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Published: January 10th 2014
8 January 2014 – Wednesday
We awoke to cock crown this morning as though we were in the countryside although we were in fact in an area of many small workshops. Shortly after the cock crowed the pounding and sawing and hammering began; the workers start work early here. The hotel provided coffee and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We went out and found ourselves in the middle of an area filled with small work factories and workshops, including a street dedicated to printers with old print machines circling and ejecting the pages of what looked like brochures and textbooks. We walked passed on workshop where they had a McDonalds golden arch in their warehouse. We walked a few blocks to the centre of Cali which is full of shops selling clothes and shoes and costume jewellery, leather goods and kitchen equipment. The downtown in one massive bazaar and the streets are filled with people. Salsa music blasts from shop fronts and hawkers with microphones shout their offers. The sidewalks are also full of people selling stuff: caps, locks, cell phone covers, copy dvds, watches and watch straps. There is so much on offer that it is difficult to remember it
all. It reminds us of the Moroccan bazaars we experienced last year: the difference is that the Colombian traders are more polite and less aggressive than their Moroccan counterparts.
In the central square a man was offering wagers on which of 22 pots his guinea pig would chose. The guinea pig was hidden in an upturned pot in the middle of a ring of pots with holes cut in them and numbered on their upturned bottoms. We called this ‘guinea pig roulette’. You placed your coin on the pot of your choice and the central pot would be lifted from the guinea pig and he would pause for a moment and then rush into the dark safety of one of the circled upturned pots. We watched a few runs of this game but the guinea pig never chose a pot with a bet on it. Perhaps it is really ‘guinea pig monty’!
Further along we encountered what we define as ‘restaurant row’. Every Colombian town seems to have one: a street that features a multitude of various types of eating establishments (many of them cannot be defined as ‘restaurants’ but they do serve food.) Joan was looking for
a ‘menu del dia’ and we found a nice looking restaurant called Cafe Moro offering just such a thing for 8,500 Colombian Pesos (about 4 US Dollars). The meal was supposed to consist of a vegetable soup, fresh squeezed fruit juice, a plate containing rice, a potato, a small salad, and a cutlet of either chicken or beef, and a small dessert. Joan ordered the chicken and I ordered the beef. After a few minutes our waitress returned to us and informed us that the beef had sold out, so I agreed to also have the chicken. The juice arrived and the soup - both were full of flavour. Another few minutes passed and our waitress returned to tell us that the chicken had sold out. She offered us instead a chicken fried rice which she defined as ‘delicioso’ so we said okay as we had already eaten the soup starter and drank most of the fruit juice. It arrived a few minutes later and although it was nice fried rice with a hint of chicken flavour, the chicken pieces themselves were so scant they were difficult to find. They also sold out of the roasted potatoes because none arrived
on our plates nor on any of the plates of the other diners who had arrived after us. We ate it and when the waitress returned to collect our plates and ask if we had enjoyed it, we both said ‘No Pollo’. She just shrugged and gave us an extra dessert. After a brief discussion I decided to ask for a discount on my bill so I wrote a note in my little notebook: ‘NO POLLO. NO POTATA.SOLO ARROZ!’ I wrote 17,000 COP and crossed it out and followed it with the word DISCOUNT and a black space. Neither the cashier nor the waitress had any English but as I was standing there staring them down, an elderly Colombian lady appeared at my shoulder to pay her bill. And she was complaining about the same thing! She had a little English and I told her we did not receive the meal we had ordered and were reluctant to pay the full price. She agreed and said: ‘I know. No chicken! Only rice and rice and more rice.’ She negotiated for the both of us, and we paid for only one meal. It was never about the cost but the principal: We would have been just as happy to pay 1500 Colombian Pesos for the two lunches, anything except the full price as we did not receive the full meal. This is just another of the many challenges faced while travelling in South America.
9 January 2104 – Thursday
Not only was the rooster crowing his song early this morning, one of the workman renovating the building next door to our hotel was also singing and whistling to himself, and then singing along to the radio. He sang and whistled as he worked. The regular pounding and banging and hammering from other workmen nearby accompanied him. Combined with it was the additional racket of trucks loading or unloading, cars passing and using their horns (Colombian drivers love their horns and dislike pedestrians crossing in front of them). This all combined to create a cacophony of noise and we got up to begin our day with a couple hours of internet work (arranging two flights and car hire) and my mom caught us online so Skyped us from Florida.
We set out to the Cali bus station to reserve a flight on an early bus tomorrow to Popayan. Our regular bus company said they had no service to Popayan even though the name of this town was written large in the sign overhead. He recommended another bus company and they have an hourly service to Popayan, so we tried to purchase advance tickets and were told to just show up tomorrow morning. So that is what we will do tomorrow, with hope and trepidation!
We walked around the more upmarket area of Granada today where the westerners stay and hang out. It is also the area where the middle-class Colombians live. There are a few very nice high rise apartment buildings here as well as a number of upscale restaurants. We had another ‘menu del dia’ lunch and got the whole thing served at once, and exactly what it said on the menu board: soup, plantain, boiled rice, a slice of meat, a glass of juice. We walked up and down the streets of Granada. This is a very nice part of Cali. There are many upmarket stores and restaurants and nightclubs in the shadow of a towering Marriot Hotel. We stopped for coffee and a cake at Il Molino, an Italian-style cafe where the both the coffee and cakes are excellent and the setting comfortable for relaxing and people watching. We found it by accident yesterday and returned today on purpose.
The weather was overcast and very humid, tropical, and we were drained of energy so we returned early to the hotel. Although touted as the ‘capital of Salsa’, we found Cali, the third largest city in Colombia, a little dull and more laid back than either Medellin and Bogota. There was plenty of salsa music blasting from the shops in the downtown but it was as background music for commercial activities. We did not go to any of the nightclubs so cannot comment on it.
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