My next hostel was this luxurious place thirty minutes from the colourful town of Filandia by rumbly tumbly jeep. It was owned by three French guys and opened a couple of years ago, situated in the middle of a rolling-hill banana farm. It had one of those infinity pool things that are good for making people at home jealous, a lot of hammocks and tasteful chillout area, table tennis, petanque, and a very beautiful position on a hill that turned gold every evening with sunset.
I spent three nights there, enjoying the tranquillity after a decent run of bustle. I made a good bunch of friends – a Dutch girl called Elisia, an Israeli girl called Tom, a German named Fritzy (I am not making these up), and a very lovely couple from Paris who looked after me when the buffet gave me food poisoning for my last day and I had the runs and spent 8 hours lying on the hostel sofa groaning like a pregnant cow.
One day (the day before I shat myself half to death) we went to Valle de Cocora, a pretty valley beyond Salento in which you can hike to see the worlds tallest palm trees swaying in the mist on the hillside. I liked the palms very much and took somewhere in the realm of fourteen thousand photographs, about five of which were good. The male half of the couple from Paris – I think his name was Allessio, or Alicio, or Elisse, I don’t know, both he and his girlfriend had very flowery unfamiliar names and they both sounded like a lot of Elvish syllables to me, I tried to learn them, I really did, but you have to learn a hundred names a day when travelling and sometimes your brain just never quite clicks and says ‘yes, got it’, even after asking three times, which of course is the upper limit of times you can ask somebody their name without appearing not simply forgetful but also quite heartless – whatever – the Parisienne guy told us that palm trees aren’t technically trees.
“They are grass,” he said, smiling sagely.
“No they aren’t,” I replied.
He told us as we hiked around the valley that palms aren’t solid wood all the way through, like normal trees, but are instead made up of thousand of fibre-like things, just like grass. Then Fritzy told us that strawberries are technically a nut, and I told everybody that according to one oceanologist who spent his lifetime attempting to classify marine life, there is no such thing as a fish. This wasn’t relevant, of course, but I wanted to look clever and interesting too.
The valley was cool but also very touristic; it’s not a natural wonder, it’s deliberately made that way. The tall palms that grow seemingly at random in the middle of grassy fields are only there because the surrounding trees have all been cut down. But either way, it made for some nice photos and a good bonding hike.
The rest of my time at Tukawa hostel was spent on long walks alone in the forest and down country roads, playing guitar, reading, eating, sleeping, chatting. It was a pleasant place to rest and recharge – and yet I wasn’t entirely satisfied. It was lovely, sure – but not yet the Colombia I was seeking, the magical one from the books. It was out there – I was sure of it. I just didn’t know where to look to find it.