Cali, Cali, Cali. I was so happy to reach my hostel after my dreadful bus experience. No hot water but I was in desparate need of a shower. Downstairs in my hostel a gin and tonic party was well underway. I was still feling a bit ill so I abstained. A few of us headed up to stock up on more beverages and I was lucky enough to find good old Canada Dry gingerale. Stomach saved. We were pretty much just hanging out drinking, chatting and watching the Simpson's Season 6 DVD when a guy from Norway invited me to sneak out and check out the town. Who am I to say no to a Norwegian? The bar and club district was nearby and we hopped from bar to bar to check out the salsa scene until we were kicked out of the last one at closing time. People do dance very well here. The salsa is much more showy than on the Caribbean coast.
I planned to get a lot done the next day but as things would have it, it wasn't to be. Spent the mornig on the Internet checking on flights home and then took a quick tour around the city. 'Ick' is my best description of what I saw. It's as dingy and boring a place as Ive been in months. The small area where my hostel is located has been gentrifying and looks quite nice with posh litle shops and restaurants. Apparantly it was little more than a slum 5 years ago. I was too late to catch up to some people from the hostel on their way to the zoo so I did my big city thing - manicure and pedicure - two and a half hours, I kid you not. Everything takes longer in Colombia. Afterward I was feeling great and decided to just go for it and book all my flights. 'Why are all the airline websites rejecting my bank card?' Can you believe it, my freaking bank has canceled my card AGAIN!
Luckily it was just a temporary block and after about an hour on the phone they told me they would remove the block withing 24 hours. Nice. They can turn it off in a split second but they need 24 hours to turn it back on. I headed back to the hostel to chill out with some travelers and laugh at the house dogs. There are two big british bulldogs in the house. One is the mother and the other is the son. The mother is in heat and the son is happy to give her some action so the poor son has to be chained up for most of the day and the mother walks around the house in little yellow panties. That , a bit of rum and some good conversation was enough to amuse me for the night. I spent the better part of the next morning back in the Internet cafe finally getting everything booked and then decided that I'd had enough of Cali and headed off to the bus station.
I was lucky to catch a bus to Armenia leaving immediately and from there I transfered to a small shuttle to Salento in Colombia's coffee growing region. The hostel was lovely and I ran into a guy whom I'd met months ago in Taganga. I had dinner at a restaurant with him and his folks who had just flown down from the States to visit. Salento is a tiny town with not much to do so I was quite happy to hit the hay early. I woke up to my noisy alarm at 6:30 and quickly got myself together to head down to the town square to pick up the only morning shared jeep to Corcora, a small nearby town known for their beautiful cloud forest and giant wax palms. I checked out the palms but the trail to the cloud forest was inches deep in mud as I'd been promised. I decided against the walk and caught the jeep heading back into Salento (the next return jeep wouldn't have been for another 6 hours).
The whole reason I've come to Salento is to see coffee so once back in town I headed an hour down the hill to check out 2 nearby coffee plantations. One was small and a bit disorganized but the owner was lovely and his son gave me a great tour of the plantation and described how they process the coffee into a form they can bring to the co-op. It's not harvesting season yet (May and November) but there were still a few ripe beans, yellow ones for Colombian coffee and red ones for Arabic coffee. At the end, the señor made me a cup of coffee and sent me on my way. I couldn't find anyone at the bigger plantation so I just wandered around a bit and took pictures of some cool flowers. I decided on a trout lunch which is served with a whole plantain that's been rolled paper thin and fried into a giant plaintain chip. It was so much food that I had to waddle back to the hosteland get straight into bed to sleep off my food baby.
I headed out the next day with a Danish girl named Anne to make our way to Medellin. We caught the early bus to Pereria and lucked into a van taxi ready to go. We made it to Medellin in record time and found our hostel which was near the southern bus terminal. It looked very suburbany from the outside but once inside, the hostel is big and warm and everything is nearby including a big supermarket and the metro. I went for a long walk around the neighborhood and then met up with some people gearing to to go out for a night on the town. We all walked down tothe bar area together passing a few park where hundreds of students were happily sitting and drinking outside. The bar area reminded me a lot of Plaza Serrano in Buenos Aires, lots of bars surrounding a central square. Anne and I snuck offsince the rest of the guys were hanging out waiting for someone. We found a nice patio bar and had a few drinks while we watched all the partiers ander from bar to bar.
The next two days were pretty chill. I slept late and wandered around the city. The Botero Sculpture Park was fantastic and my search for Pablo's grave was a dud but it is all about the journey isn't it. I wish I had more time in Medellin but I've enjoyed the time here. It's a very easy city and the hostel is perfectly located. I went back to the bar area to have a glass of wine on the patio. They call Medellin the land of eternal spring and it most definately is. I ordered a very small and very expensive sushi roll to accompany my wine and it was absolutely worth it. So South West Colombia is now done. I've got to run backto Taganga to pick up my big bag and then I leave from Bogota to SF on Saturday. Can't wait to see you all!