Tuesday, 20 October 2015



12/08 - 16/08


After a rather long road we eventually arrived in Cali mid afternoon. As always we wanted to make use of the public transport so we left the bus terminal and we went in search of the MIO - the bus system that runs around the city. We knew where we needed to go but just could not figure out how to navigate the system. We obviously looked quite lost as we stared and pointed at the route map because this kind lady approached us and began to try to help us. She could not speak English but we spent a good 5mins using hand signals and the address written in our little note book. She really went out of her way to help, even though she didn't really know the way, she went off to ask the security guard for his help. Together we did ultimately find a suitable route for our journey. We were so grateful to this kind stranger who had probably missed her bus to stop and help these two useless tourists. We had already begun to feel the friendliness of the local people that we had heard so much about from other travellers.

We squeezed onto the bus as it pulled up to the platform and kept an eager eye on the road to ensure that we did not miss our stop. At La Ermita station,  we hopped off and checked how far we were from our hostel. Google Maps said it was about 3kms away and would take us about 45mins to walk. We could see that there were smaller buses going around but we had no idea which one to catch and where they would take us. We had daylight and we had energy so we decided to walk the last leg of our journey. We felt strong in the beginning, carrying our huge backpacks as we strode past business people walking the sidewalks. We got a very good vibe from the city. There were Street vendors selling fresh fruit and other products all along the streets. After a while walking in the sunshine, we began to grow a little weary and frustrated with each bus that drove past us - this was one moment that we wished our Spanish was better so that we could effectively communicate our needs and understand the advice/instruction of the helpful locals. Alas,  we were doing it our way and that involved a lot of walking... Luckily we love walking!

At last we reached our hostel - Green House Hostal.
It offered free salsa lessons every day,  which was a regular service offered by all the hostels in this city as Cali is the Salsa capital of the world.
One of the main attractions in Cali at the time that we arrived was the Petronio Music Festival (Festival de Musica del Pacifico Petronio Alvarez).  It was a week long festival where different artists, groups and bands compete in different sections. The main type of music is Pacific music which is inspired by African rhythms from the roots of the people who were brought over to the coast as slaves.  We were extremely excited to go and experience this mash up of African and South American music. But not tonight... We were far too drained from our long bus rides and that intense walk. So it was a quiet night in whilst the rest of our dorm went out to enjoy the festivities.


We used the day to catch up on admin. We had decided that all we would do in Cali was learn salsa and party...we had had enough culture in San Agustín, it was time for us to let loose and get down!

That afternoon we prepared for our first salsa lesson. We were a little nervous at first but once the music began,  we felt a little more relaxed. Our instructor was vibrant,  energetic and full of sass! She started with the basic steps - we had had that one lesson in Sucre and a crash course in Quito so we felt comfortable doing the basic steps . She then taught us a few turns and alternative steps. We got paired up with the boys so we could practise in partners. It was quite easy for us as we just had to follow where our partners led. It was up to him to tell us with his body what he wanted to do next. It was such fun as we were all learning together and could laugh at our mistakes. Once we had had some time to practise,  our instructor started to teach us some moves that we could use at the Petronio Festival. We had to grab scarves or something to wave around (jersey and towel seem like appropriate choices). This was by far the funnest part of the lesson. We had to get really loose and expressive. Bold, loud and boisterous movements were expected - it was more about feeling the beat and letting go than technical steps. It really made us think of home. The music was so similar with the prominent drum beat and the style of dance so familiar. By the end of the 1hr lesson,  we were absolutely drenched with sweat and exhausted! Such fun though!
After a quick shower, we went to grab some lunch. As a special treat we went to a Crepe restaurant that we had spotted near us and spoilt ourselves with a pancake with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream! Oh my goodness... It was possibly the most delicious thing that we had eaten in the last month!!
The rest of the day was spent continuing our admin of the morning. Although we were tempted by the other people in the hostel to go out to the festival that night, we decided to resist and save ourselves for the next night. We still had to practise our dance moves a little more!


We had found a Couchsurfing host so had planned to stay with him for the remainder of our time in Cali. But before we left our hostel we had our last Salsa lesson.

Our instructor showing us how it is done... It was so odd watching ourselves in the mirror as we practised 

Joy rocking the basic step... Gotta move those hips a bit more though. 

Time to pair up:

Roxy and her partner waiting for the next song to start. 

Good form

Roxy getting some instruction... 

... Now you got it! 

