In Salento, I had planned on spending a long weekend in Cali before heading back to Bogota to chill out for the week and wait for Deb to arrive. This plan changed over a few boxes of wine one evening with some girls I had met in La Serrana.
Firstly Cali. Capital of Salsa. It is my aim to learn salsa before visiting Cuba again in March next year. I thought Cali, Colombia's second biggest city, would be the perfect place to start as this place lives and breathes the dance. There are about 200 salsa schools, and more than 80 salsa orchestras in the city. Our hostel even had a school and free classes each day. Sarah, another backpacker from Salento, and I arrived at 6pm and promptly signed up for the 7 o'clock class only to be told, when we enthusiastically presented ourselves to the teacher, that we had signed up for the next day, and that tonight's class was already full.
Still keen on inflicting our salsa skills on the locals we had a few drinks at the hostel bar before heading to a salsa club which the hostel told us about. This was more like a street party than your classic bar or club and it was amazing! Inside there was the dance floor and outside on the pavement flocked Colombians and Gringos who were more interested in drinking than dancing. Although I would like to say I danced the night away inside, I have to admit I spent most of the night outside, talking to locals and occasionally dancing a few moves with old men who were quick to realise my lack of talent in the salsa department. Not convinced it was time to go home when the area shut down around 4am we then taxied to Menga which is the discotheque suburb and stayed there for another hour or so till closing. After such a good time at the street party slash salsa bar, Menga was definitely overrated but we had fun there with one gringo teaching me the basic salsa steps he had learnt in a class in Medellin the weeks prior.
The next couple of days I was a bit delicate so didn't do much. For this reason I have no photos of Cali, and I never did make it to a salsa class at the hostel.
Next (quick) stop, Popayan.
For me Popayan was a one night stop over between Cali and San Agustin, where Sarah and I were meeting Lizzie and Emily for a couple of nights. I thought it would be the perfect place for a quick visit since it's small enough to wander around in a day. The city, often referred to as the White City, is also very pretty due to the fact most of the centre is made up of white colonial buildings.
I've said before, that for me local food is as important as local sites when I travel. When I got to Popayan I learnt that this city was declared by UNESCO as the first city of gastronomy. Now one night in this place was not going to be enough! That's only three meals! As soon as I learnt of this I headed out into the streets buying as much street food as I could get my hands on. I think this is when I started to fall in love with Colombia's cuisine.
San Agustin was nominated by Lonely Planet as a highlight of Colombia. The village with a population of 30,000 is host to an archaeological site where pre-Colombian ruins can be found. From the UNESCO website the park is described as follows:
The largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America stands in a wild, spectacular landscape. Gods and mythical animals are skilfully represented in styles ranging from abstract to realist. These works of art display the creativity and imagination of a northern Andean culture that flourished from the 1st to the 8th century.
For me, it was hard to believe that the immaculate carvings where so old! They also didn't evoke any emotional response like any of the Inca ruins did and therefore I can not agree with Lonely Planet when the say these carvings are the towns main attraction.
We were only in San Agustin for two days and this was definitely not enough. If La Serrana in Salento was a good chill out spot I can say that Casa de Francois in San Agustin was even better! I could have spent another couple of days here chilling on the hammocks outside our beautiful dorm, horse riding the gorgeous landscape and exploring more of the archaeological park by jeep. Because the main drawcard of this place should be the serenity. Kind of. After a big night with the girls care of a local man named Jerry Lewis, it was time for the 12 hour bus journey back to Bogota to meet Deb!