The Colombian Diaries (1/5): Cali
Day 1, Wednesday: arrived after a 20 hour trip, took a shower and immediately felt one of the main reasons why I have decided to come to Colombia: to have great weather, which allows a person to be in t-shirt anytime of the day. After finishing the dinner, we went to Las Tascas, an event at parque Bolivar, in which you pay 1€ for entrance, but whose outcome is worth much more: a live band and a DJ, cheap beer and, most importantly, everyone having real fun, a sign which still differentiates Latin America from the zombie-like western world. My friend Lewis, being almost 1,90 mt and a fun guy by nature, is the best company you can have in every party, since he not only attracts naturally attention (especially in a place where the average height is so low) but also engages very easily in conversation with new people. In about two hours, also due to my tiredness, I just followed his initiative of approaching women, who had as top moments two French girls and a very cute local girl. But if Lewis is amazing in starting up, he is terrible in escalating and most of the interactions just fade away, which was what happened in both cases. Later on, we started joking with a group from afar, who immediately bite our good mood and called us to join them. They were two gay guys, a below the average girl and another one who was a little bit plastic, but still very bangable, who immediately got into me. The interaction was going very well until Lewis suddenly discovered that someone had pick pocked his smartphone (not sure whether it was someone from this group), a fact which immediately killed our night. We went home, since he needed to cancel some accounts and to change passwords. What a great start in Colombia, isn’t it?
Day 2, Thursday: woke up with the bad mood of my friend, who naturally could not think in anything else than in his phone, so our major concern was to go the police station. When we arrived there, we were told that we would need to go to a completely different part of the town, since that reporting a robbery would need to be made in a specific place. This is one of these things which happens in Latin America everyday so if you are one of these persons who just likes organized, coherent functioning just do a favor to yourself and don’t come anywhere below the USA. So after arriving there and being told that we could not be attended anymore on that day – we arrived at 2:00 pm and the place would close at 6:00 pm, just for you to have an idea – we found a way to set a specific time for the next day – by talking to one of the head of service, a woman already in her fifties – avoiding all the hassle of having to wait at least three hours. The afternoon went on without anything relevant, so it was already around 7:00 pm when we arrived in the Autopista Suroriental, where the action of the Feria takes place during the day, with four big stages in which the bands play basically (very good) salsa. I had planned to meet a very good Colombian “friend”, who lives in Germany, and after walking back and forth for around two hours, we finally met her and her friends, to then walk a little bit more. If you ever come to the Feria of Cali but salsa is not your thing, I recommend you not to go the Autopista, since the logistics is terrible and you will walk a lot. Not coincidentally, my friend Lewis lost all his will to party after all this physical activity and went home saying that this place was terrible. Actually it was not – if you love salsa as I do – since you have the opportunity to watch famous, amazing musicians for free and assisting to the concert of the great Oswaldo Roman, one of the elements of the even greater “Puerto Rican stars”, was undoubtedly the zenith of the night. Seeing hundreds of people singing and dancing to this Latin rhythm is something unique and even more if you are a European living in the western world, where spontaneity almost only happens among people if they are really drunk. After the night of the Feria ended, the group whom I was with (had already around 15 people) decided to head to some club to dance throughout the night. We first arrived at a club, I can not recall the name, which was packed (of black people) and whose bouncer was not allowing more people to get in. So we started discussing where to go next and we ended up in the club Bronx, a place which, as you can imagine, has not as clientele Swedes or Aryans. I was already picturing a bad outcome but, since we were all in group and I did not want to be perceived as the boring one, I decided to get in. And well, first the club was very dark; then, since everyone had come in pairs, there were no new available girls to dance with (a fact which, unfortunately, happens across Colombia, turning its nightlife into the one of the worse I have ever been in my entire life); finally, the salsa danced in Cali, the caleña, is very different from the one I dance (LA/NY style), so in the end I was only able to dance with a couple of women who were with us. After one hour, I lost my patience and decided to leave, not without first collecting the number of one girl of our group.
