We have really enjoyed our time here in Cali so far. The best day was one we enjoyed the care of our gracious Airbnb hosts. The experience we had with them encompasses everything we imagined Colombia would be. Generous people, staggering diversity in nature unspoiled by tourism and so much delicious food. The food in Colombia is a metaphor for the culture that exists here. Like the food made from simple ingriedients, the pure sweetness of Colombianos and the diverse richness of the countries flora and fauna blend together to yeild a bold complexity in flavor and feeling that fills you up and leaves you wanting more!
We experienced all of these things about Colombia on Sunday afternoon in the Andes.
Our hosts invited us for a Sunday drive through the mountains. A generous offer and an invitation we gladly accepted. The Farallones de Cali Mountains are a cluster in the West Andes that rise up directly to the west of Cali. They are so close and green, we couldn’t wait to do some exploring.
We set out in the late morning. It had looked like it might rain at first but by the time our hosts arrived to pick us up the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining. We set out with the promise of cooler temperatures as we began our ascent up the first mountain. A welcome prospect as Colombia as a whole has been too hot at some points. Something I never thought I would say about temperature before Colombia.
The city soon disappeared from view as we wound our way around the first mountain on a fairly steep incline. It felt like a winding climb to the top on a rollercoaster in 2 ways, the inertia, and the anticipation. Sweeping views of the city reappeared some time later as the skinny Mountain pass coils around like a snake.
The scenery along the undulating road reminded me how much I loved the mountains back home in Canada. These mountains were totally different but no less beautiful. A thousand shades of green from the base to the very top. There are so many varieties of plants and trees.
The drive reminded Rob and I of many beautiful places we have driven in the world and the best part was we got to remember the best views and experience the best of something new that day driving through the Andes. We were hypnotized by all we saw new and remembered from the past.
We sped up the mountain rocking back and forth with the twists and turns of the road. There are small towns and outcroppings of vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, sausage, bread and local Colombian specialties all along the mountain road. The smell of wood stoves, the primary cooking method up in these parts was carried on the breeze. I love the smell of a wood stove.
After driving for about an hour, our guides pulled the car into a roadside restaurant. It was amazing; almost all out doors with lovely flower filled gardens home to hydrangeas, bird of paradise, bougenvelia and roses, so many beautiful roses. The garden was buzzing with fuzzy bees and the fluttering wings of bright colored humming birds.
We sat on a covered veranda and enjoyed a Colombian feast of san coacho, fried plantain, and ajiaco soup. All cooked over hot coals from hard wood burned in a rustic stone oven. The flavors were amazing. Stopping for lunch was an unexpected surprise, an awesome unexpected surprise. The food was authentic Colombian as was the atmosphere. I absolutely love the people and the food in this country!
We got back on the road to continue our journey. Then our hosts announced we were on our way to the next destination, we must see the most beautiful mountain lake. Soon after the restaurant we made it to the summit and began our decent down the other side blown away by the giant swath of the intense green that coverd the deep valley.
The valley floor was covered with fields of pineapple and sugar cane. There were acres and acres of them. Rob said it reminded him of Oahu when he was a kid. The red earth that grew the delicious crops reminded me of Argentina. The earth looked so rich and fiery like the red rock we saw on a drive from Salta to Cafayate. It was breathtaking, both times, because of the bold contrast between red earth and lush green growth.
We drove for quite a while deep into the mountains until we reached a fork in the road. It was straight ahead to Buenaventura or left up the next mountain. Our hosts took us left and we were shocked how much ground we had covered already. Makai fell asleep as we climbed slowly to the next summit.
This stretch of road was dominated by tractor trailer trucks transporting goods from the port in Beunaventure to all over Colombia. Our host Therry navigated her little car passing the slow hulking trucks like a pro. There were times there were trucks moving on both sides and we squeezed through the middle to make a pass. It had started to rain and that added to the excitement. We now understood why she was wearing racing gloves to drive. She gripped and worked that steering wheel like a rally car driver.
Then the rain stopped and the clouds cleared and we were there, Lago Calima a huge sparkling lake nestled in the mountains. It was like a giant Safire set in deep pillow of green velvet. We drove around her shores watching kite surfers fly around on the lake skimming the shining surface. We stopped at a lakeside resort to get a closer look.
We all took in the view and stretched our legs. We truly got to experince the best of Colombia that afternoon. The afternoon drive delivered everything we imagined Colombia would be like and I am so thankful to our hosts for helping us see this side of Santiago de Cali. We enjoyed it so much we are planning a few more day trips to the mountains during our stay in Cali. Here are some reccommenations on TripAdvisor for things to do in the mountains around Cali:
- Pance River is to the South of Cali. It is a popular outdoor excursion for locals to swim and play. The river remains unpolluted and the atmosphere is welcoming to visitors and locals alike. Buses run from Cali to Pance daily. You can visit on Sunday when locals usually make a day of it or check out a little further along the river for a more tranquil river experience.
- Reserva Natural Nirvana Has a nursery, botanicle garden over 8 miles of nature trails. An environmental educational center, Nirvana offers tours and has a restaraunt offering delicious Colombian specialties.
- Calima Lake is the largest artificial lake in Colombia. It has become a place for different water sports and leisure activities like kite surfing and wing surfing. There are vacation centers, restaraunts and camping spots all around the lake.
- Cerro De Las Tres Cruces is quite a climb but worth the amazing views. Go early in the day to avoid over heating and don’t forget the sunscreen.
- The Museum of Sugarcane at the Hacienda Piedechinche 42 kms from Cali. It is a lovely way to experience local culure in this area and learn about the importance of the sugarcane industry.