Cali is a trap. You go there, want to stay for a few days and then continuously extend your trip until you: 1) run out of money 2) get kicked out or 3) die of and old age.
It’s a trap. We all know it, we’ve all experienced it, we wouldn’t change it :p
I’m not even sure where or how to start here. I had not planned to go to Cali and it ended up being one those experiences I will never forget. Thank you Matt, who I met in Bogota, for suggesting I go to Cali. It changed my life.
My first night in Cali was actually pretty bad and both Matt and I were pretty disappointed. There was a weird vibe across the hostel, no one seemed particularly nice and on the second day I actually wanted to cancel it all and leave.
And then somehow everything changed.
The next morning I met Andrew and Eduardo at breakfast who told me about giving Cali a chance and how everyone ends up extending their stay at Viajero (I found that very odd, but ok).
During my first weekend in Cali we were lucky enough to experience something that doesn’t happen often. Elections. During that Saturday there was some tension in the air and after a certain time no shops were allowed to sell drinks because of the election the next day.
After having done my walking tour in Bogota, I understood a little bit about why this was so important. Colombia’s election delivered the country’s first left-wing president. Gustavo Petro, a left-wing senator and former guerrilla fighter, has emerged as the front-runner. Many of his proposed policies stand to shake up Colombia’s economic and energy policies, its diplomatic relations, and the implementation of a peace deal that seeks to end decades of internal armed conflict.
It was the highest turnout since the 1994 elections, at 58 percent, Gustavo Petro, 62, became the first leftist to win a presidential election in Colombia’s modern history. The parties on the street were absolutely mental and nothing like I’d never experienced before.
The elections celebrations took a tool on everyone and Monday was a little bit…. “Quiet”.
However, Monday nights are “La Topa” nights (the place for salsa dancing were locals and foreigners go to dance), and I can honestly say I’d never seen any dancing like that. It was pure pure joy! It was a “dance performance” without being a dance show off. The locals were not trying to show off or embarrass foreigners, they were just enjoying themselves and inviting everyone to dance. There’s no competition, only joy.
A man or woman extends their hand in your direction and you know you’re being invited to the dance floor. Your skill level does not matter, how much you enjoy yourself does! It was one of the best experiences ever.
After that, I decided to book two private dance classes for the next day, one at the hostel and one at Salsa pura dance school. Needless to say I absolutely loved it. Something happened during those classes that reminded me why I love dance (*a different blog post to be written about this).
However…. I was leaving the next day. I had already extended a day and I had a bus to Salento. My gut instinct was telling me to stay, but my plans and hopes to see Salento made me go. So I went.
My time in Salento was great (*different blog post about Salento coming soon) and I loved the town. I could have stayed for a while, but I didn’t. I went back to Cali.
Sometimes all you need is some distance, and a long hike in the muddy jungle to sort out your thoughts.
So, back to Cali I went!
As soon as I arrived I knew it had been the right thing to do. I booked 5 dance classes, I to a fantastic dance show with Andrew and Eduardo and it was just so heartwarming to hug Tahra again and see Luke and Jules.
It felt right. It was right. All was good.
I’ll always remember those days in Cali as some of the best I’ve had and where I’ve learnt and understood a lot about myself. Yes, the level of partying is beyond this world and I definitely partied too much, but there were also all those connections I created with people that I’m now taking with me forever.
And the salsa!!!! Omg the salsa. So much to say about how much this country cherishes and values this beautiful art form! (Apparently dance (salsa in specific) is heavily supported by the Colombian government. I’ll need to research more about this).
And finally…. to answer some of the last questions that Tahra asked me during our last dinner in Cali:
- What would I have done differently if I could?
- Nothing. What happened, the way it happened and with whom it happened are what made Cali so special. They are all moments I will cherish and remember, even the not so pleasant ones.
- One thing that I’ve learnt during my time in Cali?
- Follow my gut instinct. It’s a continuous lesson that I’m yet to learn, but I’m slowly getting better at it. I need to start “following that feeling” even if it was something I was always told not to do from a young age. I’ve been taught to think first, act after, but I think that’s a lesson I’ve got to unlearn.
- Do I think we have a purpose in life?
- I don’t think so. I think we play a role/purpose in each other’s lives, and we meet at the exact time and place we were supposed to, but I don’t think we have one sole purpose. Eduardo reminded me of my initial days of travelling, Tahra reminded me to keep my curious mindset, and Andrew brought pure light to my life. That was their role in my life, but I’m sure they will have a different role in someone else’s.
- I’m not sure what my role has been doing in other peoples life’s, but I hope it was helpful.
And to the people that I met… thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You are all fantastic. To the people in the hostel who make it such a fantastic place… Andres, Ariel, David… to the teachers, Michael, Brian, Johnny… you are beautiful humans. Thank you.
I know that I’m forgetting a ton of people, but I can not not write something about a few special ones.
To “my” Andrew… from your crazy life story to all the incredible moments we’ve spent together, I’ll never forget you. Your contagious laugher and dry British sense of humour made my days. I loved every moment with you. Thank you. Do put yourself first, do fight for what you want and don’t be scared to “go for it”! You might be surprised with the results 🙂
Tahra, another of those sisters I didn’t know I had in this world. Something happened during that lunch of ours that created something really special between us. You are one of the most self aware and curious people I know. One of the most accepting and most down to earth. What a privilege it is to have met you! And now that I have you in my life, I will not let you go 😉
Eduardo, the person who told me to “give Cali a chance”, and was so right! Who came shopping with me (which is always a challenge for me) and who showed me that investing in something (salsa dancing ) brings the most beautiful results. Thank you Eduardo.
Jules… I don’t even know what to say here. As you’ve said (and I agree), “keeping you on your toes” was a good thing, and your persistent commitment to the cause finally gave you a positive outcome :p keep being that inclusive social butterfly you are. Keep helping others, specially when they’re starting out. It’s a scary place to be, and having someone like you helping us through those “first steps” (literally), changes everything. Keep being fiercely you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Luke, “mate!”. The laughs, the good times, the open smiles everytime I saw you. You, my darling, are precious.
Brixton (Ollie), I’m not sure where you are now, but the little time I spent chatting and laughing with you was brilliant. Thank you for “meeting me twice”. I’ve never laughed so much in a club. Welcome to the alzeihmer crew heheh.
José and Sarah, our Irish crew! Wherever you are, keep it up! Jose… hope those “spirits” allow to sleep well at some point and Sarah, keep dancing! I hope to be lucky enough to see it at some point.