After a good night’s sleep we’ll be picked up by private Jeep (US army surplus vehicles that ended up being a match made in heaven for the Coffee Region.). These open-backed Jeeps are typical of the region, known for their unbeatable horsepower when conquering steep mountain roads when piled high with coffee and ‘platano’ or plantain. The drive will take us eastward along the river Quindio basin and into the beginnings of the Cocora Valley which makes up part of the buffer zone to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. It is the sanctuary that protects a large remnant population of the national tree. Either side of the road you’ll see lush green pastures dotted with cows, farmhouses and large boulders, all adding to the postcard quality landscape. Soon enough we’ll arrive at the valley base. Green pastures and cloud forest cover the folds and mountains both of which are punctuated by the national tree – the Colombian Wax palm.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled as the palm is a common nesting place of the famed Yellow-eared parrot. We will be following the River Cardenas/ Rio Quindio route. This route will ford the river before the trail begins to hug and climb the side of this quite beautiful valley. A steep set of switch-backs will break us in perfectly on the first day, levelling out a little after, punctuated by short, steep descents and ascents. The overall trek today lasts around 10km and will take around 5hrs. Eventually, we will reach Don Javier’s farm, located at 3,476masl. The cloud forest of the Cocora Valley below is left behind as we ascend into a high-Andean forest surround, where the airs are much cooler, the vegetation becomes darker and the mountain tops begin to show themselves. Given its excellent level of conservation, high-Andean species such as Long-tailed Sylph, the local, rare (and tiny) Purple-backed Thornbill, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, uncommon and beautiful Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, noisy groups of endangered Golden-plumed Parakeet are all known to habit these valleys. If fortunate the immense Andean Condor can be seen soaring on a clear day.
Upon arriving at camp you’ll have a late lunch with time to explore the surrounding folds and mountain streams. We will pay a visit to Don Javer’s farmhouse and dinner will be at the camp just below the house. Jumpers and fleeces will be the order of the evening as it can get quite cold.
Overnight – Camping