Really pumped up. That’s how we were feeling about our visit to Cali. John and John, which is not a cosmetic brand, but a couple of brothers who agreed to host us in Cali via Couchsurfing made us feel that way. One of the Johns, as they were twin brothers with the same name, yep, great idea by their parents, right? I guess then you don’t have to bother to know to which son you are talking to. Well, so one John accepted to host us and offered us an amazing plan of visiting and learning how to dance salsa that made us feel really lucky to be meeting him/them.
The day before I asked Mr. John about the time and address where to meet him. He told me he’d let me know later. That didn’t quite happen. We arrived to Cali and still no news from John. We had to wait for more than an hour to get a reply from him, where he told us to meet him basically at the other end of the city at 20:30.
So we waited in the bus station for a bit longer and then took a bus to cross the entire city to go to the meeting place. Mr. John never showed up, but Colombians wouldn’t fail us that much, these people are too good (at least most of them)! So while going on the bus, Kasia met a girl who basically wanted to take us to a party with her, but we had our bags and were pretty tired, so we decided to wait for John like we agreed. Anyway we exchanged our contacts and said to meet some other day.
John the bastard never showed up, we waited until 22:00 in that bloody bus station. Called him, sent him messages but nothing.
So as we were at the very end of the city, there was no place for us to sleep there, and locals told us we had to take the bus back for quite a while to get to the hostels area. And so we did. We had read about a cheap hostel, called Casa Amarilla, so we headed there. The place ain’t bad, it’s 12k per person, with access to a kitchen, but we just had really bad luck with our roommate. The room was filthy. We ain’t no princesses. We shared our room many nights with our fellow roommates the crouches many nights in Santa Marta, and have no problem with really crappy places. But crappy is not the same as filthy. The guy from the hostel told me the bed linen were clean, even if they were totally moved and just wrapped in the middle of the bed. When I grabbed mine, a used toothbrush came out of it. I guess they cleaned the sheets with it then. The floor was covered in some sticky liquid, the toilet had shit inside, on top and around it. It was a lovely room. The jewel of a human being our roommate was made his appearance in the middle of the night, drunk as fuck and burping every 30 seconds, it seemed to be his drunken hobby. Kasia wanted to murder him on his sleep.
Anyway, the next day we changed the place and found a really nice hostel where to forget a bit about our initial bad luck with the city.
So once we settled in in our new place we went for a walk to get to know the place. Cali it’s not really a city with plenty of stuff to visit, it doesn’t have an old town, and the center is just a bunch of tall business buildings with nothing in particular. Basically we have 2 pictures of Cali, here they are:
During the evening we wrote to Milu, the girl Kasia met on the bus, asking if she wanted to hang out with us that night. She invited us to go dance salsa. She kind of saved our stay in Cali, as things started pretty damn bad for us, so we really could use a night out to shake it all out. The place was packed, so many people, and they all dance so damn good!! I got lost just staring at peoples feet and seeing how fast they are able to move them, it was amazing. I asked if everyone there took dancing lessons or what the heck was their secret, but Milu told me that it’s inside them, they just dance since they are kids.
Milu’s boyfriend gave Kasia some lessons and Milu did the same with me, but Kasia did learn way better and faster how salsa works. I was a bit slow, having some issues getting my feet to move as they should, but still, we had a great time that night. One curious thing is that people in there bring their own instruments, to “heat up” the party, and they play to the music. It gives a really nice touch and sounds amazing.
As our visit to Cali didn’t go as expected, we decided to shorten the days we would spend here and get moving to Popayan.
The pearl of the south. That’s how Popayan is known by, and it definitely deserves the nickname. The old town it’s incredibly clean, with beautiful colonial buildings, all of them looking as if they had just been painted.
We found a hostel called Balcony, where for 30k a night for both of us we got a private room, with clean towels and soap! Pure luxury!
We stayed here 3 nights, getting a 5k discount on the third one.
