THE UNITED STATES, COLOMBIA AND A FAMOUS VEHICLE
In the Second World War the United States developed many technologies to help win the war, among them the atomic bomb, RADAR, and the jeep - a rugged vehicle which could resist extremely difficult weather conditions and topography. That type of 4x4 vehicle was named Willys, after it’s US manufacturer Willys-Overland.
In 1946 after the end of the war, the Colombian government and the Coffee Growers Federation of Colombia were looking for strategies to make coffee production more efficient and also to revitalize and diversify the Colombian economy. As a result, the Federation decided to acquire the post-war Willys and distribute them mainly in the coffee region, thus replacing the mule as a primary transport method and very appropriate for rough country roads.
Due to its power and endurance, Willys transported coffee and other agricultural products (often with 20+ people hanging on) but also it was considered a luxury vehicle for transport of the family owners on weekends. The central square (parque principal) of every town became a bona fide Willys´ car port. Willys soon became a considerable status symbol. In 1989 however, coffee prices plummeted due to a breakdown of the Federation’s International coffee agreement, a devastating blow for Colombian coffee economy. This soon lead to new and creative uses for the Willys.
While the legacy and culture of the Willys remained strong, many of them are nowadays working to transport tourists and local inhabitants from town to town, others have become collectible antiques, still others were adapted to sell “tinto” (brewed coffee) or agricultural products to village pedestrians, some simply provide high end ‘decoration” at town squares, roundabouts or other public places. In fact there is a group of Willys waiting with Travelongo Colombia for tourists like you to enjoy our World Heritage sites and splendid coffee cultural landscape.
Willys are a huge part of a festival every October during which Armenia celebrates its birthday (1889). The famous Willys parade, “Desfile del Yipao”, allows the many hard-working families, tradesmen and farmers to decorate their Jeeps and proudly demonstrate their culture and history. There are traditional dance performances and also dance-like maneuvers with the Willys that make for most interesting viewing.
WHERE ARE THE WORLD'S TALLEST PALM TREES?
High in the Colombian Andes of Salento, Quindío you will encounter the Valle del Cocora, a lush mountain valley that hosts the world's tallest palm trees. The famous “Wax Palms” can grow as tall as 200 feet and over 220 years old.
The naturalist explorer Alexander Von Humboldt first walked these territories and discovered the Wax Palm in 1805. He recorded his scientific findings as the “tallest plant in the world.” At that time the somewhat taller eucalyptus of Australia and Giant Sequoia of California had yet to be chronicled, so for many years the Wax Palm was considered the tallest tree in the world.
This palm is so named because the trunk is covered with a thick greyish white layer of wax, which when removed exposes a more typical green grey color. The wax was actually harvested to manufacture candles during the nineteenth century and was treasured for its white luminescence.
Wax Palms require about 50 years to produce a trunk. The trees age can be estimated by counting rings on cross-section, every six (6) rings equivalent to about a year of age. The rings are substantially narrower at the uppermost portions of the trunk.
Wax Palms are not just the tallest palm trees in the world, they are also the Colombian national tree, noted for its serene beauty. Colombia accounts for 80% of the world’s Wax Palms. This majestic tree provides ample fruit and habitat for many animal species. With its gorgeous white trunks, the marvelous palm grove has became the icon of Salento Quindío.
Sadly, the palms of Cocora Valley are an endangered species. Due to heavy livestock grazing in the area, there is little regrowth of the palms; without shade, new palms are hindered by exposure to hot sun. Every mature palm which dies is one less in the inventory because there is not another one which can readily replace it. An average of ten palms die each year.
By visiting this naturally gorgeous and unique valley, you are supporting the work that people and foundations are doing in order to protect and sustain the Wax Palm for the future generations. Travelongo Colombia will be happy to guide you on this ecological adventure.