I’d been thinking about visiting Cali ever since I sampled Medellin in March 2016. Judging by what I could gleaned from my research on both Medellin and Cali, these two cities seem to be Colombia’s most popular tourist destinations — and not just because they are next-in-line after the capital, Bogota.
I liked Medellin, for sure. But, almost every online forum boasted that Cali is even more fun. So, I waited for a chance to head over there, and see for myself.
Chance? Really?? Haha. Who needs chance, right, if you’re Mr Avid-Traveler — the guy who simply gets out of bed one morning, and decides to get on a plane?! LOL.
Which is actually what happened. I’d only just returned from a 2-week trip to New Orleans and Vegas, in August. And, once again, I got the itch to pack yet another suitcase, and fly off somewhere else.
And, of course, the pin fell on Cali :=)
Once the bug bit me, the rest was kinda routine — ticket, accommodation, check!
Well, not quite. I got on my favorite plane-ticket website, www.skyscanner.com, and typed in “Panama – Cali”. To my amazement, the cheapest ticket I could find cost $386 !! Yowtzer!!
Normally, I wouldn’t care. But, the thing is: just the previous week, I’d lazily wandered onto Skyscanner, and browsed tickets to Colombia. A direct flight from Panama to Cali cost only 180 bucks. And, now, just a week later, it had jumped an additional 200 bucks ?!
I’d made up my mind that I was going to Cali, so the price of the ticket wasn’t going to put me off. I was just overly miffed. I hate when these airlines play footsy-wootsy with their online prices !!
Just as I was about to go ahead and make the purchase, I suddenly had a brainwave; it was as if Zeus had stuck his lightning bolt into the back of my skull, and yelled: “Hold up, Marco Polo! What about Bogota??!”
Yep, Bogota. It occurred to me that: instead of flying straight to Cali, Bogota might be a cheaper option. And, I already knew from past experience that: internal (domestic) flights are always very cheap (I recalled that I’d done the exact same thing on my last trip to Thailand, when I’d gone diving in Phuket. Most visitors to Phuket — or one of Thailand’s other numerous tourist spots — buy tickets straight from their home to their chosen destination. Such tickets are pricey, especially as there’s usually a layover in Bangkok. I decided to buy my ticket only as far as Bangkok. Then, I purchased another ticket from Bangkok to Phuket. I still remember how much it cost: 42 dollars).
I decided to try this again. Skyscanner showed that direct flights to Bogota cost $132. I didn’t waste time, and simply went ahead and bought the ticket. Next, I checked flights from Bogota to Cali. Cost: 36 bucks (LOL). I purchased this one, too. Total cost? 168 dollars…………220 dollars cheaper than the one for Panama — Cali direct. PHEW )))))
Only one teeny, tiny snag: the ticket showed that my flight into Bogota would land at 11.45 a.m.; and my next flight to Cali would lift off at 1:15 p.m — which would give me just over an hour to disembark……..go through customs and immigration…….pick up my bag……..exit……and then hurry over to check-in for my next flight………pass through customs……..and run like hell for the departure gate!
The timing was going to be close……….too close (haha).
Arriving in Bogota
The first thing I noticed when the plane touched down in Bogota, was the cold. OK, maybe “cold” is a bit of an exaggeration for someone who spent half his adult life in the cold winters of the frozen North. But, having lived in Panama for 10 months, I’d become rather “allergic” to cold weather. Thus, I found Bogota uncomfortable (hehe).
We landed 10 minutes early, which wasn’t much, but, at that point, I was glad for even the tiniest bit of good luck. I went through the entire above-described process — waiting in line to go through immigration was the hardest; I could hardly keep still (especially as I desperately needed to visit the “ladies’ room” (LOL)).
Thankfully, I made it — arriving at the gate just as boarding was still ongoing. Phew!
Flight to Cali
It was a full flight; no seat was empty. When I travel by air, I always choose a window-seat, whenever possible. This time, I was in too much of a hurry to care. As it turned out, I was seated right next to a woman who had a toddler on her lap.
At this point, I should probably mention a certain peeve which really drives me up the wall: why, WHY, OH WHY, do people insist on bringing babies with them on airplanes???? I can’t count all the times I’ve been on flights where some genius decided to bring along a toddler who, of course, found the airplane distinctly scary, confusing, and loud — all of which combined to make the toddler cry, bawl and scream his/her off all through the flight !!!!
I’m no christian, but………….JESUS H. CHRIST NAILED-TO-THE-CROSS !!!!!!!! WTF???!!!
