From Latacunga we went straight to the Ecuador-Colombian border, bypassing places already visited along the way. Staying the night in funky Tulcán, we crossed into Colombia the following morning and caught a bus to Popayán. Two long and exhausting days and we needed to recharge.
Even though Popayán was essentially as described, a nicely preserved colonial city, we didn’t much care for it. Maybe the first stop in a new country is always a little awkward… you have to get used to new currency, new food, different ways of speaking the Spanish language, etc. Either way, it was without hard feelings that we left for Santiago de Cali.
We debated about whether we should even stop in Cali. It’s just another big city, right? But we had no desire to see more ruins in San Agustín, and another 6-7 hour bus ride straight to the coffee region didn’t sound appealing either. So, Cali was the next stop, and it’s been a pleasant surprise. Sometimes Sheena and I forget that we really like big cities.
Cali is known to me as the home of Deportivo de Cali soccer club, the original club of Fredy Montero (former Seattle Sounders FC player), but to many others, it’s known as the salsa capital of the world. At lunch, one of the restaurant workers described caleña salsa as being much faster than most places, likely making it many times more intimidating to learn.
The city itself has a great vibe. The buildings aren’t particularly beautiful, but their combined urban feel gives it a certain charm. It has similarities to parts of Santiago and Buenos Aires – towering highrises yielding to riverfront greenbelts and large plazas, streets that are packed and alive with commercial activity. Our hostel is located in the bohemian neighborhood of San Antonio, which could be compared to Bellavista in Santiago. The people of Cali have been extremely friendly, which lives up to their reputation.