Colombia part 1: Salsa and plastic capital Cali

So my first night in Colombia was an overnight stop in Pasto (south part of the country) because I couldn’t make it all the way to Cali before nightfall, and I had been warned against overnight bus travel in Colombia in the guerilla-rich area close to the border with Ecuador. Pasto was apparently a very affluent city because of the spending habits of local narco-lords which I wasn’t sure whether was a good or bad thing…probably bad. But it was only a one night stop for me and I left early the next day so I really can’t comment. All I know is I had a nice sausage and some “arepa con queso” (hot cornbread with cheese mixed in smothered with butter) and stayed in a pleasant hostel (Koala).

The next day was an early jet to Cali, Salsa capital of Colombia. I also discovered Cali was the plastic capital (as in cosmetic).  The reason for this was explained as being because in days gone by when drug lords (of the Cali and Medellin Cartels in particular) had lots of influence they would prefer their girls buxom and glamorous, which encouraged a generation to look a certain way and apparently the trend has continued!

My own discovery was that this should be the capital of hamburgers. It’s hard to explain just how tasty these bad boys were but let’s just say everytime I bite into an XL bacon double chee’ from BK I will be disappointed from now on (as opposed to the normal ecstasy it delivers).

In short I loved Cali. I stayed for 5 days in a sweet hostel called Jovitas. It offered free daily Salsa and Yoga lessons and the staff didn’t speak English so I had to practice my Spanish. It was a cool vibe and I enjoyed the free salsa so much I partook in 3 private sessions with my lovely teacher Sofia.  I also met a great bunch of people which I’ve discovered normally has more influence on whether you like somewhere or not.

In the dance studio with Sofia.  Full-wall mirrors are a must if you want to perfect your dance moves:

The neighbourhood I stayed in was San Antonio which was the “bohemian” part of the city.  It’s set on a hill which offers  some cool views of the city:

Of course there is no point in learning without putting into practice and so I spent three nights in various Salsa clubs trying to not look like a complete and utter plonker next to the locals that had been doing Salsa since they learned to walk.  One night in particular we went to a place on the outskirts of the city called Las Brisas, which is a Cali institution, and the Salsa skills of the locals there were astounding.  I was truly in-awe and it made me quite jealous!

One night in the hostel there was a Salsa show put on by students who had completed a course in Salsa.  Here’s me with a couple of the Salsa stars in their full get-up.  They looked like tropical birds (in the ornithological sense, not the British slang sense) with their fake eyelashes and wot-not:

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