Concentration faces 

Don't look at your feet, Joy! 

Sweaty and smiling after a successful salsa session!

Girls showing sass

Boys being bad ass

Later that afternoon we began to make our way to our couchsurfing host's house. The MIO transport system has a site online which shows you exactly which buses to catch in order to get to your desired destination. Every city should adopt this system. Even though our host's house was a little out of the way, we easily followed the direction on the website and found his house. Okay,  we did get some help from the locals on the bus (once again we stood out like sore thumbs lugging our big backpacks around) but it was still so simple. 

Our host was another Daniel,  obviously we just attract Daniels. From the first moment we met him he seemed extremely friendly and accommodating. He had to go to a Judo lesson so he introduced us to his friend Pedro. The plan was that while Daniel was at his Judo lesson,  Pedro would take us to the Petronio festival. We were keen for this plan as we were excited to go to the festival that evening. We had practised our dance moves so we were ready for it! We put on a little make-up (so fancy) and headed out with Pedro. Luckily Daniel's house was only a few blocks from the stadium where the festival was being held so we could easily walk there.

On our walk to the festival there was a Friday night bustle all around the streets. People selling food, juices and alcohol. We even came across this interesting character. The pictures aren't great but it is a man on a pimped out bicycle with a bunch of dogs dressed in football jerseys and all balancing on the bike with him while he rode. Very cute - we just had to have a pic or two! 

The festival was free to enter but as it was Friday night it was extremely busy so we had to wait in long lines to get in. The security was rather strict and everyone was checked before they were allowed to enter.

Once we were in we decided to look around the stalls, get some food and then head to the stage to listen and dance to some music.

Huge wooden xylophone 

Pedro trying out a big sombrero... Looks good!

Munching on some expensive festival food! 

As we ate our sausage empanadas, we chatted and found out about Pedro. He was also a couchsurfing host, and an English lecturer. He wanted to improve his English so was applying for a job in a hostel. We thus volunteered to help him prepare for his interview. After a little mock interview we were confident that he would get the job and decided to celebrate by going dancing.

There were just so many people everywhere. The stage was brightly lit and thousands of people were dancing in front of it. It was such an electric atmosphere. Everyone had white handkerchiefs and were waving them around in the air... We recognised this. We had learnt these moves in our salsa class!

Mixed in amongst the masses of dancers and music appreciators, were little cooler box/crate minders who were selling plastic bottles of the local traditional Pertronio alcoholic drink - Viche. It is a made out of sugar cane and seemed to be available in two 'flavours'. A murky, dark brown and a milky creamy colour. They looked very homemade (like someone had brewed them in a bathtub) and quite curdled. Pedro assured us that they were safe to drink and asked one of the salesmen if we could just have a little taste. He seemed worryingly excited to feed these two gringas his poison.

Joy bravely stepping up to the plate... 
Hmm...tastes better than it looks

Roxy giving it a little try. We were given the creamy one which tasted like a spicy condensed milk shot - very similar to a milktart shot that we have back home

After this bit of liquid courage, we were ready to weasel our way through the crowd to get closer to the stage and start dancing. The music had such a beat and the drums were so prominent in the songs. We started off rather conservatively but once we found our rhythm and started copying people around us, we were rocking it like the Africans we are.

We had to buy a white flag to wave around. Surprisingly the one we bought had the South African flag all around it. No-one knew why. We thought the reason might be because it would be the most colourful African flag to use.  

Roxy with the flag seller

As we stuck out a bit, we got asked to have many photos with the locals

As there were many different bands and groups, they each had the opportunity to play about 5 songs. This was quite fun as each group gave a mini production and we could experience all the different music styles: Cumbia, Currulao and other Afro-Colombian types. 

This was one rather strange performance. 

We had a wonderful evening dancing and enjoying this incredible culture but once our feet were sore and our eyes were heavy, it was time to go home. We met up with Daniel who showed us the way home. As he did not have much space at his home, he took us to stay with his sister, Patricia. She lived in the same neighbourhood in an apartment with her two young children. We arrived quite late so we went straight to bed, after having a glass of creamy viche which Daniel had bought- which you can only buy once a year and only at this festival.  That definitely made us have a good sleep! 


