After a quick overnight stay in the colonial town of Popayán, Colombia, Graham and I made a speedy departure the afternoon of May 31st so that we could arrive in Santiago de Cali in time to meet my friend Sean (a guy I met in Mancora, Peru who now lives in Cali) to catch the friendly football/soccer match between Colombia and Senegal. We watched the match in a bar in the seedy part of town (which is really not unlike the rest of Cali) before traipsing up a nearby hill to reach a people-filled park with beautiful views over the city. Sean took us to a quirky little roadside cafe with the best arepas (corn flatbread stuffed with deliciousness) I’ve ever eaten.
That night I left Graham to fend for himself at our somewhat-party hostel and joined Sean in Alameda, a barrio known for its nightlife and swinging salsa clubs. In fact, Cali is known as the World Capital of Salsa, and we spent the evening sipping Poker beer and watching the Caleñas spill out of small sweaty garage-like salsa bars and into the surrounding streets while showcasing their impressive dance moves. Just another Saturday night in Cali.
The next morning, feeling rather exhausted from my late night of salsa-gazing, I went out for a day of “Tiffany Time,” treating myself to a ladies-who-lunch-esque vegetarian brunch followed by an afternoon steadily losing the plot at La Tertulia Modern Art Museum. By the time I got back to the hostel, the Sunday night party was in full swing, so after a few so-adolescent-it’s-fun drinking games and pizza, I was convinced to go out to a salsa super-club. About five minutes after arriving at the cringe-worthy neon-blue sterile A/C pumped club straight out of my worst flashbacks of Dubai circa 2007, I found myself alternating between stifling yawns and wanting to gouge my eye out with the icebreaker; needless to say, I brought out my perfected ninja sneak-out move and was soon back at the hostel,snoozing in my uncomfortable dorm bed.
The next day, I again met Sean and his roommate Isabel–a professional salsa dancer–at a nearby outdoor theater to check out an annual national salsa competition. It was incredible to watch the professional dancers do their thing; in other news, I had to stop counting how many wardrobe malfunctions and nip slips I witnessed. It was a great day, and we spent a lazy evening hanging out at Sean and Isabel’s flat.
The following afternoon, after relaxing in the hostel and working on my blog, Graham and I headed to the terminal to catch a night bus to the capital city of Bogotá. We arrived early the next morning, and after checking into our hostel, we walked to the center of town to explore the Botero Museum.
Fernando Botero is a famous Colombian artist (from Medellín) known for his over-exaggerated, chubby paintings and sculptures of people and figures. I spent my entire day in that museum, mesmerized, wandering around corridors overflowing with Botero’s art and works by Picasso, Matisse, Dali, and others. Unfortunately, we only had one short day in Bogotá, as we had a flight out the next morning, but I swore that I would make every effort to come back to Bogotá soon.
After a short flight, Graham and I arrived the next afternoon–June 5th–in the sticky Colombian Amazon border town of Leticia. We checked into our hostel and then immediately taxied across the border to the dusty wild-west town of Tabatinga, Brazil to purchase our Amazon boat tickets. As there was no formal border crossing, we had to make a visit to the local immigration office. As you may remember, procuring my Brazil visa was a rather easy affair, thanks to my shameless flirting with Flavio at the immigration office in Lima, Peru.
Unfortunately, the guy at the Immigration desk in Tabatinga was not impressed with my All-American blue eyes and accompanying eyelash-batting, and just as I was losing all confidence in legally entering Brazil (I had no yellow fever certificate. I had no flight out. I had no idea where I was staying. I had no idea of my itinerary. I didn’t have time to make up answers to these questions, as I wrongly assumed flirting would be the answer.), he stamped my passport and shooed me away like a pesky fly.
The next two days were spent sweating, preparing for our upcoming four-day boat ride down the Amazon river, sweating, meeting new friends and fellow boat travel companions, and sweating. I was on the cusp of a very exciting and unforgettable trip of a lifetime! World Cup Brazil 2014, here I come!