30.09.2009 - 06.10.2009
Cali es Cali
The Lonely Planet (LP) on a shoestring gives Cali a bad rap. Sure it doesn´t have the “typical” tourist attrations to lure hoards of tourists in and when they do come they tend to stay in the tacky TJ meets Las Vegas space of the new town. What a shame for travelers often come out of Cali with a sour taste in their mouths. We found Cali to be a beautiful, warm, and welcoming city in the midst of old town revitalization. If anyone is on their way or thinking of heading to Cali be sure to stay in the old town, San Antonio barrio for a more authentic and peaceful taste of Cali. It is within easy daytime walking distance to gringoland and a short taxi ride away.
Our introduction to Cali however was not so rosy as we experienced our first bus fiasco. We knew it would happen sooner or later and were starting to get that spooky feeling like it would be a big one if it didn´t happen relatively soon. To our relief, our bus to Cali got a flat tire. It all started slowly. First it was about twenty minutes into the bus ride that we noticed the bus didn´t have AC nor did the windows open and in the noon sun driving to hot and humid Cali, our ¨luxurious¨ bus was converted into a sweaty stinky sauna. Luckily after spending 10 summers in Syria I have learned never to travel without a paper fan, we were armed for our 3 hour ride. About 20 minutes out of Manizales, the bus going 60 hits a cement railing next to the cliff (we were rediculously close to the cliff´s edge), popping the back right tire. The bus slowly made it´s way to a gas station and in an hour, we were patched up and ready to go to Cali....or so we thought. The tire was bald and we experience something that is rarely experienced on a bus in Colombia-our driver had to drive extra slow, about 20 kilometers and hour! Our 3 hour trip slowly turned into a 9 hour sweaty bus ride. We began rationing our water from our water bottles and licking the crumbs from the one packet of crisps that i surely thought would suffice for our bus ride- luckily the bus had a toilet which makes times like these a little more comfortable.
We finally arrived in the late evening into Cali, tired and hungry. Adam gave me that look, the look of lets just get a taxi to our hostel forgoing trying to navigate the bus system at 10pm. We picked a hostel from the guide book and prayed they had a room.Our hostel was perfect. A small place set over a cultural café, very chic with a large French window overlooking a small enclosed balcony for 15 dollars a night in the historic old barrio of San Antonio. We simply wanted to crawl in bed but our stomachs had little more than a simple breakfast all day (and a packet of crisps), which we probably sweated out in the bus. We had to leave and find food. Adam pointed in one direction and so we went, in search of a meal, leading us to a fantastic little bar/pizza joint. We were greeted by a couple dancing salsa in the bar and a slightly drunk man who looked at me, smiled, then clapped his hands and said ¨welcome to Cali¨. Fabulous- what a welcome! The Caleños just have this rythmn to them, a swing to their steps, and a natural beat in their limbs (obvious from the constant clapping and pounding on tables). Needless to say we fell in love with the city within our first hour. The next few days were spent lounging around the park, reading in cafes, and wondering the city.
We eventually ended up meeting with my (Laurita´s) old friend from Oxy who finished her master´s degree in Quito, met a beautiful and sweet Caleño (she is getting married in December!), and is now living in Cali teaching highschool. I love it! Jessica has always been someone i knew would never settle down and live in the States, she just has too much of that travel bug and love for Latin America in her. It was wonderful to see her and spend a couple of days with her in Cali.
Since we had spent almost a week in Cali we decided that we should cover some ground in the direction of Ecuador. Instead of heading to the next Lonely Planet guided stop, Popayan, we decided to bypass and head to the city of Pasto, an estimated 9 hour bus ride. After our flat tire incident on our way to Cali, we felt that although it was fun to have one incident, one was enough. Well it turns out the first was just our training exercise for South American bus rides. This time it wasn´t a flat, but a much stranger incident. To be specific, as we were peacefully cruising through the Colombian Andes, we heard from a couple seats behind us, a thundering crash! There was little commotion from the other passengers so we thought someone just dropped a coke bottle on the floor.
The bus pulled to a halt and the driver began to move toward the back of the bus and inspect the incident. The driver quickly ran back to his seat and began driving on. I looked at my feet to find shards of glass sparkling from the floor, finding them more and more condensed as my eyes followed the center walkway toward the back of the bus. After a few minutes Laura decifered the commotion from the other passengers to find out that either a rock had been thrown at the bus or quite possibly a passing car kicked up a rock in travel, shattering the window, and sending shards of glass about the entire cabin! In a few minutes the bus came upon a bus stop in which we all departed and ate dinner while the crew cleaned the bus of broken glass and taped the window shut with cardboard. The most remarkable thing about the incident was the tranquility of the people who were the most affected. The two women sitting next to the shattered window simply picked out of the broken glass from their cheeks, washed their faces, and shook out their clothes like it was nothing at all.Well, so much for a flat tire. Nonetheless, the bus continued on, one window short, on our moonlit mountain climb to the city of Pasto.