Day 3, Friday: the day started with sun and after the daily breakfast at our hotel, I headed to its swimming pool to put some tan in my pale skin. During the afternoon, the hotel was serving a complete lunch which, for my total astonishment, cost just 8000 pesos (less than 3€). This is one of the biggest pros of spending or even living in Colombia, as you can eat really well and tasty for prices which do not exist anymore in the west. Since the weekend was beginning and my friend Lewis had gained full resistance to the Feria, we headed to the neighborhood Granada (the fanciest one in town, along with El Peñón, in terms of restaurants and bars), ending in the Mexican restaurant D’Toluca, one which attracts both locals and foreigners, due to its fun atmosphere which usually includes a live band. There were some nice girls, including a promoter who was trying to sell us some extra rum in exchange of some gifts, but the first did not give us any IOI and the second did not follow our teasing. We left and entered the bar Bourbon St., perhaps the most famous rock & roll bar in the city, but the too loud live band made us leave the place almost immediately, as that scenario would impede any “healthy” interaction with whomever we would (try to) talk to. After some hesitations, we eventually decided to go to Tin Tin Deo, which is one of the most famous and traditional salsa clubs in Cali. And you can understand why: a very loose atmosphere, with friendly people and an amazing set of songs. On the other hand, there were too many older people and perhaps just two attractive women (already paired with some guys), a fact which made my friend Lewis starting whining about the place and so we left the bar, just one hour after we had come in. Menga, the area of the city which goes until later (6:00 am), was our next destination, more specifically the club Living, which we had been told as the best option in terms of varied music and nice girls. And indeed it was true, but again the Colombian annoying habit of everyone being in groups twisted our initial excitement about that place. Meanwhile, I started seeing not only a counter in the club’s screen but also everyone preparing him or herself for the New Year’s Eve. So basically it was 2:05 am of the 31st of December and these people were getting ready to celebrate the arrival of 2017! This hilarious, nonsense event made Lewis and me to start joking with the entire situation and there was a group next to us who really found us funny and amusing. And there was a fact which totally illustrated how this phenomenon of every boy and girl being paired is much more a social dogma than a real personal desirability: all the women in the group were “crazy” about us, to an extent that we started feeling some discomfort about the entire situation. Since I had already predicted that perhaps the night would flow like this, I had made a plan B and had been in contact with the girl I had given my contact to in the night before. And because the female nature tells you that you only bang her if she really wants to, there she was in the club one hour after I had arrived, alone and just to meet to me. So after one hour more of dancing and making out with her, it was time to stop the joke and to play it for real: I invited her to come to my hotel, a proposal towards which she did not hesitate even for half a second. And, in the last day of the year, there I was adding an extra number to my accountability of 2016.
Day 4, Saturday: I could not wake up earlier to take the hotel breakfast so when I stood up at around 1:00 pm, I was starving as hell but hey, remember one of the biggest advantages of Colombia? So half an hour later there were Lewis and I eating a delicious rice with shrimps, with a natural juice included, for 12000 pesos (4€). But in Latin America, for every good thing, there are two bad and since we needed to pay the hotel room in cash, I had to find a bank to withdraw a considerable amount of money but such endeavor was not successful, as most of the banks would only allow taking ridiculous low sums. The rest of the afternoon was as forgettable as any Sex and the City episode and in the evening, because we knew all the Colombians would spend the New Year’s Eve with their families and therefore everything would be empty until 1:00 am, we decided first to eat in a cheap restaurant next to our hotel and then to buy some drinks to take to our room. It was perhaps the worst new year celebration I have had in years but, the older we get, the least importance we give to such events as our own birthday, Christmas or welcoming a new year. Already quite drunk, we left out room at 1:30 am, having again Menga as the destination, since we had already realized it would be the best option due to its nice logistics and number of people it receives. We entered the free-entrance Cafe Mi Tierra and some minutes later we were on fire on the dance floor, among ugly caleñas and some groups of foreigners. Among them, there was a cutie who drew my attention but it was with one of her friends, whom I had already seen dancing Salsa Cubana very well, that I started dancing Salsa LA style, which she knew how to follow perfectly. She was, not coincidentally, an American salsa teacher who had come to Cali to enjoy the Feria and its amazing atmosphere and music. After this, I initiated my “night raid” which began to be a total failure, after approaching two girls who were nice but did not give me any chance of going further in the interaction. By then I started to realize that I was getting more of the same, meaning lots of girls who were either paired with their guys or totally “protected” by their group. Since there you could not ask for a single drink – it seems that in Cali you can order either a bottle or nothing – I made many quick trips to the street vendors to get a beer for 4000 pesos (1.30€), to then get back into the club. The cutie I had seen before was now alone and it was my chance to invite for a dance, which she accepted with no hesitation. She was a British journalist who had already lived in Brazil and Mexico, therefore speaking Portuguese and Spanish, and had moved to Bogota recently. There was actually a nice connection between us but since she was with her friends and not drunk at all, I eventually collected her number, in case I would go to the Colombian capital during my trip. She then left the club, so it was time to turn the warrior mode again, with basically no results whatsoever. Meanwhile, my friend Lewis had most likely gone home already but I decided to go the club Jala Jala, to see if not only he was there but also there were more chances of getting lucky. I was able to “extract” a girl from her group, to dance a bachata song with me, and her hands got all over me. I was enthusiastic that this could eventually lead somewhere, but when the song ended and I was about to ask her some things, she just said in Spanish that she would need to get back to her friends. The rest of the night was just about wandering around, back and forth, in fruitless attempts of interacting with girls (honestly in the end, I was not even caring anymore about getting laid, rather in dancing, but even that was an impossible mission). In the previous four New Year’s evenings I had always, at least, made out with a girl, so who would say that Colombia, a country known for its joy, openness and party, would be the one which would give me the worst new year in years? Strange world the one we live in.
