Cali and the route out of Colombia

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South America » Colombia » Cali
April 18th 2012
Published: April 22nd 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

I had a nice surprise on my bus to Cali as the company I went with had wifi on the bus and also a TV at the back of each seat, there were a lot of movies to choose from as well as music....the only problem was that everything was in Spanish and with no subtitles so was a bit of a struggle to watch a film. I made it to Cali around 8am and got a taxi to my hostel. I thought this would be straight forward but it definitely wasn’t, I gave the driver a copy of the address and he seemed to know where it was. After around 20mins driving we were in a really dodgy looking area and I started wondering what type of place I would be staying in. He couldn’t find the right street so asked a local and they said it was the other side of town...apparently there were 2 areas called the same thing but you would think a taxi driver would know the most touristic area...nope. To cut this story a bit short we went to 5 different areas with no luck and after nearly 2 hours in the car I made it to the Pelican Larry Hostel where Nick and Oran were hanging outside...I waved as I pulled up in the taxi but they didn’t seemed to recognise me (maybe it’s the hair ha). I hadn’t seen Nick since just before Christmas when me and Karl flew to Mexico so it was nice to see him again as well as Oran who we met in Chile for a few days. (We did arrange to meet here so not a completely random meeting!). Nick had arrived from Quito, Ecuador but the route is known for robberies and after chatting to him the day earlier and laughing about doing our night buses on Friday 13th with Nick saying that his bag will probably get stolen...guess what? It did! Lucky for him just his small bag and he didn’t have much in it apart from his passport and sunglasses. We couldn’t believe after talking about it that it actually happened! So the 3 of us set off on a mission to report the bag as stolen to the police...we firstly went back to the bus station to check it hadn’t been handed in or if they had any more info, they didn’t so Nick just got a letter off them to show the police. There was a policeman near us so we asked where the station was but after reading the letter we went into the station there and lots of coppers gathered and had a good laugh at us for some reason ha. We then had to go to another station for Nick to get a report. After all the running around we went back to the hostel, got some food and spoke about our past few months travelling events before heading out for a Saturday night in Cali. Cali is known as the Salsa capital so we were all a bit wary of which places to go to with our non-existent Salsa skills so sat at a bar for a few hours chatting and also witnessing an old gringo guy working his magic on a young good looking Colombian, very amusing for us. It was getting late so we made a decision to try out the place recommended by the hostel instead of a Salsateca. We arrived and it definitely wasn’t as busy as we expected and but a fair few people clearly on drugs. After spending an hour or so there we went in search of a more local place... we went outside past the shouting prostitutes that were across the road and got a taxi to an extremely local place recommended by the driver.We were the only foreigners there and again pure Salsa so we got a table and just watched the various couples do their thing. The highlight was for sure the dancer they brought out for 15mins...myself, Nick and Oran couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing ha!

The Sunday was a good day first of all we watched the football in the lounge area of the hostel where Chelsea hammered Spurs then a group of us just watched films all day and night while lying on the couches....if Carlsberg made Sundays!!

On the Monday we were all going our separate ways...Cali doesn’t have much to offer in terms of sightseeing or activities so made sense for us to all move on. Nick and Oran were heading north so decided to take the night bus to Medellin. Us 3 lads got a few funny photos to mark our reunion then set off in our separate ways until we are all reunited in Guernsey (if Oran chooses to visit that is). After talking to some people in the hostel a girl called Maria from London was also heading south towards Ecuador so we decided to make the journey together as it supposed to be one of the more dangerous trips. Myself and Maria caught a bus to Popayan because a bus straight through to Quito would mean going on roads that travellers are advised not to go on in the night. Apparently it takes 2-3hrs to get there but with the bus picking up every man and his dog then breaking down along the way 5hrs later we made it after changing buses. We checked into the hostel and went out for food to a pizza place where the prices were really cheap! Maria went for a regular and I was starving so went for the grande...well...when mine came out it was ridiculously big and I felt sick just looking at it, never seen a pizza so big. Maria was laughing as her food was a good amount and cost a third of mine although mine still cost next to nothing. I finished half which I think was still good going and took the rest out so I didn’t seem too rude.

The next day we got up early and took a look around has a beautiful plaza which was also where our hostel was and every building in site is painted white and is known as ‘the white city’. We strolled around and tried to find a few museums to look at as Maria is a History teacher mening she has a big interest in these things. For some reason they are shut on Tuesday’s and it happened to be Tuesday so we decided to get the bus that afternoon to the border town of Ipiales. Popayan was a nice place but most people just use it as a place to stop off between coming from or going to Ecuador. Its highly recommended to do the route from Popayan to Ipiales in the daytime so we attempted to set off around 12 but just as the bus was about to leave Maria realised she had left all her valuables in her locker at the hostel I waited while she went and got them...lucky to realise before we set off really! We did get away around 1pm in the end, the bus wasn’t up to much and every time we hit a bump everyone got chucked around like a pinball. The diver was a bit of a head case overtaking anything in site with massive drops just meters away from us in the mountains, it was also raining which didn’t help my trust in him on the greasy roads. The journey was a good 9hrs so it did get dark while we were on the bus but we made it safely to Ipiales without any bandits coming on board. The guy in the Popayan hostel had given us the address of a hotel as there are no hostels in Ipiales and it was actually cheaper than a dorm room, you get your own double bed, tv and bathroom. It wasn’t quite the Hilton but good value for money none the less. After having some food we both enjoyed having our own rooms and watching a bit of tele to round off the day.

In Ipiales there is 1 main attraction apart from crossing the border and that is Las Lejas Cathedral. I had seen a few pictures before of the church but didn’t know much about it. We got a taxi there, via the border entrance which we didn’t ask for but the taxi driver seemed to want to rip us off, we had a bit of an argument when we eventually got to La Lejas over the price but to no avail. It was 5min or so walk down some steps into the canyon of the Guaitara River to see the church, it is a unique church due to it also being a bridge with the river flowing underneath. When we got there it was an impressive site with a waterfall just across from the church, the river flowing underneath the bridge, the tree lined sides of the canyon and the spectacular church with striking detail. We wondered around and also went inside the church for a bit as well as taking in the scenery then walked back up so we could get to the border and then Quito at a reasonable hour. We grabbed a Colectivo which in some cases is a minibus but it was a car here, they are cheaper than a taxi as they wait until they have a full car and only run a certain route. We met a Portuguese girl called Lorina in the Colectivo and found out she was also going into Ecuador and more specifically Quito so we all went to the border together after getting our bags from the hotel. The border crossing was a lot less hassle than I thought it would be, we did get chosen ‘at random’ to go into a room and have our bags checked for drugs (dodgy looking bunch I guess)...the dog found nothing so away we went and got our typewriting style stamp into Ecuador without any further hassle.

After an amazing month or so in Colombia it’s time to see what Ecuador has to offer! First stop...the frequently talked about Quito...

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