the sweetener in the deal
Cali turned out to be a great snacking around town. While most go to party and for salsa, we went for the lulada. What's that you say? No, it's not some Colombian dance but you'll have to read below to find out what it is. The variety of climates in Colombia was thrown in our faces once again when walking around Cali our first night. We'd just come from the much cooler and temperate Cafe Cafetera that morning and here we were walking in the sweltering evening heat of the sweaty capital of Valle de Cauca. It would become even more apparent later when we tried to fall asleep in our air-conditionless room. I would even seek refuge in the hammock strewn just outside our room, preferring what little fresh air I could find over the privacy of four walls. We were on a mission to find a lulada and it was not as easy as we were led to believe. Even though the lulo, the fruit from which it is made, is only grown in this area, it seemed the popularity of the drink had waned as street vendors in the park doled out ice cones rather than this local delicacy that at least in part was why we'd come here in the first place.
Cali is noted for many things and most of them did not appeal to us. Capital of salsa sounded okay but rarely were we out even remotely late enough to take in such things and its reputation for danger was renowned even in a country noted for not being the safest. But we had no problems in our six weeks traveling around Colombia so we took such heeding with a grain of salt. That said, we didn't want to tempt our fate so close to the end of our trip. We had already bypassed Medellin as we'd met a few people on our travels that had been robbed there. We had flown into the Zona Cafetera and in so doing we also avoided a couple of long arduous bus trips. But rather than do the same here, we decided to break up another potential long bus trip by stopping briefly in Cali. All this is true but I'd be lying if I didn't say the lulada, while not the overall deciding factor, was certainly the sweetener in the deal. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Día del Pacífico - Music, Flavours and Colours
Every year in December La Plazoleta del CAM is a scene for the celebration of Día del Pacífico, where the communities of African descendants of Valle del Cauca and the Pacific coast of Choco represent their culture and traditions. In 2009 this was a festival within 52 Feria de Cali but usually it takes place earlier in December.
The sound of marimba (the main instrument of the Colombian South Pacific) and currulao (one of the most African influenced musical styles in all of Colombia, it has its roots among Black people of the Pacific coast) predominate. You can try typical food of the Colombian Pacific coast, from sancocho de pescado to exotic dishes, such as encocado de jaiba, sancocho de ñato and sudao de piangua. Here you get the sweetest cocadas, most delicious fruits of the region and champús. For those who prefer aphrodisiac drinks, there are viche, tumbacatre and tomaseca.
Among other things, you can appreciate beautiful handicrafts typical of the Pacific region, made from bamboo, and from natural fibres and seeds, such as jewellery, kitchen utensils, bags, hats, boxes, baskets and music instruments.
more pics in the travelogue
Día del Pacífico video
San Cipriano - Hidden Deep in Tropical Rainforest
Hidden deep in tropical rainforest on the Pacific side of the mountain range, San Cipriano is a little town of 500 inhabitants of African descendants, a couple of hours from Cali, just off the Cali - Buenaventura road. Remote and almost inaccessible, it has no roads and the river is too shallow. To overcome this problem, locals have invented a unique transportation system to get from nearby Córdoba to San Cipriano. They use wooden pallets (where people sit) that move under the influence of motorcycle power. It's a very unusual but memorable journey through the jungle which takes 20 minutes.
Although the town itself is little more than a single dirt road lined with wooden huts, San Cipriano has great atmosphere. You can hike into the jungle along a truly beautiful one-hour trail out of town, very green and relaxing. There are several waterfalls you can walk to. Swimming in the crystal clear river is another delight, and you can go inner-tubing along much of its length. The area is also good for birdwatching.
Numerous locals offer basic rooms in simple wooden houses and they serve cheap meals as well. San Cipriano is a popular weekend destination to Caleños but during the week you'll probably have the place to yourself.
pan de bono for sale
There was a little bakery around the corner from our San Antonio digs at Cafe Tostaky. It was a great godsend as our place did not include breakfast and since it was not high season, the breakfast that they did normally sell were not being offered. This little hole-in-the-wall place made it easy to have something small to eat early in the morning and the crowds of locals that lined up outside it attests to it having the goods. They had sweets like guava pastries for only 700 COP (35 cents) and they were generally piping hot or at least warm, such was their turnover. I liked the bagel-shaped pan de bono, a slightly sourish cheesy type bread that started my day just perfectly.
Museo Arqueológico La Merced
Cali's oldest existing building dates back to around 1538-1540 and was formerly La Merced convent but today houses the Museo Arqueológico La Merced. This archeological museum displays regional pre-Columbian pottery and a scale model of the city. In five rooms you'll find a collection of pottery of the major cultures from central and southern Colombia, including Quimbaya, Tolima, Calima, Tierradentro, San Agustin, Nariño and Tumaco.
The museum is open Tues-Sat 09:00am-01:00pm and 02:00pm-06:00pm; admission is 4.000 COP (December 2008).