Published: March 8th 2010January 15th 2010
So after an extremely long day of planes, trains, and automobiles, -ok maybe no trains- I got to Cali, the city of salsa!! Cali was not what I expected, although maybe it was not outright beautiful, it was far more beautiful than I expected, with a hot and almost tolerable climate. Cali really was a relatively well organized, good looking city, with many conveniences, great restaurants, awesome coffee bars, and a ton of hot, spicy, and lively salsa clubs. Everything from roots, to high end, Caleneans really lived and breathed salsa, its passionate rhythm. In fact, I thought I knew how to dance salsa before, but really this would be the place where my heart would truly connect with its beat, something you can never forget or lose once you’ve found it. What an amazing place- really, really unique!
Anyways, I arrived to the airport and called my couch host Tuche. Where are you? How can I get to your place? -Take a bus to the terminal and my friend Leo will pick you up.
Well actually, it went more like, I will pick you up and when I got the terminal I got a mysterious call on my
cell, -hello, Vivian, my name is Leo, a friend of Tuche (who’s real name is also Leo, but ill use Tuche to avoid confusion). Tuche is far away and so I will pick you up. Ok fine. I wasn’t really nervous, as Tuche was a personal friend of my good buddy Julian (who had hosted me in Bogota, and was the reason I was in Cali, as him and his wife who were originally from Cali were having a goodbye party as they were moving to Australia) - anyways, Julian had vouched for Tuche, and Tuche for Leo, so there goes the chain of trust...
Leo, who I now refer to as crazy leo picked me up, and after a lot of confusion, and a little protest, he took me home. This was because we were apparently going to go out clubbing and it was closer and easier for all of us to crash at his place. At first it made me uneasy, but when I arrived at his really nice apartment, where his 2 kids live (being a single father), I felt better. I had a shower while he made me dinner. Wow, what service! I would find out
later that although Leo was a little crazy and irresponsible, he was also a really nice guy, who just liked to have a lot of fun.
After getting ready we plopped back in the car and went to meet Tuche and Julian in the bar. We first visited a pub with an American cover band, that was cool but nothing to write home about, and then we went to my first Caleanian salsa club, zapoteca!
Wow, within seconds, I could feel the vibrance of the atmosphere. -and when I started to dance... wow, this is what salsa is really about. It was like stepping into the dance club in the dirty dancing movie with Patrick Swayze, minus the dirty dancing, because it wasn’t tawdry, it was like a secret passion that was floating in the room and that everyone was sharing. We danced the night away only to find Leo missing. Finaly, I was relived to find him sleeping in his car. He woke up and we went home.
The next day was great! Tuche and I walked ALL of Cali! We literally spent about... 8 hours or more walking the surprisingly small city, and visiting all
the major historic sites. Great tour! Afterwards we headed back to Leo’s to get ready to go out to Julian’s going away party. We stepped out of the party to dance at la bodega Cubana (great Cuban music, wow), came back and eventually got home around 5 am.
I grateful hit the sack, and woke early the next day- after all we were planning a day trip to visit the river Pance, and national park, Topacio. After a brief stop at a friend’s country house, we got to Topacio where Julian was already partying with his friends in the river.
I changed into my bikini and started the stiff hike up the river, jumping from rock to rock, along with a few of the boys, until finally we hit freezing waterfalls. The water was ice cold, and although the place somewhat beautiful, I can’t say I enjoyed the freezing place all that much. I had been spoiled by warm rewarding waters of Brazil...
After an afternoon of splashing around we visited another nature reserve, had dinner, and went back to Tuche’s where I turned in.
The next couple of days Tuche would have to work, but
we would have the most exquisite 3 dollar lunches, and he would be so gracious as to help me find all the cultural, and practical points of the city. We had delicious coffees in Macondo, walked the warm, enchanting streets, of historical San Antonio, and the upper class streets of El Peñon (neighbourhoods within Cali). I visited the zoo, museums, and parks, and replaced my tattered purse and wallet with artisanal pieces from la loma. I also took advatage of trying all the city’s typical and tasty treats.
After exploring much of what the city had to offer it was time to get a little more serious about salsa. I had my very first private lesson with my Caleneo instructor! Wow, how great! After an hour and a half, finally, many the mysteries of the fast-paced steps, and quick changes were revealed!! Equally cool, the school was on the open roof of a building located next to, and overlooking, a very rough and poor part of town that spread up above along the facing mountain side. It was an awesome view, and you could feel the raw energy of life in the city, that was feeling very South American
at the moment.
The owner of the school (Jonjon) was super nice! He had picked me up from Tuche’s house, and now had a taxi waiting for me to take me home. He gave me a discount and answered all my salsa nightclubbing questions- a really great guy!
That night Tuche and I went out to see a movie, 3D Avatar! One of the best movies I had ever seen, and a SUPER, SUPER, experience in 3D. It reminded me of my fond movie days with Carlos in Manaus, and of my time with Regi and the indeginous people. -And the breath taking scenery was so beautiful one would think it pure fantasy but no... I had been there, in Roraima, in Canaima, in the Amazonia, and in so many beautiful places. The cinematography had been composed of the dreams of someone who had seen and lived the awesome sights that I had lived, and previous to my travels, I would never have thought that such places could exist or be real- but now I had the utter joy of knowing they were not only fantasy, but that they existed on earth, and that they could be visited,
and seen, and breathed in. What joy!
I went to sleep, and despite the fact that my sleeps were no longer the tranquil respites they had been since before I reached Colombia, I had the most wonderful adventuresome dream. Unfortunately, I can no longer remember what it was...
I spent the rest of the next day working, and finally in the night I got to put to practice what I had learned during my salsa class -well almost, I still need practice. Hehehe. -But it was terrific! We went to the infamous club, tintindeo, and I couldn’t stop moving. The salsa beat was all in me, and even when I wasn’t with a partner, I kept the beat on. It was so much fun, and I danced until close, which was an early 1am, being a Thursday.
That night I lay my head to rest with the realization I had just fallen in love with salsa, and I would never be the same. I would always have to return to Cali, to feel that beat again!
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