In the few days I’d been in Cali I’d learnt there’s places and times when you can walk around the city. Not much different to any city. It’s just here you need to be a lot more selective. Like there’s a popular walk up to the three crosses mountain. But you don’t go after lunch. Beside it being too hot, you are warned it’s too dangerous. So I took the advice and headed off first thing the next morning. I could see why. Without the police presence and numerous others out for an energetic morning work out scrambling up the mountain track, I could imagine even during the day, you’d be doing quite a bit of looking over your shoulder. But it’s certainly worth every effort. A spectacular view awaits your arrival.
But while the stigma of drug lords and gangsters persist in the minds of the broader global community, it’s unquestionably a country in transition. And a country very proud of its moving forward. It’s not that long ago tourists would avoid this country. As one young Columbian lady told me, even she and many others left their her home town of Cali because it was too dangerous. She came back to visit five years ago. But what she found was things had changed. She’s been back ever since without any regrets. And the tourists numbers have been continuing to grow. (Maybe it’s also because of the great climate. Interestingly two dry and two wet seasons in the one year. Great idea really. Should suggest that to Darwin in Oz.)
The one thing Cali is famous for is Salsa dancing. Claimed as the world capital of salsa. By the way, while you think of salsa as originating from Latin American, it actually originated from New York in the 70’s. Regardless of who thought of it first, when in Cali do as the Calieans do…. go Salsa dancing….
It was the final part of the dance move we were being taught. It was very elegant watching the instructor. But in my case, well…. I was quite a lot taller than my Columbian dance partner. With my arm wrapped around this poor lady’s neck, to me it felt awkwardly more like a wrestling headlock. I’m not sure who looked more worse off. Me looking awkward trying to work out how to unravel from this situation or this poor lady being near choked to death. Unfortunately I had to leave Cali still wondering how this dance move magically unfolds!
Further north is the popular destination, Medellin. Once the world’s most murderous city. And this was only back in the 90’s until famous drug lord Pablo Escobar’s murderous control of the city finally came to end when the kingpin was gunned down in 1993.
While the people of Columbia have had to try and forget this part of their country’s past, it’s quite clear they are very proud of the new progressive direction they are heading. And they clearly express their gratitude to visitors who come here. And huge numbers, mainly young backpackers, doing the likes of the very popular daily city walking tour. In one part of the city, a level four alert area as the guide advised to wear backpacks on your front! But as in any city, being mindful of its hazards and stepping beyond the more “adventurous” part of the city, a far more positive and exciting side awaits. If you think of your own city or country would you advise people not to visit it because of its undesirable pockets. The same for Columbia. It has the stunning scenery you find anywhere such as in Austria, as modern infrastructure anywhere in the world, lovely people who create a vibrancy that explains why I have not heard of one person who has visited here does not rave about it and wanting to come back. My biggest disappointment is I didn’t have enough time here.
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