We were up early and finally got to properly meet the family. Patricia had a son, (10 years old) and a little daughter, 2 years old. We were treated to a great breakfast - Arepa (corn cake)  with fried eggs and Panela (hot raw sugar drink flavoured with different spices). We spent the morning chatting to Patricia. She had recently moved back to Colombia from the US where her husband was still living. She said that she missed her home country and the people too much to stay living in the US. She was such a warm person and we enjoyed sharing stories of our travels. 

For lunch she spoilt us with a fresh fish feast. 

Family lunch

The little one getting hold of Daniel's very tolerant cat

Mommy and daughter 

Daniel was feeling quite exhausted so Pedro came over to take us for a walk around the city.

LA Ermita Church

Spot the Spectacle bear 

Cerro de Las Tres Cruces - we thought about hiking to the top but then decided not to. 

The Cali River that runs through the city

Pack of pigeons

Pedro made a pigeon friend 

They had no concept of personal space

These children were forever scarred by the rather aggressive pigeons! 

Municipal Building 

Pedro's father proposed to his mother beneath this monument - Re-enactment of this beautiful moment. 

Music in the park

Huge mural

We had noticed a rather strange culture around Cali, for some reason there seemed to be tons of cat statues around. Along our walk we came across a whole street lined with different themed cat statues. Rather odd, but also quite cute! We each chose the one that represented us..

Engallame la Gata - the cat dedicated to transport (especially motorbikes) 
Joy chose this one to remember her days of zooming around on her scooter back home! 

Gata Fragile - Pedro is just a real softy! 

Gata Dulce - the sweet cat because Roxy is just too sweet... And the real reason: she loves sweeties and chocolates! 

Extreme window cleaning! 

We walked along to Inglesia la Merced, the oldest church in Cali but were unable to go inside as there was a wedding service taking place. 

Inglesia La Merced

Cool old car

Sneaky pic through the open door

Party bus whizzing down the streets carrying festive tourists! 

We continued walking up a hill where we reached Parque de San Antonino. As it was a Saturday evening, the park was filled with people. Lots of hippy types selling trinkets, practising their juggling/street performance or flying kites. 

A television crew filming a documentary or something 

At the top we had a great view overlooking the city

Right at the top of the hill lies Inglesia de San Antonino 

The last rays of sunlight perfectly illuminating the Old City

Whilst looking at the beautiful old church, we heard music and clapping coming from nearby and naturally we went to investigate. We found a circle of people dancing and singing... Enjoying the afternoon together.

All the couchsurfing hosts of Cali had created a group where they meet up and do things together and with all their combined group of guests. They had arranged to all go to Pertonio Festival together. It was getting near the meeting time so we had to quickly dash down to the meeting point. 

Once there, we met the whole crew with whom we would be partying at the festival. Everyone was really nice but it was difficult staying together amongst the mass of people that had turned up for the last might of this spectacular music fiesta! 
The whole group together (eventually) and ready to party! 

Joy, Roxy and our host, Daniel

Daniel had his little bottle of viche and every now and then would stop the dancing and hand us each a shot.

Perfecting the flat waving technique

The lady in the pink was an amazing dancer so we just tried to copy everything she did... Not too shabby me thinks! 

The amazingly lit stage which even had helicopter news crew circling it 

Everyone was having such a fun time!!! 

Our awesome tour guide for the day!!! 

A young group of students approached us and we started dancing with them. Their English wasn't great but we could just about communicate! 

Amazingly we bumped into our Salsa dancing instructor and the manager of Green House Hostal! What are the chances in such a huge crowd? 

We had danced ourselves silly at the Festival! We loved the music and all the people we had met. The festival closed around 11pm but we were not ready to sleep yet. We went with Daniel, Pedro and the young students we met to a salsa club/bar nearby for a change in music... And to show off our now well polished salsa skills.

Joy fuelling up before hitting the floor

All the guys we met were such good dancers and we had a great time being swung around the small dance floor of the dingy bar. 
By the end of the night our feet were sore, actually our whole bodies were sore, and we were ready to collapse into bed! 
What a fantastic day! 


We were up early to make French toast for the family. Although we loved it, the kids did not seem to share the same enthusiasm for sweet eggy bread. After a wonderful breakfast (well we thought so anyway), we had to say goodbye to Particia and her two very special children. We had so enjoyed being part of a family again that it made the farewell quite an emotional one. We went over to Daniel's place to bid him adieu. He was still in bed as he had gone back out after dropping us off at home the night before. It was then back on the MIO for us and off to the bus terminal where we caught a five hour bus to the coffee region of Salento! Joy could not contain her excitement!!!!