Mountain biking near Salento strikes the perfect balance for those looking for an adventurous way to explore the epic nature that can be found in the area. Not only can you cover a lot of ground to see more scenery, but you can also experience overlooked places many people do not venture to go.
The downhill ride
We were up bright and early in the morning and eager to get started on our downhill mountain biking tour along the Golden Road with Salento Cycling. At the time, the Golden Road was the longest downhill ride in Colombia, crossing the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 3,400 meters.
More importantly, the route passes through a wax palm forest that is far more extensive than the well-known wax palm forest in Cocora Valley. But, I diverge, I’ll tell you more about that hidden gem in just a bit.
It was my first time doing any “real” mountain biking so I was a tad nervous, but Nick and our guide helped make sure I understood all of the necessary techniques. They assured me that we could go at whatever pace I felt comfortable riding.
A truck drove us to the top of the mountain and dropped us off with our bikes. The entire ride was downhill along a gravel road, with outstanding views coming into sight intermittently as the trees cleared in certain areas.
I was being very cautious and riding the brakes most of the time during the beginning of the ride. Before long, I started to feel very comfortable.
The more confident I became, the more I thoroughly enjoyed the speed that came with going downhill. I was having a blast on the bike before I knew it. Between the views and the adrenaline, it was almost euphoric.
Part of the area we rode through is called the cloud forest due to the moisture that typically comes down. We got lucky and had clear skies nearly the entire time, with a few small pockets of fog.
The ideal conditions allowed for some of the most spectacular views. Being surrounded by such breathtaking scenery while enjoying a thrilling mountain bike ride was nothing short of remarkable.
The highlight of the ride was passing by and exploring the wax palm forest near La Carbonera.
This wax palm forest is seriously underrated. Despite the fact that there are drastically more trees in this much denser forest, most people visiting Salento will skip this and head straight for Cocora Valley.
The Quindío wax palm has been under threatened status for many years, making this forest a particularly extraordinary place. It really is something to be able to see so many of these incredible trees in one spot.
We took a break from the ride and did a short hike through the wax palm forest. As we trekked through the thicket of the forest, massive trees towered over us in all directions.
It was fascinating to consider the contrast between walking through the middle of the forest and overlooking it from a distance. It felt like a completely different world.
Our guide set up a romantic picnic after the hike and left us alone to enjoy it together. It was simple but lovely. We were able to sit back and take in the grandeur of the wax palm forest sprawling out into the distance.
Refreshed and ready to ride, we hopped back on our bikes and made our way down the rest of the mountain and back into the town of Salento.
An evening in Salento
After going back to our hotel to freshen up, we went back out to walk around and enjoy the town.
We had a lovely dinner and then went to a local bar for some Tejo, a popular Colombian game that involves throwing a metal ball at a pile of small packets filled with gunpowder. The goal of the game is to blow up the powder-filled packs for points.
It turns out that blowing up stuff as part of a game is just as fun as it sounds. We played several rounds until the bar was closing down and then went back to our hotel completely exhausted and satisfied. Next stop, Ecuador.
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