I left Buenos Aires for Cali on August 7th by way of Bogota. I had an entire day in Bogota and being the biking aficionado that I am, I decided to take a tour of the city with Bogota Bike Tours.
Some great graffiti! The National Museum
I had done the tour in 2017, but I never get tired of visiting the sites in this city and having a guide and being on a bicycle is definitely the way to go. I say that in all seriousness – there are parts of the city where you don’t want to be stuck without an escape route. A bicycle and a pair of strong lungs are my ticket to safety … anywhere … Having said that, these sites we visited are quintessential Bogota and a must see.
Among them are the graffiti lined streets, the fruit and vegetable market and we even made a mad dash through the red light district – a somber reminder of the often unseen reality.
We also stopped for some amazing coffee at a coffee roaster’s Cafe de la Fonda .
Cafe de la Fonda, Bogota
And last but not least we played Tejo, a Colombian game where you throw huge steel discs on to targets set in mud/earth that explode (yes there’s gunpowder involved). Welcome to Colombia!
Playing Tejo and having Poker
After the bike tour I had a great meal at “La Puerta Falsa” in the Candelaria neighborhood. I had Ajiaco and it was to die for! It’s a regional soup with chicken and you have it with corn and avocado.
Having Ajiaco at La Puerta Falsa
And since I was in the neighborhood and had the afternoon free, I took the teleférico (cable car) up to the Church of Monserrate at a height of over 10,000 ft, giving you an amazing view of Bogota all around. It is indeed named after the Monastery of Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain.
View of Bogota from Cerro Monserrate
The next morning I caught my flight to Cali and thus began round two in this amazing city. I was again staying at the Hostel Pajara Pinta in the neighborhood of San Antonio. I had my own private room. The hostel option is a great option because you have more communal areas such as the kitchen and dining areas, so it’s a great way to meet people and make new friends. That’s how I met Laura and Raul at breakfast one day. We ended up chatting for more than 2 hours. You see Raul Senior, their dad, was an avid cyclist and had started a bike club in Baranquilla where they live. The club’s name Biela Quilla is a play on words base on their home town of Baranquilla. Raul Senior was an upstanding member of society and he encouraged everyone to pick up a bike and ride to stay healthy. He was also a bit crazy, and would ride to far away places like Santa Marta and Cartagena. I can totally relate and my eyes lit up listening to stories about their father.
Sadly Raul Senior had passed away from cancer a few months prior. Laura and Raul were in Cali attending a national bike summit where their father was being honored. I was moved by their story and their devotion to their dad. Laura must have sensed it – she took one of her Dad’s bike jerseys out of a backpack and gave it to me. I was speechless. And honored. I promised her I would ride to the top of Mission Peak in my hometown of Fremont wearing it. A month later, on September 12th, 2019 I kept my promise and rode up to the summit of Mission Peak wearing Raul Senior’s Biela Quilla jersey.
Mission Peak, Fremont
I hope to visit Laura and Raul in Baranquilla one day and go on some rides with this wonderful bike club Biela Quilla.
The next person in the cast of characters is Paula. Paula is a friend of one of my cabin mates (from NY) during my trip to Antarctica eight months prior. So now Paula and I were connected by way of NY and Antarctica. Such is the beauty of traveling, never missing an opportunity and keeping an open mind.
Paula immediately invited me to a birthday bash for one of her friends. I got to hang out with local Caleños, other Colombians and a few foreigners from Greece and Germany. It was a really fun time. And I was immediately accepted into the group.
As luck would have it, this was the start of a week long music festival called “Petronio de Alvarez Music Festival”, fondly referred to as just “Petronio”. It was way more than a music festival – it was a celebration of Afro-Colombian music, food and culture. More than 100,000 people descended on Cali for this festival from all over the world.
With Paula and Soffy at Petronio
I made plans to meet Paula and her friends at the venue for Petronio, the first night I went (and there were many!). I almost didn’t find Paula. The network was so jammed that our messages were delayed by up to 15 minutes! And it didn’t help that we were moving with the crowd … but we eventually found each other and we had a great time listening to the music and dancing it up! I met Soffy, Paula’s friend that night and the three of us had an awesome time. We ended up leaving at a decent hour and getting dinner with some of their friends. I would be easing into the Petronio gently (many more nights to come!). And I had found my tribe in Colombia. I adore Soffy and Paula.
I repeated the festivities in Petronio a few times with my new found friends and one night we ended up going to an after party. I can say with certainty that the after party was even better than Petronio itself.
An entire street in a residential area transforms itself into a street for music, dancing and food. People actually move furniture around, offering their homes as part of this event. I think we left this venue at around 8:00 am. The energy just keeps you going and you cannot help being a part of it.
For the next few days I focused on my yoga practice and La Pajara Pinta had the ideal space for yoga on the second floor terrace. I made a few more friends and some folks joined me for yoga. One of the goals of this trip was to examine the role of yoga here among the locals as well as the travelers. And I was pleasantly surprised. I see Cali as having great potential for being a place to host future yoga retreats!
With Just a few days left of Petronio I went one more time with some fellow travelers from the hostel. It was a blast. I took advantage of the great seafood and I had a crab dish which was to die for! I could get used to Afro-Colombian Pacific influenced dishes!
This was the last night of Petronio and it did not disappoint. We all had a blast, made some local friends and danced the night away!
Right Photo: With Garcia, Alex, Soffy and Andres
Part of my extended Cali Tribe
And yes, we did go to the after party one last time!
Next stop Buenos Aires round two! Zig-zagging across South America! Watch for the next episode!