Santiago de Cali or simply Cali is the capital of Valle de Cauca department which is located south of Armenia. It’s considered the capital of dancing salsa as its people love to dance and so there are a dozen of Salsa clubs.
So three Spartans, Tilemachos, Spyros and myself accompanied by our beloved “gringo-Mona” girl from the States Chloe, decided to visit Cali for the weekend and show off our amazing Salsa skills! Spyros was coming by bus all the way from Medellin, where he owns an excellent Greek themed hostel. A nine hour bus ride for him, this usually means 12-13 hours in Colombia! Friendly advise: Never ever get a five plus hour bus ride in Colombia! Especially if you have the opportunity to get a reasonably priced flight. There’s always construction sites on the road and lots, I mean lots of traffic.
It’s funny how some people here are calling me “Espartan”! In their minds Greece is a magic place where people work out in an ancient Sparta way. They are really disappointed when they realize that I don’t have a six-pack :P. And they are even more disappointed when I tell them that the city of Sparti or Sparta if you prefer is nothing special these days.
So Tile and our lovely Mona Chloe joined me in Armenia and from there we took the bus to Cali.
“Mona” means monkey in Spanish! But they also use it metaphorically for blond people. Chloe gets a lot of “Hey Mona” in Pereira where she works.
So Colombians are calling blond people monkeys! I’m sorry but that’s… racist!! Of course they mean no bad when they call you that. It’s just the way their culture works. But it’s still racist 😀
The initial plan was to get on a Chiva party bus, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Chiva bus is a bus painted in vivid colors, often topless, with loud music and a lot of space in the middle to dance. So people get on those buses to party, to drink beer and dance their asses off.. while the bus goes around the city. To be honest drinking on a moving bus sounds like a terrible idea, probably because I can’t stop thinking about drunk people throwing up as the bus moves around. Tilemachos says Colombians absolutely love it and are some really crazy parties take place on those buses. Unfortunately it didn’t work out because my Colombian friend who had invited us in the first place said it wasn’t possible to get it. We may try it sometime in the near future– still sounds like a stupid idea. 🙂
We had an Airbnb apartment with an amazing terrace, in the “barrio” of San Antonio! San Antonio is the touristic part of the city, with many parks, picturesque churches and a lot of Salsa clubs. Places like San Cayetano or San Juan Bosco are worth a visit.
That night we met Yaroslav. A Russian “rosobliach” orthodox brother who lives in Cali and works for the same organization as we do. It’s interesting how many people from all over the world are attracted to Colombia and actually live here for a couple of years.
Nightlife in Cali has been great. I didn’t joined the rest of the guys as I went out with some Colombian friends. It was so funny I randomly stumbled upon a French guy I had met in Medellin a couple of weeks ago. It seems like every single tourist go to the same places! But are we tourists here?
It’s incredible how passionate are the Colombians about dancing salsa. Latin is not my favorite type of music, but I have a huge respect for this dancing culture. If I was to compare Greek music to Colombian music I would say that Colombian music is made to dance as Greek music is basically made to sit down and drink! I still prefer Vasilakis Karras over this Latin Salsa though.. hmm wait this place is full of gorgeous girls, hey they are waving to us, I think they want to dance! Ufff Sorry Vasilis I think I’m sold on that !!
The truth is I’m completely useless when it comes to dancing Latin. I tried dancing a bit, tried to follow the steps of my partner but couldn’t get into the rhythm. Furthermore, she kept saying that I wasn’t moving my hips enough! Well mi amiga, I’m not used to moving my hips and it seems you are moving yours for both of us :D!! Maybe I should get some dancing classes soon..
Everything was great that night and I was ready to say that Cali is probably my favorite city so far. Then the rest of the Spartan group returned home around 5-6 a.m. Tilemachos said “I’m going to the bakery just down the street to get some beers”. So one thing Cali is famous for, except Salsa, is the Cartel of Cali. Actually some Colombians had told me that Cali is probably one of the most dangerous cities in Colombia just after Bogota’s center.
Tile came back after a few minutes looking pale as fuck! When we asked him what had happened he responded that he got robbed by a man on a motorbike. The man stopped his moto right in front of him and pointed a gun at him! A fucking gun!! So our friend lost his, not so expensive smartphone, and about 100.000 pesos which is about 30 euro! This is so fucked up, I mean people rob a bank by pointing a gun to the cashier to get millions, to get a fortune, not for 30 euro! I still can’t believe it!
The very next day we searched the area for security cameras and thought about reporting the incident to the police. However after talking to some policemen that we found on the street we realized it wasn’t worth it. That day we had coffee with some Turkish friends who live in Cali. They told us a story about a German guy who 2 weeks ago didn’t want to give away his phone and tried to resist.. he was shot 3 times and now he is fighting for his life in an emergency room. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to verify that story.. but if it is true.. getting shot over a mobile phone?? Just give it away man!!
So the “No dar papaya” phrase comes on the surface again. Did Tile give papaya there? Going alone to buy beer at 6 am? Probably he did! On the other hand he didn’t go that far, it was only 3-5 blocks away from our apartment. Back in Europe, in Greece are we afraid to walk a couple of blocks to get a beer? Even in Athens, even in the middle of the night. Well to be fair some places in Athens could be dangerous too.
So my question is how can you live your life in a place where you are imprisoned in your fucking home during the night?? That’s a reason why some Colombians move to the USA or Spain. To be fair that’s not the case everywhere as in Armenia, the city where I live, things have been pretty quiet and I’ve never felt any danger. But someone could say I’ve just been lucky so far. In addition, I hardly ever walk alone at night –lack of freedom.
Fortunately Spartans don’t get discouraged so easily. That incident didn’t stop us from enjoying the city, going out again at night (by taking a taxi this time). I must admit though that every time a motorbike was coming close, we felt a bit nervous.
We had an amazing day at “Los Arrayanes”. A really nice recreation center with swimming pools and water slides. And all that by a river and a lot of jungle type vegetation. We had the opportunity to walk by the river and explore some of the surroundings. There we saw a huge red parrot hanging from a branch upside down. I don’t know maybe he was pretending to be Batman or something!
I had some Arroz con leche, which translates as rice and milk and is basically what Greeks call “Rizogalo” and Chloe had a very rich Cholado. So Cholado or Raspao is an icy beverage with fresh fruit and sweetened condensed milk traditional from Jamundí, in the region of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. I think Cholado is one of my favorite deserts so far in Colombia!
That’s all folks!
P.S. As a bonus take these photos from the hotsprings of Santa Rosa, one of the most beautiful places so far!! And..pssst you, yes you .. Pozar is not better than this 😀