Wednesday 24th October. Cali
Arrived this afternoon in Cali – world capital of salsa! It´s a much bigger town than Popayan and not as many old and beautiful buildings, but I managed to find my way without my phone to the hostel which was set in a lovely quiet neighbourhood about 20kms walk away from the town centre. I headed into town by taxi and my driver was super friendly, he pointed out the safe areas for walking and the dodgy ones and gave me some advice about touristy things to do while I was in town. I ended up walking back to the hostel after my errands – safe and sound!
Thursday 25th October. Cali
This morning I headed into the hospital to organise my second rabies shot. The hospital was huge – and there were random heath units everywhere. I felt as though I was walking through areas that I shouldn´t be but I eventually made it to the vaccination unit – no nurses were there and I was told to come back at 1pm. At 1pm everything went very smoothly and after this I walked back into town to join a free walking tour of the city. Another guy from the hostel, Ankit turned up and eventually the rest of the tour arrived and we set off. Our guide, Carlos had some great stories about the town and the history of the drug trade in the town. He showed us the architectural sites – which were pretty few and far between, and some of the street art and then gave us some tips about places to eat and drink and salsa- the number one thing to do in Cali! Also, by chance there was an event on every Thursday night in a nearby park where the local people dance to indigenous music. Ankit and I decided to go along to have a look and it was awesome! There were literally hundreds of people squeezed into a tiny circular area and we were able to sit on the sides looking down on the event. As time went on, more and more people arrived and squished themselves into the circle until it was absolutely heaving. People also jumped up on the sides and started doing a different spin on the dance. It was so cool to see how the local people mingled and celebrated their local traditions.
Friday 26th October. Cali.
Up very early this morning as I had organised with one of the guys at the hostel, Adrian to go on a hike to a nearby national park which had a peak at 2800m called Pico del Loro. It didn´t look as though we were going to be very lucky with the weather as the rain and clouds set in on the drive out to the national park. Our driver dropped us off at the pick up point where our guide was to pick us up and take us out to the park on a motorbike. While we were waiting, we grabbed some breakfast – these balls that taste like doughnuts but not as sweet – delicious! Our motorbike arrived and told us both to get on – not what I was expecting! I have never been three on a motorbike before but it worked somehow! After a little while our guide turned up on his motorbike too and I jumped on that one for the rest of the rocky journey out to the park. By this time it was raining pretty heavily and lots of low lying clouds but we decided to hike anyway seeing as we had already paid for everything. The hike up to Pico del Loro was pretty steep and slippery in some places. About a third of the way up we had a great view of the rock as the clouds moved away and the rain stopped. Then it was back into the thick tropical forest again for about 3 hours until we reached the top – where there was absolutely nothing to see, just thick white clouds! It was really bad luck, but we decided to wait and see if the clouds would clear and luckily for us, right as we were about to set off down the mountain, the clouds partially cleared and we were able to see out into some of beautiful valley below. The climb was absolutely worth it for these 5 minutes of views! When the clouds came back in again it was time to head slowly back down the mountain so as not to slip. We were offered a lift back into town by a couple who had a car with them which was great, although the traffic was terrible and it took us more than two hours to make it back to the hostel, exhausted but happy with the day. At 6pm there was a Salsa class and we learned some steps which I hoped would help me when I went to a real salsa club the following night. We headed out later for dinner with Ankit to the delicious vegetarian restaurant that we had visited the night before and decided that there was no way we were hitting the salsa clubs that night after the long day we had had.
Saturday 27th October. Cali.
This morning Ankit, Adrian and I headed out to see the World Press photography exhibition at the Cali exhibition centre. The photos were amazing, with a lot of them showing the plight and stories of displaced persons throughout the world. There were some other exhibits too, one which showed the discrimination faced by the people of Colombia that live close to the Pacific Coast in Buenaventura – the largest Colombian Port town, where people live in poverty without access to basic necessities like drinking water, electricity and education.
After visiting the museum, we wandered through a local farmers market where I bought some locally grown macadamia nuts and some delicious hummus! After lunch we headed back to the rooftop balcony at the hostal and had some Saturday afternoon beers. Much later Adrian and I headed out to see what the local salsa scene was about at a famous local salsa club. It was amazing watching all the couples dancing and we had a go but it is way harder than it looks! I have to say that the steps we had learned in practice class yesterday didn´t help at all! We stayed for one drink and a bit of a dance but after awhile the music becomes a bit repetitive and it was time to head back home to the hostel.