3 days are probably too many to just visit the small Popayan, but we stayed a bit longer to rest a bit. Walking during daytime and at night around this city was a great pleasure, really really recommended.
At the market, which is 20 minutes away from the center, you can eat a huge amazing lunch for 4k, and there’s a place where they sell juices that will blow your mind. We went there 2 days in a row, trying different juices and enjoying every single drop of them, so tasty! Guanabana juice is definitely my favorite, it’s just too good.
After resting and enjoying Popayan to its fullest it was time for us to keep going south, the Ecuadorian border was getting closer and closer.
Our next stop: Pasto. Part of the way we hitchhiked and one of the cars that gave us a ride was a pick-up, where the guy told us that if we wanted to go we’d go on the back, and when getting in he gave us an ice-cream for the way. The guy drove like crazy, as it couldn’t be any other way, and once i believe we were 1mm away from crashing while over taking a car, obviously in a closed turn, Colombian style!
There are a couple of lagoons really worth visiting that are fairly close from Pasto. One is the Green Lagoon and the other one is called “Laguna de la Cocha”. We decided to go visit this last one. Big mistake. Not because the place is not amazing, but because of the timing. During July, and actually until September, it rains basically every other day, and it’s not a little rain. The streets become rivers, literally. The only way to see the lagoon is to hire a boat trip, but here was the catch. The fog was so intense you couldn’t see crap, so hiring a boat to go and see a big curtain of white fog all around us didn’t sound like a hell of a plan. So basically we went there to come back after having spent less than an hour. On the “colectivo” we took to go back we shared the ride with a French couple who had done the boat trip. When I asked them if they had seen anything, they said that “yes, kind of”. Meaning no, we didn’t see shit.
As it happened around Lake Tota, around this lagoon it was also full of fields with just onions. The driver told me that the onion producers are known as “narcocebolleros”, meaning the onion narcos, due to the amount of money the onions give. Who would have though so? Drug cartels got it all wrong, screw cocaine, what you want to be selling are onions!
After our speed visit to the lagoon, and having walked a bit through the center of Pasto, which is all right but nothing you would regret skipping, we kept moving south to what would be the last Colombian city we would see, Ipiales.
As we Catalans like to say, Ipiales is fart. No, it has nothing to do with how it smells, it jus means that it’s a really small place. I know, it’s a weird thing to say, and I can’t really find the origin of its meaning either. There’s basically nothing to see in Ipiales besides the main square. Here, this is basically Ipiales:
So we were really surprised to find out that most of the hotels and hostels were fully booked. We were really lucky to catch a room in one for 25k for both of us. We then met people looking for rooms saying that everywhere it was fully book.
The reason for this is the proximity of the city to the sanctuary of Las Lajas, one of the 7 wonders of Colombia.
To get there you could actually walk, it might be an hour or a bit more, but the road goes down so it shouldn’t hurt that much. We didn’t know that so we took a “colectivo” that for 1.7k if I remember right takes you there. The place is incredible, it looks as if it was taken out of Tolkien’s mind, a really really beautiful sanctuary.
Our mistake was to go on Sunday. That was why all damn hotels were fully booked. There were so many people visiting the place over the weekend, mostly from Ecuador but also from all parts of Colombia. The driver to took us to the lagoon told me he used to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary. 97 km in one day, crazy. He said they started before the sun was up and finished around mid night, and that when they would be getting closer, when they stop to eat something they couldn’t sit cause otherwise they wouldn’t be able to stand up. He said one has to do the pilgrimage three times in a row to clear the contract with the big fella up there. And apparently there are people doing this from all parts of the country, even from the north! But yes, the place well deserves it.
After visiting Las Lajas we were ready to move on to the second country of our trip. Ecuador was waiting!
We are in love with Colombia. The places are so amazing, the food and the people, these incredible human beings, kind, helpful, friendly as one can be, smiley, with this easy going way of seeing things, we will definitely come back, this country and its people are just too unbelievable to go there just once, even if this one time lasted 87 days.
See you soon Colombia!!