Sunday, 20 May 2012

A few days in Cali, city of salsa

It was super convenient leaving Medellin for Cali I by way of Juan Pablo II airport. It is close to my apartment - indeed planes fly over it with alarming proximity. My Dornier 328 left promptly and the flight of 45 minutes passed uneventfully.

Arriving at Cali I quickly found shuttle the bus to the bus terminal and then caught a taxi to Hostel Jovita in the bohemian district of San Antonio. The Hostel, themed for salsa and yoga offers free group classes in both, private dance lessons with about 4 different instructors and cycling tours. Perfect! My room, in close by and quiet annex offered me en suite simple accommodation at only £12 a night.

San Antonio looks as if it was the older part of town and seems to be undergoing some regeneration as a fashionably gentrified zone, mainly residential but increasingly focused on the chic restaurants, coffee bars and boutique hotels. There is a nearby park, a few galleries, the usual corner shops. The climate in Cali is such that you can take a few beers and empanadas on the street or eat al fresco on the veranda of small cafes in the balmy evening air.
San Antonio
I have tried group salsa and Yoga and have enjoyed my first Salsa Caleña lesson with Francy a lively and fun teacher who I also found on the Cali Couch-surfers forum. She is very detailed in her expectations pulling all sorts of faces at my native English lack of rhythm and style but a good partner and a fantastic dancer. So I've booked a block of 5 lessons.
Francy, dance teacher

By the second evening all was well with my classes and in the evening I knocked back a couple of beers, the flavourful dark Apóstol Blocs, in a super chilled and lovely bar called Toasky.

I began my third day in Cali with a city cycle tour with Carlos who runs a small tour business from Jovita's hostal. In truth I'm not sure there is a great deal to see in Cali. It is a little grimy, quit busy with traffic. Carlos pointed out various discos - there are loads but only a few dedicated to salsa. There are a few green parts and a nice park by the river with statues of cats themed on real women, the girlfriends of a grand Tom sitting imperiously above his harem.
City cycle tour
park of cats
The rest of my short break passed pretty well. Francy continued to insist on perfection which I was unable to muster and for the evening group session the male instructor schooled us in crossover styles with big movements and lots of arm and body waving. I probably need to work on suspending my inhibitions!

Later I had an overpriced salad and too sweet chocolate cake in a trendy cafe but the next day a nice crepes breakfast back in Toask cafe which I found out is also a B@B. Later I visited Ceramics el Palmomar a wonderful ceramics shop, cafe and garden that is really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. I bought some nice souvenirs and I hope they will survive my journey home.
garden of ceramics

I continued to consolidate my salsa culminating in a group outing to Tin Tin Deo a lively and fun salsa club with reasonable space in which to dance. Francy danced with me a couple of times making me look better than I really am and I performed adequately with other partners - following a few beers and a margarita all I felt well into it and the club atmosphere was really great and there were some talented and fast dancers. But then the club unexpectedly closed at 1am - most of the rest went on to another club but I folded and shared a taxi back to the Hostal with 3 others.

The next morning, nursing a slight headache I decided to walk up the local big hill. It sports 3 large crosses and an assortment of aerials. 

Even at 8.30 it was getting uncomfortably hot - I trusted to luck that I would be able to buy a drink en route but it was half way up before the first walker's rest where an enterprising man had set up shop with a cold box of gatorade other drinks and fresh fruit. The climb up isn't very pretty but the views are ok and there was a police presence to add to the feeling of security for the morning walkers. Although never dangerous the climb is somewhat arduous with some scrambling over rocks. At the top there is a small police station, more vendors and a group of mainly young and buff men working out on weights and benches provided for public use. 
View of Cali from hill of 3 crosses
The descent was quite straightforward and I arrived back for a late breakfast and a snooze before checking out in time for my flight back to Medellin

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