So, we’ve made it back to Colombia – in fact we’ve been back here for over a fortnight. It all started with a mammoth bus day from Otavalo in Ecuador, up to Ipiales where we crossed the border, followed by the worst bus journey so far, up to Popayan. It’s hard to concentrate on the beautiful scenery when the bus is haring down the bendy road, just inches from the edge of the road and the 400m precipice to the river below. We didn’t get to Popayan until 11 at night, went straight to a hostel, and in the morning jumped on a bus to Cali.
Laura is from Cali, and as we’ve been together over a year now, I’d heard a lot about the place, not all of it positive. Along with Medellin, Cali is infamous as being home to a very powerful and violent drug cartel. As the power of Medellin and Pablo waned, Cali and the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers took up the slack. While generally keeping a lower profile than their adversaries in Medellin (no front pages of Time or Newsweek for these boys) they did a pretty comprehensive job of making Cali an unpleasant and dangerous place to live for many years.
But, like Medellin, Cali has shown itself to be very resilient and again, I was pleasantly surprised. The centre is not unattractive (it’s not beautiful, but hey!), the rio Cali runs through the middle of town, surrounded all the way by trees and bushes (which make it harder to see the people washing themselves and clothes in it) and the San Antonio old town certainly gives La Candelaria in Bogota a run for its money. It has one of the best zoos in South America, concentrating mainly on wildlife native to the continent, and run very much along more Western lines than most South American zoos, the animals look well looked after and well housed. I do of course have photos of all this, but am yet to get to a computer, so you’ll just have to wait.
We spent a nice 10 days in Cali (I even risked public ridicule and did my Salsa thing – nobody laughed too loudly and I escaped with my drunken pride virtually intact) and nearly considered staying there for a few months, but came to our senses and headed off again. We’re currently in Bucaramanga, which apart from being the only town I can think of to sound like a Bond villain is famous for its unique and unusual snack, la hormiga culona, which roughly translated means Big-Ass Ant. I’ve bought a packet which I’m working my way through, they’re actually pretty tasty.
We’ll wait until Monday when bus prices halve, due to the end of Semana Santa (Holy Week, nothing to do with Mr Claus), and then we’re off to the beach. The Caribbean to be more precise, which I am looking forward to enormously.