Cocora Valley, Colombia

2016-02-14

 

Cocora Valley is a stunning part of the Los Nevados National Park in the Andes Mountains. It’s famous for it’s staggering display of protected wax palms, Colombia’s national tree. Surprisingly tall and thin, yet adamant and strong from root to tip. They are the tallest palms in the world.

Farms are scattered throughout the valley and cows graze the grass that once enveloped soaring wax palms. Farming endangers the trees, keeping the seeds that drop from growing, but allowing for them to be stunningly displayed. They only grow in dense shade. Inside the forest, baby wax palms can be seen emerging but their growth is incredibly slow. They can be identified by three perfect, long palms splayed out and close to the ground. It takes decades for the palms to reach their potential height of approximately 60 meters.

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Traffic jams in nature; no roads lead to fincas tucked away high in the mountains and so the trails are often overtaken by hired donkeys carrying goods to and from. Horses hauling humans compete for space on the uneven trails and pedestrians are forced out of the way, quickly.

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The Acaime humming bird sanctuary is made up of a few ramshackle houses at the top of a climb that crosses a shallow river by way of several rickety, wooden bridges. Butterflies emerge through accumulating forest density. More kinds of humming birds than I could count start to appear and flitter about. In the presence of dozens at once, the sound from the speed of their wings as they fly from feeder to flower and the tiny chirps produced sound like orchestrated music. Spastic and brave, they battle each other for prime feeding spots ignoring the humans all together.

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A steep hike to a nearby finca, La Montaña, is worth the effort and rewarded with beautiful views and planted with bright flowers. The entire slow decent brings you full circle back underneath the towering wax palms but not before quick changing forest and full views of rounded, rugged mountains begging to be explored further.

 

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I could hike these mountains every day and each day would be different. The number of birds, plants, and shadows cast by the quick moving clouds create a never stagnant experience. Makes my humming bird heart flutter 1,260 beats per minute.

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