The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

PBPL 85 Students Get to Work and See the Sights in Salento

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 students enjoying some hiking in the Valle de Cocora in Colombia.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 students working on their policy memo with a view of the valley.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 students hiking with a view of the famous tall palm trees of the Cocora Valley in the distance.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 students enjoying the Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 students spend their final weekend in Salento, a town in the mountains known for coffee estates, dramatic palm trees, and rare parrots.

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We spent our final weekend of the trip at a finca near Salento, a town in the mountains known for coffee estates, dramatic palm trees, and rare parrots. The finca is beautiful, with a dramatic infinity pool, hammocks overlooking fields of banana trees, and lots of fresh fruit. The idyllic surroundings helped us from feeling to overworked during the first half of the weekend – while we did spend all of Saturday and much of Sunday working we were able to write poolside or looking over the valley.

On Sunday afternoon, we left the finca for Salento proper, about an hour away. We started with lunch, most of us getting plantain chips the size of our heads covered in meat and cheese, or yet another meal of grilled trout. A rainstorm hit during lunch, but just as we were beginning to give up on our hopes of a hike, the storm cleared and we were able to make our way to Valle de Cocora, a famous hike nearby.

Valle de Cocora looks like something out of a Jurassic Park movie, or, more appropriately for a Dartmouth trip, a scene from the Lorax. We decided to climb up a hill to a lookout, a more dramatic hike than the road we started on that would give us a stellar view of the valley. As soon as we started up the hill though, we realized that it was more intense than we expected – the climb was nearly vertical. We did all make it to the top eventually, with varying levels of huffing and puffing, we were at high altitude after all. The view from the hill was spectacular, we could see up the valley to dramatic mountains and down through groves of palm trees. After a lengthy breather (and photoshoot) we continued onward, making our way to the top of an even more dramatic hill.

About a hundred photos later we decided to make our way back to the base, with half of us taking a sensible trail down to the bottom while the other half took a more adventurous route down the same hill we came up, miraculously arriving without any injuries. The only casualty of the whole adventure was Max’s phone, which was briefly lost on the hill. It was recovered safe and sound eventually, after 30 minutes of searching and a run back up the hill.

We returned to Salento just after sunset and were able to take in the lights decorating the town. Aluminum Christmas trees with canopies of lights were put up all around the square, and the main street was covered in bright lights and illuminated palm trees – a sharp contrast to Hanover winter decorations. As we wandered, we finally got around to buying much needed souvenirs and gifts for family and friends at home.

The night wrapped up at an open air restaurant, where a busker serenaded us with Scar Tissue by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and cars drove right in to drop off their passengers. We all gave the ribs a try – they were critically acclaimed by the Wheelans on their last trip, so none of us could pass them up.

Our two days in Salento was filled with work, adventures, and food. We were finally able to hash out the majority of our final project, putting everything down on paper and getting into the weeds on some of the more complex policies that we had heard about in our meetings. In our free time, we saw one of the most beautiful parts of the region, got a workout in, and, as always, ate well. On Monday, we return to Bogota for our last meetings, before heading home for the remainder of break. This whirlwind trip has been a great adventure, and this weekend drove home how much we have been able to do and see so far.

Written by Emily Schneider '19, 18F PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership course participant

This is part of a series where PBPL 85:Global Policy Leadership students reflect on their experiences during the two-week field research portion of course. While in country, students meet with local policy leaders: politicians, academics, civil society leaders, journalists, business leaders, diplomats, and other in-country experts who help inform their analyses.

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