Heading South

I pulled the brown curtain shut on my overnight bus from Bogota to Cali.

The AC had created a nice frost built up inside of the window and as we put distance between ourselves and the city lights, winding into the mountains, I couldn’t help but think that I was probably missing some incredible scenery out in that blackness.

I also couldn’t help but wonder if the FARC or other guys with AKs and a few kilos were out there somewhere.  They have been reported to stop night buses, but hopefully tonight would be a night off and I could get some sleep….or the closest thing  offered by a rattling bus anyway.

We rolled into the city of Cali in the early hours.  Cali is the second largest city in Colombia and is famed as the Salsa dancing vortex of the world. I couldn’t wait to see locals dressed in their sexiest moving to Cumbia, the Colombia version of salsa.

Instead I found a busy street lined on each side with huge nightclubs, neon and smoke machines working overtime to high-energy Latin music vibrating my eardrums, and loads of potential, but only one thing was missing……the dancers!  There wasn’t an ass being shaken within miles.  Hecklers stood in front of each club, doing their best to get people inside, but there were no takers.

Disappointing to say the least. Perhaps it only kicks off on weekends, and unfortunately I don’t care for Cali enough to stay here and wait for the party to start.

Cali seems to be no safer than Bogota, despite having a nice French owned hostel in the colonial San Antonio area of the city.  Things shut down around 22:00 and his Colombian wife even came out to warn us that it wasn’t safe to sit on the front porch of the hostel, just meters from the door.  Just like Bogota, I am too damn nocturnal to turn in that early and I found myself walking all over the dark and dirty streets without incident just about every night.

Cali is also full of fried foods, cake and ice cream shops, and loads of sweet, intoxicating smells that are hard to walk past.  No wonder I haven’t spotted many of the beautiful women that are reported to call this city home, they are probably afraid to gain weight just by leaving the house!  My salvation from the junk food was an incredible vegetarian restaurant offering a delicious buffet for about US $3.50.

The weather here is pleasantly the complete opposite of Bogota.  I have even managed to get my first sunburn of the trip, but I’ll take it over cold and wet any day.

My Spanish is slowly improving.  At least I can order food now without accidentally insulting the guys mother.  Unfortunately the food has given me the worst case of TD I’ve experienced since Beijing.  Despite being careful about what I eat, coming to a new continent with new, unabsorbed bacterias is a challenge for any stomach.

This has been an interesting city to blunder around for a couple of days, but honestly I am already tired of concrete, homeless people, and dodgey alleyways.  I’m ready to get into the wild and see something green, maybe get my photo taken with those guerrillas.  Tomorrow we are taking a day bus (word has it its best not to travel through this region by night) to Popayan, a beautiful and much smaller colonial city.

I hate to keep blowing through cities so quickly, but with only 7 weeks here and so much to see, I feel the need to keep moving until something happens…..and it usually does.  I have the coast of Ecuador to look forward to, then the plan is to do the jungle trek up to Machu Picchu in Peru, then return to the Caribbean coast of Colombia for some diving – hopefully with some of the hammerhead sharks that hang around there this time of year!

In a pure moment of genius, I realized that I have left my SD card reader at home…making it impossible to deliver those student protest pictures that I promised.  I hope to buy one at the next opportunity, but as I go to smaller and smaller towns, it may prove difficult. Oops!

Too bad about the Salsa dancing here, but I will be in Popayan for the weekend and who knows…..maybe its time to rumba! (party)

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6 Responses to “Heading South”



  1. Wow, no salsa action, or mention of the surgically-enhanced ladies. Cali is the plastic surgery capital of Colombia.

    Unless it was a Sunday or Monday, I bet there were places open for dancing since even Medellin has good salsa action available Tuesday-Saturday nights if you know where to go. But you’d have to ask around with the locals.

    Be careful in Popayan – don’t equate small with safe. I met a traveler in Bogota who had been robbed at knifepoint there. 🙂

    And lastly, please consider a stop in Medellin. It is a beautiful city – surrounded by green mountains (and much nicer than Cali!). If you go, let me know and I can share some recommendations.

  2. have fun mi amigo, BUT NEVER EVER mistake Cumbia for Salsa! Cumbia is a traditional dance of Colombia and also a different genre in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina! Some musical enlightenment can be found here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbia

    I, on the other hand was dancing Salsa last night in a Latin Party here in Idaho! Ironic isn’t it?

  3. Do hostels organize any sort of dance classes? We took 1 salsa class that was given FOC with our Spanish classes. Sadly, between Rob and I, we have 4 left feet. eeeek. Izquierda, derecha, izquierda, derecha…

    Buena suerta, with finding a salsa place 🙂

  4. Hmmm… i’ve heard from more than one person that Colombia is the jewel of S. America so I’m sure there are countless treasures out there for you to explore… and be careful out there at night by yourself, dear greg. The locals usually know what’s up.

  5. Just the thought that someone could be waitin somewhere for me with an AK47 would have put me off that journey 🙂

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