Local Heroes | Salento, Colombia
My name is Thomas and I’ve been living in Salento, Colombia for a few years now. The small town lies at an altitude of almost 2000 metres above sea level and is famous for its colonial architecture, coffee production and the the amazing wilderness of the Cocora valley which is close by. Thanks to its isolation the town has managed to retain its original character and the inhabitants still keep their laid back way of life. Our town is especially popular with tourists as Salento is the ideal starting point for tours to the Cocora valley.
Together with small group of motivated friends we’ve created an extensive network of trails during the last years. That means a lot of work: our trails are ancient transport and access routes for the mountain farmers, the “Campesinos” and they often cross private property. That means each time we have to established contact with the landowners and win them over. Then we still have to spend countless hours clearing the trails by hand, but this bit is of course a load of fun!
Now we want to start offering guided tours for the many international visitors. I’ve been riding for almost 15 years, initially more XC but since I bought a Liteville 301 I’ve switched to all mountain and enduro.
Our trails are the ancient, historically significant “caminos nacionales” which the Spanish Conquistadors also made use of. Some of them are on the private property of big Fincas. Columbia is traditionally a country with a bike mad population even though XC riding is still the favourite riding style, but all mountain and enduro are getting more and more popular.
A friend of mine imports Commencal bikes and organises regular enduro races. The trails are not waymarked and decent maps are also not available. The best bike for our trails is an enduro bike with 160mm travel.
Duration : approx. 2 hrs, distance : 30 km
La Linea is one of my favourite trails.
The trail head is easy to access by car. It is located on the road between Calarca and Ibague approx. 1 km before the highest point of the pass.
We usually use “Willys” for shuttle runs, these are the Jeeps, which are the main form of public transport here in the mountains.
The first part of the trail is a hand-cut section with jumps and berms heading through the forest. Short meadow sections give fantastic views. Then comes the part with pure loam flow! A short gravel climb follows before the trail drops into the Rio Quindio valley. This last section is on hard clay and is a bit rougher.
Up/downhill: 7 hrs; pure downhill: 2 hrs
Oasis is another superb trail. Leaving from the same road that takes you to La Linea, turn off a bit earlier below the river valley “Valle del Rio Quindio”. Then a 2 km long climb takes you to the Palmichara. If you don’t fancy that you can take a jeep shuttle. From the summit an epic singletrail gradually drops around 25 km along the mountain ridge. The view is simply amazing!
After the ride
We’d recommend you enjoy the traditional trout in one of Salento’s numerous restaurants. A tasty lunch here costs an unbelievable 2.50 – 3 Euros. Be sure not to miss out on the big range of freshly squeezed fruit juices in order to top up your vitamin reserves!
We can also heartily recommend the hot chocolate made of pure chocolate and cane sugar not to mention the excellent coffee which is grown here. Fresh and rejuvenated you can set off for a foray into Salento’s alleyways with their colourful, colonial buildings. You should also definitely make the hike to the Mirador, a viewpoint with a spectacular vista over the Valle de Cocora and the neighbouring park. Close by are natural thermal springs which are perfect for regeneration of tired bodies.
As mentioned the trails are unfortunately not marked and good maps are very rare. You can contact me via my website at: www.andentours.de. You can book individual tours here or just contact me with your questions about Salento and the region.
Words: Thomas Jentzsch Photos: Alex Buschor