Day 5, Sunday: since this was a day of hangover and disappointment, there is not much worth telling. The only “productive” activity I had was to go Chipichape (supposedly the best place for daygame in Cali), a very nice open-air mall with plenty of food and shopping options, and where I finally could withdraw the money I wanted to, since in this place there are more banks than hotties. Talking about that, I only saw three stunners and they were all paired, so I would say that finding a top tier woman alone around here – or anywhere in Cali – is not an easy task. Even so, I recommend you to go there and try your luck, since it is a very safe place and attracts different strata of society. The rest of the day was spent at the hotel, writing some of these lines to you and watching Discovery Channel, more specifically a program about this guy who goes to isolated places with nothing else rather his camera, just looking for survival. Interesting how a human being can have such different purposes for travelling and living and, looking at the big picture, the one which Ed Stafford chooses surely is one the noblest purposes I have ever seen, a cause which deserves true respect and a sincere applause from within.
Day 6, Monday: it was my last day in Cali and also the more complete one. We woke up in the morning, took a nice breakfast and then went to Cristo Rey, the statue which is only beaten in terms of height by the one in Rio de Janeiro (12 meters difference), where we could have an amazing view over the whole city. We then came back to our hotel, still on time to have the unbeatable lunch of 8000 pesos and to take a nice sun in the pool. Later, I was able to convince Lewis to come with me to the gym, a very local, simple one I had found and whose daily use cost just 6000 pesos (2€). It was exactly the boost of energy and testosterone I needed, since I had not done any sport for one week. In the evening, we went to Topa Tolondra, a very nice place if salsa is your thing. As it is not my friend’s most preferred activity, he left the bar one hour and a half after we had arrived, when the bar was still not so crowded and not so cool. Coincidentally, it was after Lewis left that the place started getting full, with a good mixture of locals and foreigners and a good balance between normal and very good dancers as well. I finally was able to find three or four girls who could follow my type of salsa and I was having indeed a great time. Later on, I spotted I cute brunette who could not take her eyes of me and not much time passed until I approached her, toward which she reacted more than positively. We talked (she was asking me many questions, the top factor which shows a girl has interest on you), danced and she introduced me to her friends, and after a while I went for the kiss, which again she accepted with no hesitations. The night was hot, just as we both were, one of these moments in which two people are exactly in the same tune. Unfortunately, she had her sister and cousin sleeping at her place and I had Lewis sleeping at mine and, since I did not want to pay for an extra hotel room (maybe I was dumb, I know) we took a cab and then say goodbye to each other, with the “promise” that we would meet in the north of the country, still during my trip.
+ Prices: Cheap city, everything you can do around here is quite affordable;
+ Food: Great and, in most of the places, you can get it also for a ridiculous cheap price;
+ Music: Insane in terms of music, salsa clubs, artists and joy of the people…I promise you that you can not find better in the world!
o Logistics/Atmosphere/Attitude of people: The city is quite big and many things are quite far away from one another, so I would say the logistics is far from great; In relation to people, these are in general nice and if you go to a salsa party or event, they look happier than 99% of the world. But within any other situation, they are not so “warm” or welcoming as you would think in the first place.
o Quality of women: Neither good nor bad, but of course with a tendency to the latter;
o Accessibility of women: I could not tell that the caleñas were difficult, but they were not easy either. Most of the times, they looked just indifferent, not caring so much whether you are a foreigner.
– Nightlife: terrible for a single guy. If you pretend to go out and get lucky, Cali is one the worst places you can choose to do it so;
– Security: Cali is perhaps the most dangerous city in Colombia and, even If I did not feel it directly on the experience I had (apart from the phone stolen to Lewis), the city somehow gives you this feeling of instability;
– Points of interests: Except of Cristo Rey, I would say they are almost none, turning Cali into one of the most boring cities I have ever been in, especially taking into consideration its huge size and lack of options.
The verdict: Come to Cali only if you are really into salsa music and, of course, want to enjoy a big city with prices of a small one. The rest is either average (women) or really bad (its nightlife, for instance), so do not waste your time coming here if you do not know who Alberto Barros or Joe Arroyo are.