On this particular flight, the toddler in question was no different. All was nice and quiet at first. But, as soon as the plane started to roar down the runway, preparing to lift-off, the toddler reacted by screaming his tiny lungs to the stars. This was bad enough; what followed however, was the icing on the cake: the mother, apparently deciding that feeding the baby was the best way to handle the situation, opens her blouse, pops out her breast, and starts to breastfeed the little guy.
(Oh, it gets better, trust me………….)
This strategy worked for a few minutes. But then, the baby decides he isn’t really that hungry, stops feeding, and proceeds to resume his bawling. The mother tries her best to force the dripping breast back into the baby’s mouth — (YES, dripping!!) — but, instead, milk splashes from it, and lands across my legs!!!!!!
Even now — over a week later — I am still trying to deduce exactly which emotions ran through me at that precise point. Surprise? Shock? Anger? Disgust? The mother mumbled a quick “sorry” in my direction, and continued to struggle with the still-screaming child. I looked at the stupid cow with as much pity as I could muster, and felt like blurting out: “It would appear that your baby and I share the same taste in dairy products. Now that we’re all so intimately acquainted, perhaps you and I could get to know each other better? Got any more milk?”
Thank God for geography. Cali is only an hour away from Bogota.
Arriving in Cali
Now, THIS was more like it ))) Very hot, sun beating down. Hmmm………much better.
The trip from the airport to the apartment I’d rented off AirBnB, took about 20 minutes.
I have to say: when I saw this view on the way from the airport, the first thing that came to my mind was My trip to the Grand Canyon. Kinda reminded me of the same view on the way to Flagstaff, Arizona
The streets of Cali are surprisingly wide and spacious……….a far cry from those in Panama City.
Ladies and Gents, may I introduce: my good pal Giovanni. Giovanni got in touch with me on Couchsurfing, when he saw that I was planning to visit Cali. He offered to be my guide in and around the city. So, on the day I arrived, we got in touch, and arranged to meet the next morning, and go touring the city.
My first impression of Cali was very good. I instantly liked the city. The architecture is beautiful; in contrast, Panama seems to be more focused on going “modern”, which accounts for the rise in skyscrapers and shopping malls. Cali seems to favor the old architecture (which is not say that they wouldn’t go down the same route as Panama, if they had the money for it (haha)).
In any case, I was glad that Cali is the way it is. I like being surrounded by such ancient beauty.
Torre de Cali (Cali Tower)
Torre de Cali is a 46-story skyscraper in downtown Cali. The tower has a full height of 211 meters, if the communication masts atop are counted. However, roof height is 183.5 meters, making it the third-tallest building in Colombia (after the 196-metre, 52-story “Torre Colpatria”, and the 190-meter “Centro de Comercio Internacional”, both in Bogota).
I wouldn’t have bothered about some city-hall building. After all, they seem to be the same the world over. But, Cali’s City Hall was quite impressive. Apparently, it houses all facets of the city’s government: police, immigration, treasury, infrastructure (bills, electricity, etc.), and so on. Secondly, I found the building itself very pleasant. I mean, really, how many city-halls have fountains and parks on their premises?
A tribute to Salsa
Cali is renowned for being “The salsa capital of the world”. Salsa music is played literally every day and night, all over the city. It’s a point of pride for “Calenos” :=)
Apparently, this trumpet-monument is a tribute to salsa…………….
Thirsty? How ’bout a Sprite?
My lazy ass couldn’t wait to get a proper drink. I joined a queue of passersby, who were waiting in line for a free bottle of Sprite (LOL)
Puente Ortiz (Ortiz Bridge)
Located near the Ermita Church and Bolivar Park, this bridge crosses the Cali River. It was the first ever bridge to be built over the Cali River.
The bridge is named after the Franciscan monk Fray Jose Ignacio Ortiz, a native of Candelaria.
La Iglesia de la Ermita (The Ermita Church)
La Iglesia de la Ermita (or, simply, “Iglesia Ermita”), is located in the center of Cali, on Colombia Avenue, on the west side of Rio Cali (hence its name).
The present chapel was built to replace the chapel that had existed since 1602, and was destroyed by the earthquake that hit the city in 1787, where it survived. The figure of Lord Reed, who has since been kept in the May altar, is quite revered as there are countless miracles attributed to him.
The chapel today is a symbol and icon of Santiago de Cali. Its interior is decorated with marble from Carrara; the altars, communion rail and pulpit were worked on by the sculptor Alideo Tazzioli, who also sculpted the Mount Cristo Rey. Several of its most prominent architectural components were brought from outside; the bells were melted down and brought from Levallois, around Paris (France), the musical clock and windows that represent the twelve apostles come from Amsterdam (Netherlands), and the magnificent iron doors were made by the students of Cali’s Municipal School of Arts and Crafts.