was going to have to take, but thankfully only had to change buses once (and stopped about 5 times). Thankfully most of the buses in South America have windows you can open at your own disclosure, but not all have air conditioning. Being in the mountains definitely helped with the longer bus rides as there was no need for air conditioning. As a backpacker, you truly have to experience the different scenarios to understand how to do it better the next time. I mean you're pretty much in "survival" mode the entire time. I'll never forget sitting in the front seat of the bus on the way from Medellin to Guatape and I was one of the first passengers on the bus so I thought I was lucky to be able to sit in the very front seat (even though there were others in the middle, I didn't think twice). My perspective was that I could see out the front window better, and get more ventilation but that wasn't the case. More and more people kept piling on to the bus and turned out I barely had any leg room by the middle of the ride because a mom and daughter were sitting on the front seat floor (a step in between the driver and passenger seat) cramming in as many people as possible. Well, I learned my lesson that day. I've also found it important to check each seat to see if they recline or not, and if the window is accessible-those are the two main factors (in the middle or back).
Anyway, I finally arrived to Salento around 5pm and my service/data wasn't working so I couldn't find how far my hostel was to the bus station (and maps.me wasn't working either). So I haled a taxi and arrived at this beautiful country-style hilltop bed & breakfast with an amazing view of the town and a homey fireplace feel. I knew I needed to book my tours for the next day so I checked in and talked with the hostess for a while about what to do. I went into town, walked around and it was actually pretty crowded because it was a Saturday night, the last weekend of Colombian "Summer" so it was high season and the streets were packed. I ordered a coffee and sat in the square watching as people walked by and it was great to just chill for a bit. I walked around a little more, bought some earrings and then went to the restaurant the hostess recommended. Ordered teriyaki and a bottle of wine to bring back with me. Asked the hostess to turn on the fire pit and sat and finally caught up on computer work. It was a nice relaxing night, though I did get interrupted by an older American couple from North Carolina that were curious about my journey. They asked me all the same questions everyone normally asks when you backpack, except the one that really stuck out was "Well what do your parents think?" That was the first time in my journey where I had to take a second to respond because in the back of my head all I could think was, "really?" I'm a 29 year-old female traveling and you're asking me about my parents...but I guess in their shoes, they were probably wondering for their own sake if they had a daughter traveling like me. It made me think about what my parents might be feeling, but also made me take a step back because I was starting to realize that these same type of questions that don't really matter in my opinion were being asked by the same type of people.
The next morning I woke up early so I could do the Cocora Valley hike with enough time to go on a coffee tour in the afternoon as well with a nice breakfast with a view of the town (included in the price) and was on my way. I rode in another jeep yay! and finally got to hiking! At the beginning, it was confusing knowing where to go because it wasn't really a "trail" but a path after you pay the entrance fee of 4000 pesos at this shed which was gating the area with all the wax palms in the distance. Thankfully there was a couple ahead of me most of the way up so I just followed them and eventually ran into other people as well, but this was the first hike I really did on my own and it was actually a great experience. The wax palm trees were so different looking because of how tall they were, it was a spectacular view of the mountains with so many of them on top and in the surroundings - nothing I had ever seen before! At the very top of the trail, there was a hummingbird house where you could get coffee with chocolate and cheese. The cheese was so salty, someone said you were supposed to put it in the coffee and then it finally made sense. Once I did that, it was delicious and so worth the extra hike up this steep hill. In all, the hike was supposed to take 5 hours but it took me 4 and that's pretty impressive due to the fact that it was muddy from all the rain. I really enjoyed the personal time in nature, it was everything I needed after being on the bus for so long. And I had another long one coming up.
Anyways, I got back to the square and booked the coffee tour (went to Las Acacias Coffee Farm), it was a quaint little house with a nice farm and the tour guide did a great job, got to know more about Colombian coffee (which has been around for 100 years now). The coffee industry isn't doing so well as a whole, so they're trying to grow other types of things is what the guide told me. It was only me and this other German girl and the three of us mostly talked about languages and the differences between all the South American countries. When it was time to go, the guide wasn't sure when the jeep taxi was going to be back but told me to just wait by the road (could be an hour he said - typical in this situation). I waited next to this guy who I saw had a motorcycle, and turns out I got a ride back with him :) was all in my internal plan hehe. I walked back to the hostel, did some yoga, showered, went to this viewpoint at the top of the hill of the mountains/town and then got a delicious trout meal with 2 cocktails and a side salad for like $10. It still boggles my mind how cheap it all was! Sat by the fireplace again and had a relaxing night before waking up in the morning to go to Popoyan for another 8-9 hour bus ride. Yippee!