For this next leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race, teams were given clues that required them to make their way by bus to the small mountain town of Salento. Simon and Ang, as the first to arrive, departed the pit stop and rapidly made their way by taxi to Medellín’s southern bus terminal. There they bought a ticket on the first bus for Salento via Armenia.
The trip south to Armenia took six hours with the team’s bus stopping once at a roadside restaurant to allow passengers to feast on empanadas and chorizo. Later that afternoon, after a windy and nauseous journey, the bus arrived at the Armenian terminal. There Simon purchased more empanadas to snack on and the team boarded the mini bus to Salento.
|Ang finds it harder to stay awake than she did when the transport was chicken buses
While waiting for the bus to depart, Simon and Ang munched on their empanadas and chatted with a friendly Korean who was competing in the Amazing Exclusive Race Korea. Both teams soon worked out they were heading to the same accommodation and traded stories on the ride up into the mountains.
Checking into the accommodation, Simon and Ang were given their next clue. They were required to complete a hike to a hummingbird sanctuary high in the hills of the Valle de Cocora. Cocora is a protected national park that looks a little like Switzerland but contains fantastic ancient palms (ceroxylon quindiuense) as well as a variety of interesting rainforest flora and fauna.
Unfortunately they would need to wait until the next morning, as the first jeep to the Cocora would depart at 9am. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to explore, Ang and Simon walked around the cute little town and had a vegetable filled dinner at a local restaurant before returning to their accommodation.
Waking at a reasonable hour, Ang and Simon had breakfast, grabbed a pair of gumboots each and made their way into the centre of town where they boarded a jeep for the short 10km ride into the Cocora Valley. As Colombia is still technically in a state of civil war, their jeep passed a foot patrol of soldiers on the way up. There they disembarked from the jeep and set off on the hike, with rain gear on.
The path they followed through the lush green countryside was muddier than a pig sty. Both Simon and Ang were glad to be wearing gumboots as the mud was very thick. Over the next three hours they climbed up into the reserve to almost 2700m and soon arrived at a finca set in the rainforest. There they paid their entry fee, drank their sweet water and ate their cheese.
|The muddy walk into the valley
|Ang pauses to admire some of the dinosaur palms
|Racing along the muddy path
|Heading into the rainforest
|Another stream crossed
|Delicious cheese and sugar water
|Racers pose with the friendly kid who was working at the finca
Completing the food challenge, their next clue called for them to get a photo of a hummingbird. In the afternoon light this was surprising difficult as different varieties of hummingbirds were moving rapidly and fighting amongst themselves. After much trying, a suitable photograph was taken and the team were given their next clue.
|Hummingbirds at the feeder
Racing from the hummingbird reserve, the team made their way 1km further then up 300m to another finca through the rain. There they turned and headed back down the road. On this road the team met a friendly Colombian who had finished work for the day. They chatted over the 5km walk and nearing the bottom of the hill their new Colombian amigo told them about the flooded section of road and led them through a short cut. Ang thought this section was particularly stunning and would have liked to have been there on a clear day.
|High finca in the clouds
|Cloud forest panorama
This short cut took the team past the prehistoric palm trees that were growing on the side of the hill. The path soon turned very muddy and the team slipped and slid as they tried to keep up with the sure footed Campanero. They walked through the fields and muddy stock yards and arrived back at the waiting jeeps. There they took the first position on the first returning jeep back to Salento.
|Walking below giant palms
|Racing along a mysterious short cut
In the main central plaza, the team were given their next clue that requirement them to make their way to Bogotá in the morning. The team took advantage of the down time to say farewell to team Korea and then returned to their accommodation for the evening to rest.
|Salento’s famed neon panada
|A campanero stops to watch some soccer
|Church in the main plaza in Salento
Early the next morning, soon after breakfast, they departed on the first shuttle bus back to Armenia.
…To be continued