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Around Salento

by Alex on Jun.04, 2009, under Blog

Just got another mild electric shock and was told ‘yes, you have no shoes on, when the electric rings are on the work surface goes live as it’s metal. It’s normal.’.

Anyway, Salento is a pretty mountain town with some not that obvious lovely little restaurants and cafes. Only on the last evening there did I notice all the little gifty and arty shops, I suppose it must attract a lot of Colombian tourists. One of the things that they’d probably not pay that must attention to is an old Y reg fire engine sporting Devon Fire and Rescue Service decals. Donated 12 years ago she was a little tired yet still going strong. It’s warming to know that something dismissed by ‘us’ so many years ago could still be helping to save lives in some far off place.

The landscape around Salento is stunning. So green with hills arolling, deep culverts, pretty rivers meandering down boulder-strewn valley floors, crazily tall palm trees, bamboo forests worthy of reenacting scenes from House of the Flying Daggers and more that I’ve already forgotten. It’s similar to the countryside that you find in so many temperate zones but there is a subtle perfection about it that I can’t put my finger on, maybe the pictures can relate what I’m on about.

I’m not sure if it’s a Colombian thing but in Salento there are loads of old Willys Jeeps, well renovated and used as taxis – many of the roads here are unpaved. We took one for half a hour and walked up a valley that looked reasonably standard issue save the incongruous wax palms, tall and thin looking totally out of place. We stopped at a hut type establishment and watched the humming birds hum before snacking on what was apparently normal in the locale – hot chocolate and salty cheese. The cheese was pretty much too salty to eat with the explanation that this was so the cheese would not rot in the absence of any kind of fridge-based storage. We didn’t try the local approach which apparently was to crumble the cheese into the hot chocolate.

The following day we hired mountain bikes for what was to be quite a shambolic outing. Again the scenery was stunning, quite to marvel at but the hand drawn map we were given was gaylord and most of the time we weren’t entirely sure where we were. Sometimes an inch on the map took 10 minutes and other times 40, resulting in you being convinced that you’d gone the wrong way and would have to turn around and go back three miles uphill. The last 4 km was steep and up and some being tired and one of the bikes being really shite we decided that we’d get a lift home. That took about an hour and a half to sort out. Some helpful bloke called one of the Willys Jeep guys to organise a pick up and on returning he tells us that one of us would have to go up to the town to negotiate cost. Typical hopeless approach to business – the guy didn’t think to say ‘tell them I’ll do it for 20 grand (pesos, about 6 quid), call me back if that’s OK’, he simply says no and probably never wonders why he’s poor.

It was fun though, especially the downhill – all our hands took a proper pounding resulting in extensive palmic bruising. A fair few innocent yet dodgy sounding comments have been made today referring to bruised palms, I’m sure the rest of the hostel wonders what the five of us have been up to…

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