If you have heard of Cali, then you know that it is famed for its salsa music and dancing clubs. I won’t be able to tell you anything about either of these aspects. You may have even seen Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” show on Colombia, and learned about tejo, the sport of throwing a metal puck at an exploding target encased in clay, within a protective frame 20 meters away. I can’t tell you anything about this activity either. This is an example of how ‘traveling with kids’ can prevent you from experiencing certain parts of a culture. Thankfully, we were not coming to Cali to partake in the above adventures (I lie to myself), but rather to visit some American friends and meet their brand new baby boy.
Our friends, Mike and Sarah are teachers at a private International school in Cali, where they have been living for over a year. Despite the pressures of work, personal schooling, and taking care of a newborn, we were able to squeeze in a visit in their home, and a tour of the colegio where they work. This gave us some insight into expat living in Colombia, and its amazing educational opportunities for those with the funds. As you might infer from the photos below, the beautiful school campus boasts some stunning grounds and sporting facilities.
After our tour and quick lunch at Colegio Simon Bolivar, we grabbed a taxi to take a cold dip at the nearby waterfall/swimming hole in Pance.
While in Cali, we opted to stay in the older, historic neighborhood of San Antonio. This is an up and coming area with the bulk of Cali’s hostels, and a good selection of cafes and bars to entertain a younger set. Cali in the whole is still a little rough in appearance. Renovated buildings are side by side crumbling facades and cracked concrete. Poverty was perhaps more evident than in other neighborhoods we had stayed in, but I also appreciated the more blue-collar tone of our hood for keeping things real, and prices down, like $2.50 lunches! We spent our usual days walking from plaza to plaza, poking our heads into quick & sweet museums, contemplating de rigueur graffiti art, resting our feet in the seats of a church pew, eating mango biche (slightly sour mango slices doused in lime and salt) and convincing our kids that exercise is good for them.
Although there can be a little bit of a struggle to motivate our kids to leave the calm and comfort of our hostal, there was no problem when visiting a zoo was on our agenda. Personally, I have mixed feelings about zoos, as I question the quality of life of any caged animal, but I will frequently push aside my discomfort to please Stella and Gabriel, especially if I am assured that the zoo in question, has a good reputation. The Zoologio de Cali met this criteria and had rave reviews on TripAdvisor. We were genuinely impressed with the lush, jungle-like grounds, spacious exhibits, the clear signage and direction of paths, and the variety of South American wildlife. We were introduced to many animal species that we had never seen before, specifically primates and birds, and were fascinated by the exotic butterfly exhibit.
We still forced our kids to an hour walk back to San Antonio, breaking up the journey with an unplanned visit to the modern art Museo La Tertulia. We just happened to be passing on a free entry day, which I could never say no to. It was here that we were introduced to the vibrant abstract art of Jose Horacio Martinez, and had the privilege of actually watching the artist paint, adding a layer of details to various canvas works and even the grey walls of the installation space.
We ended up spending longer in Cali than we had originally planned. Both its affordability and surprising discoveries managed to keep our interest. I was more easily charmed by other cities in Colombia, but have to give Cali some cred.
“A Colombian Observation”:
Colombia is home of the hourglass figure – big ‘tetas’ and even bigger bottoms, popping out from cinched in waists. To be a desirable Latina involves flaunting your assets. Swing your hips like Shakira, and seductively shake out those long mahogany locks of hair. I might not have had the nerve to photograph some living examples, but these shots are surrogate versions: