I have to say I liked Bogota. Would I live there? No, I would not. As a tourist, when you stay in a place for a brief period, you tend to see the good parts of an area. Tourist attractions. The grand squares. The entertainment areas.
As I made my way out of the city by bus I got to see the parts most of the population lives. Significant traffic problems. Major pollution and very few services.
Because Colombia is still a developing country, I can understand why they cannot afford to implement pollution standards on their cars yet. Also, it costs money to build roads.
I think not providing services such as parks where people live is one of the biggest mistakes cities make. People need to live in a place they can socialise.
My own country capital Dublin went trough a massive house building boom in the early 2000s. Profit was the primary driver. There are large parts of Dublin now full of housing estates with minimal services. Those decisions eventually come back to bite.
My journey south took five hours. It took two hours to get out of Bogota. That was after a taxi journey of one hour to the bus station.
My target destination was Cali in the south. I did not fancy the thirteen hours on a bus, so I decided to stop off in the city of Ibague in central Colombia.
So far on my trip, I have booked full apartments on AIRBNB. The cost has been about seventeen euro a night. In Ibague, I went a bit different. I booked a room in an apartment for eleven euro per night. I stayed three nights in Ibague.
It worked out well as I had full use of the top part of the apartment with a balcony. I was the first non-Colombian that stayed there, so they were a bit nervous. It worked out fine.
For a city of over 500,000 people, Ibague felt very quite. I don’t think it gets many tourists but I enjoyed the three days there. The people were friendly, and at times I felt like the only tourist in town.
I did have a guy ask me could he take my picture when I was in a park. I thought it was a picture with me. He wanted a picture of me alone. A bit of a strange request but I said why not. He took the picture and walked away pleased with himself. I have decided not to overthink too much why he wanted it.
After three days in Ibague, I made my way to the bus station for what I was told was a seven-hour journey to Cali. Ten hours later, I arrived in Cali.
The roads for the most part in Colombia are not great. The main routes are full of trucks bringing their produce to the cities. On the mountains, this means one long traffic jam. It is like being part of a convoy.
I have taken three buses so far. I am sure I have been the only gringo on the bus on all three trips.
For my trip to Cali, I decided to do something I have not done since I was twenty-two years old. Stay in a hostel.
I can be a social and unsocial person at times. It is a part of me that I don’t think is going to change at this stage of my life. I never know which one I am going to be from day-to-day. That is just the way it is.
Staying in an AIRBNB apartment, you can get isolated. To counter this I am going to mix my accommodation between having my own place and hostels.
I have one thing I won’t do. I need a room on my own. I was able to get a small private room in the hostel for eleven euro a night.
I have enjoyed the hostel for the most part, but there are times I want to walk around naked as I can do in an apartment.
One thing I have noticed as an Irishman over the past few years travelling is how the interaction when you meet a fellow Irish person has changed. There was a time if you met another Irish person on your travels you bonded immediately.
I suppose the world has changed and become smaller. I met a young couple from the Irish midlands in Cali, and a barely got a grunt from them.
That has not been my first time this has happened over recent years. It is mostly a youth thing but not every young person. I met two very lovely young guys from Dublin in Medellin. Ireland is undergoing massive changes but not all for the good.
So what is Cali like? To be honest, Cali is more about the people than the place. It is called the capital of Salsa, and you don’t have to go too far to find Salsa.
Cali is not the prettiest of cities. There are a few places with some nice architecture but not many. I have not seen much evidence of original Spanish architecture so far on my South American trip. I am a bit surprised as in Havana Cuba, in the old town has some great Spanish style buildings.
So far on my trip trough, Colombia Cali feels like the first place I have felt I needed to be aware of my surroundings. At night the city centre is advised as a no go area. I usually take this advice with a pinch of salt as I think if there is an area with 1000s of people socialising you should be ok.
In Cali, I am taking this advice 100%. I have witnessed a few incidences of pickpocketing in the tourist areas. Yes, this can happen anywhere, but a lot of people are desperate so it can happen more here.
On Sunday I will continue south to Popayan I had not planned to go there but I like Colombia so far. Who knows it may up to be my favourite. After that, I will go to the border town of Ipiales. It is not recommended as a place to visit so I will just overnight there.
The next morning I will make my way to the border with Ecuador just 3km from the town. Hopefully, the crossing will be uneventful, and I will begin country number two on my South American trip.
If you want to see a short video of my time in Cali click below.
Join me on my journey.
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