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The Palms of Cocora

sunny 27 °C

According to local legend the town of Salento on the western slopes of the Andes was so often up in the clouds that the inhabitants brightened up their dull streets with vibrant colours…

Times have changed and Salento now basks in warm equatorial sunshine for most of the year, but the colourful paint has stuck and almost every street is a canvass for a work of art…

Equally colourful, though in a natural way, is the nearby valley of Cocora and we reached it in one of the dozens of gaily painted Jeeps that operate as taxis on the steep mountain roads…
The high-altitude Cocora valley is famous for its unique wax palms that pepper the verdant mountainsides and reach nearly 200 feet into the clear blue sky…

But all is not well in this picturesque valley. Legend has it that these luxuriant pastures were once thickly forested with wax palms where the sun rarely broke through the perpetual mists and the canopy of fronds that was home to numerous species of birds and animals…
However, it seems that deforestation occurred when the majestic trees were felled to satisfy the catholic churches’ demand for palm leaves for Palm Sunday, while many others were destroyed when the protective wax was stripped from their bark for candlemaking. But legends have a habit of becoming exaggerated over generations and we found it hard to believe that the weather had changed so completely as we climbed for two hours to reach the wooded peaks under a blazing sun…
So when did all these catastrophic changes occur? When did the clouds and persistent mists evaporate under a scorching sun? When did the climate change? According to a local guide who grew up in Salento just 40 years ago, all this has happened in his lifetime. When he was a child he lived in the midst of a cloud forest where he was perpetually cold and damp. Global warming sceptics should be compelled to spend a week here to see the results – both good and bad – of mans’ impact on his surroundings, and to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery before this becomes the very last wax palm still standing…
However, all is not lost in this spectacularly beautiful part of the world and next time on our Andean adventure we will take you to visit some passionate people who are determined to make a difference.

Posted by Hawkson 14:23 Archived in Colombia

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Never heard of wax palms. Amazing that they grow like that with no apparent competition. I see that even the smaller ones are headed straight up. Wonder what sort of fruit they bear. Fascinating.

by R and B

love the colourful trim on the houses (or shop fronts if that is what they are).

by The Vickerage

Did you see any of the beautiful red berries of the wax palm? What a determined and fascinating tree. Lovely images.
You would have had to had powerful binoculars in order to see the berries.

by Sue Fitzwilson

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