Day 1 – Livin’ Simply
Beautiful. A word I feel perfectly describes Colombia. Beauty in its breathtaking views and beauty in the people — inside and out. The Western Mountains, hills, and the Andes Mountains line the west of Colombia and surround the city of Cali. I was fortunate enough to stay on a mountain in a nearby town called El Saladito and wake up to this every day.
“Why Colombia?”, a few friends of mine asked. Well, my sister, Diana, was traveling there with her boyfriend, Mauricio, and his family. He used to live with me and tell me such wonderful superlatives about the mysterious South American gem. I added it to my list of must-see countries. Colombia was first up!
Being my first international flight, I was surprised when the airplane did not arrive at a gate in Bogotá, but in the middle of the runway. We were shuttled to our gate. I had a 50 minute layover, where I had to go through customs, scurry past baggage claim, visit TSA, and find my gate with ten minutes to spare. Whew!
It was close.
I made it to Cali!!
Leaving the airport, we drove past fields of caña de azúcar,
or sugar cane, a major crop in Cali. It is harvested year-round, due to the warm climate. It is found in many food products and drinks, such as Coca Cola. This and coffee are drank daily.
What is that explosive in the back that has Mauricio excited? The tank is filled with natural gas that fuels the car. It is a cheaper and greener alternative, emitting less CO2 and CO into the atmosphere. I give a green thumbs up, too!
Driving gets a little crazy in the city. Some roads do not have “lanes” or markings to know where to stay. Motorcycles drive between cars, and three cars drive next to each other on a road that would normally fit two cars.
We visit La 14, a two-story store that sells food, appliances, and clothing, for some groceries. My first meal in Colombia? An arepa de choclo.
The sweet corn cakes are filled with ham and cheese. An instant favorite of mine was salpicón
– sliced and chopped fresh papaya, bananas, pineapple, apples, and mango. No artificial sugar added. Sounds amazing, right? The fruit is so sweet and plentiful there. The salpicón was 2 mil pesos = $1.
We visited his family in Alfonzo López in the city of Cali.
Calles of Cali
Upon my arrival, I was greeted with a smile that was quickly followed with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. A gesture that made me feel so welcomed.
Open windows and open arms. Every one of Mauricio’s family members made us feel at home. They even unexpectedly ran to the store on multiple occasions to get bottled waters and treats for us. So sweet!
Baila! You will not pass a block without hearing salsa music. I have taken a few professional classes, but the best teachers are the ones in Cali, “The Salsa Capital of the World”! I learned the latest dance craze, salsa choke, this day, and was told that I looked ridiculous. No worries. I had 7 days to perfect the dance. You bet I danced everywhere.
The four-story building was built adding floor by floor over time with a family residing on each floor, using this main staircase to get to each floor. The main floor was the family’s bicycle building business.
Mauricio, Tío Misael, and Cousin Anderson
Tío Misael, an avid and competitive cyclist, is the owner of this bicycle shop. Anderson, or as I like to call him “Fernando”, is an avid salsa choke dancer.
Anderson took us to get paletas, or ice pops made from fresh fruit. Mango viche, or unripe mango, is one of my favorite Vietnamese snacks dipped in fish sauce and sugar. This paleta is filled with green mango chunks and flavored with salt. Yum!
People cram into jeepetos, or jeeps, and pay $.50 for a ride, the most affordable mode of transportation. We stood in the back as the driver weaved through cars and felt the wind in our faces! So exhilarating and refreshing!
Accidents don’t occur often. People drive fast and run red lights, but still remain cautious, when they drive. The road in the right of the picture was blocked off for construction, so the road in the middle had people driving in from both directions. The driver of the red jeepeto was driving the wrong way into that road and ran over a motorcyclist. Good thing no one was hurt.
That night, once everyone else arrived, we visited Alumbrado Navideño de Cali
in downtown Cali. Christmas lights abound and live salsa music played, while everyone danced their little hearts and pies
A sea of street vendors
We had to try the street food. The chuzos, or skewers, were 2 mil pesos, or $1 each.
Chuzos come with a variety of meats. Ours had sausage and potatoes. Starchy starch starch. Starch and protein are the key components of a Colombian dish. Vegetables aren’t liked by many and are not found as a part of meals. This was different for me, since I love my vegetables. I indulged in their traditional cuisine. 🙂
Cali 2014 – Champion Squad
I enjoyed not having internet access and taking pleasure in the simple things.
Te extraño, Cali y Caleños.
I will post about my salsa festivities of Day 2 at La Feria de Cali and Delirio later this week! 🙂