Spending time in nature has a special way of grounding us, making us feel again. Yosemite, Annapurna, Serengeti, Torres del Paine, Kakadu… These regions need no introduction. Hiking has become synonymous with travel in some ways.
But there is still a special delight in stumbling upon a place of astounding natural beauty when you least expect it.
Cocora Valley is one such place. If there is a valley on earth more diverse, I’d like to see it.
We entered the valley via a wide track winding through green fields. Horses ambled by, mountains peaked around us.
But the sun drenched rolling hills quickly descended into dense forest – fields became tangled vines, gnarly trees, rushing creeks and waterfalls.
The creek wound deeper into the forest and started to climb, the trees changed, suddenly everything was moss-laden and a thick fog settled around us. We’d entered Cocora’s cloud forest, the humidity was thick and the oxygen thin.
We hiked a little higher, our lungs starting to heave, a small wooden house materialised above us – home to hundreds of hummingbirds, wings a-flutter. We sat, seemingly in the midst of the clouds themselves, sipping hot cinnamon tea with a chunk of cheese while hummingbirds fed around us.
This brief respite was tempered with another lung-crushing climb, but when we reached the peak this time we’d broken free of the canopy entirely. We found ourselves standing next to ghostly white ponies looking down on the cloud forest below – surely a haunted place of twisted fairytales when viewed from above.
We could feel the vastness of Cocora from here, grasp it’s power, it’s beauty.
But we were only half way. We walked on, downhill now, through a forest of tall, ancient pines, a landscape seemingly at odds with the rest of Colombia – but for the humidity we could have been in the Canadian rockies. Rain started falling on queue.
Then the pines disappeared and legions of towering wax palms stood in their place, Colombia’s National icon. These spindly trees erupted from the languid fields below so dramatically it all seemed to defy reality. Perhaps Salvador Dali had a hand in Cocora’s design.
We met the tallest palm in the world here, gave him a hug, and let the rain fall upon our faces…
Think we just fell a little more in love with Colombia.
Want to check out the Cocora Valley for yourself? Check out our small group trips in Colombia.