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Extreme Horseback Riding in Valle de Cocora

Listed under in Colombia.

Photo of Extreme Horseback Riding in Valle de Cocora
Photo by David Lee
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Last month I met a horse named Canario, and if I had my way, that horse would retire from shuttling tourists around, and live out the rest of its years chomping fresh, green grass under the towering wax palms of Valle de Cocora in central Colombia.

Extreme horseback riding wasn’t on my agenda when I arose early one morning at a dairy farm turned hostel outside Salento, a pueblo in the heart of Colombia’s coffee growing region.  Upon arrival the prior day, I’d kept to myself, aside from talking to a German guy in the bunk bed next to me who’d spent five hours hiking around in the mud and rain to see hummingbirds.

After taking in the views of clouds drifting through the mountains around the dairy farm, while sipping a fresh cup of coffee, I walked the 10 minutes down a dirt road into Salento’s main square. There, I waited for the 9:30am share jeep to Valle de Cocora, a nature preserve home to Colombia’s national tree, the wax palm, which also happens to be the tallest type of palm tree in the world.

While I was waiting, the Colombian manager from the Base Camp hostel in Manizales showed up, along with the French guy that had been working there during my stay.  They were wearing rubber boots in preparation for the mud to be encountered during the full 5-hour hike.  I was still feeling content with my plan to hop out of the jeep, photograph the palms, have lunch, and and head back to Salento within a few hours.

Then a friendly young Aussie walked up in shorts and flip flops.  Followed by two Swiss girls.  And suddenly we were all crammed in the back of an old jeep, speeding down a mountain road, onto a bumpy unpaved one, toward the entrance of the valley.  During the journey, we introduced ourselves and got to know each other, as happens so effortlessly when sharing such experiences...

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Written by  David Lee.

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