We decided to go to Cali solely to dance! In the Southern part of Colombia, Cali is supposed to have South America’s best Salsa clubs, and according to Lonely Planet, “you can dance until sunrise, every night of the week, no questions asked”. Sounds fun to me!
We ended up meeting up with my god brother’s friend Nick, who just happened to be traveling through Colombia at the same time as us. Although I haven’t seen him in about 13 years, for some reason, while traveling, it seems acceptable to greet people from home like they’re your long lost friend! Nick’s been on the road for a little over 6 months; he quit his job, sold his worldly possessions and decided to take his motorcycle around the world for 3 or 4 years. Even after a few short months he had amazing stories to share with us. Turns out, motorcycling around the world is more common than I had imagined. Spence, another guy at our hostel, was actually doing the exact same thing! The two of them were going opposite directions around the world, but figured they’d meet up again in a couple years somewhere around the Middle East. What an unbelievable journey for them both!
We took it pretty easy during the day in Cali. We walked the length of the infamous Sexta street, where all the bars come alive at night for parties. Being Friday, even during the late afternoon you could see the bars and restaurants filling up quickly. Cali itself is a fairly large city, but the areas we explored still had a familiar feel to it. The place was exciting and in parts very pretty, and I much preferred it to Bogota and Manizales. On top of that, the city was at a significantly lower altitude, which meant I could finally wear shorts again!! After dinner, we found a bottle of Aguardiente (the traditional Colombian liquor that tastes similar to sambooka, with a sweet anise flavouring to it). We had no idea what it would taste like, but decided to mix it with a Canadian dry ginger ale, and after one sip, it was instantly my favourite drink (Unfortunately not so much for Adam, who loathes sambooka to begin with). So we rounded up a United Nations group from our hostel, and headed out on the town.
Sexta street was nuts, all the bars and clubs were packed by the time we arrived at 10:30. We found one we liked the look of, sat out on the patio and ordered towers of beer while we shared stories with our new friends. A couple bars later, and before we knew it, it was 3 am. Most of us carried on to a salsa club on the other side of town to dance away the rest of the morning. The place was packed right until closing (at 6am, just as the sun was rising). It was half indoor and half outdoor terrace, which was a perfect way of keeping the temperature down. We danced for ages, with locals just grabbing us out of nowhere to drag us onto the dance floor. Some couples were good, others were just dancing to their own beat, but no one stood out as an excellent salsa dancer by any means. One of the couples in our hostel (who did not join us that night) had said they found very little “professional” salsa dancing in South America. The two of them traveled the world attending salsa conventions and were by all standards experts at the dance! They came to Cali, hoping to find the worlds best salsa dancing, and were a little disappointed. Fortunately for me, who knows only the basic steps, it was exciting just to get out on the dance floor and listen to the music! By the time the club closed, I was exhausted. Time to head to bed, because check out was in 4 and a half hours.
The next evening we were booked for a 20 hour bus ride to Quito. Great. After practically no sleep, I was once again a mess for our travel day. I spent most of the day napping on the couch and back and forth from our favourite breakfast bakery for omelets and banana smoothies. We got on the bus at 7:30 and prepared ourselves for another looooong overnight journey. The bus was cramped and had awkward leg rests that made it impossible to stretch your legs out. After watching yet another Jason Statham movie on the bus – that’s 3 for 3 with our buses in Colombia. They love him here – we tried to sleep. It was an awkward, freezing cold, half-sleep for both of us all night. We stopped at a million stations throughout the trip for people to get on and off and the roads were less than ideal for our journey. 11 hours later we arrived in Ipiales, a city right near the border of Colombia and Ecuador. We got off the bus and stepped into the freezing cold. Both of us had every layer possible on and my teeth were still chattering. We grabbed a cab and couldn’t even afford to pay in Colombian money, now that we were down to our last $1.50 in the currency. Luckily the cab driver accepted US dollars and we made it to the border. The border was quick and had no lines which was great. Then back into another cab to get to the bus station in the other town. When we dragged ourselves out of the second cab we were greeted by two, short Ecuadorean men with huge smiles. “Quito! Quito! Quito!” they yelled in rapid concession at us. We managed a nod, then they opened the trunk of the cab, grabbed all our bags and trucked off towards a bus! It took us a moment to figure out what happened in our sleepy daze before we ran to catch up with them. They put our bags on the bus, beckoned for us to sit down and we were on our way in no time. It was a simple bus, with no bathroom, and full of people getting on and off, but we made it safely to Quito several hours later and exhausted out of our minds!