colombian diary - 2nd chapter - getting high in cali

Being my next stop after Bogotá, it was hard for Cali to score. Especially since the city isn't that charming no matter what was your previous destination.

Cali prides itself to be the Salsa capital of the world (Their words - sorry, Cuba).
Where others need an entire troop of musicians, this gentleman rocks the street all bye:himself.

One of the best things I did in Cali was...staying in my hotel room. We are booked into a huge room on the 19th floor at the Torre de Cali Plaza Hotel overlooking the whole city.

Room with a view by day...

Especially at night it seems that you are flying over the illuminated place.

...and by night.

Being a traveller, you are expected to leave your room from time to time, so we walked the city which didn't struck me as particularly striking. There is the Plaza de Cayzedo, but otherwise the center consists mainly of plain finance and business buildings overshadowing a teeny tiny colonial area.

One of Cali's main attractions is the Parque de los gatos where the visitor is greeted by Hernando Tejada's "gato del rio", and local and foreign artists painted about 15 cats to their liking. It's pretty, but there are the BuddyBears in Berlin designed in the same fashion, there is the worldwide cow parade, lions in Munich and Hamburg's symbolic "Hummel" - all painted by cut a long story short: The idea is far from being new and original.

Hernando Tejada: "El gato del rio"...

...and the rest of the catty gang. 

In cities it's always all about views, and Cali is quite mountainous. The problem with mountains is you have to climb them. And - after four days freezing in Bogotá, I say this joyfully - in Cali it's hot. Climbing in the noonish heat is sweat breaking. Hence it's disappointing when you reach the top and the city still doesn't look any prettier.

This is Sebastián de Belalcázar, one of the pleasant guys who conquered South America.

After climbing uphill and downhill a couple of times, we've had it and decided to pay Cristo Rey a visit. This Christ is overlooking Cali and prides himself being only 12 meters shorter than the one in Rio. Hm, I personally find 12 meters a lot. Anyway, we got on one of these busses I always thought existed only in clay and miniature size. But no, they are real, and passangers and goods are actually stacked according to the clay miniature models.

The bus ride is a truly Colombian experience and great fun, but it doesn't bring you all the way up to Christ. The last 1.5 miles you're on your own hiking uphill - in our case at 1 p.m. sweating and swearing. No wonder the construction worker at the site we passed presumed we were German. I hardly see any other nation walking uphill in the blistering sun around noon in South America.

Close to Thee. In cooperation with the sun, I even made Cristo Rey a halo.

Hacienda El Paraíso and Hacienda Piedechinche

To reach two ancient Haciendas from Cali is easy. It's easy and it's cheap, but it's neither very comfortable nor fast since you take one of these public busses where the driver stops abruptly as soon as he spots a human being of any kind so that the conductor can scream and shout and advertise the final destination. Then the new passanger is squeezed into the bus, and off we go - till the driver breaks again because of a potential passanger who often isn't one.
After about an hour you reach a 'cruze' at the town of Amaime where cabs are waiting to drive guests through a tree lined avenue along sugar cane and lush pastures. In front of the backdrop of the picturesque mountains tropical birds are overflying the sumptuous landscape - no wonder the first Hacienda's name is "El Paraíso". But the locals call it also "Hacienda María", and María is the main reason people are visiting this place. The owner's son Jorge Isaacs wrote the semi-biographic, hyper-romantic novel "María" in 1867 and since then every Colombian student had to cry over María's death at the tender age of 18 from a broken heart. So every detail of the former Hacienda and all explanations during the tour are wrapped around sappy María.
Nevertheless, the Hacienda is worth the visit because the 200 years old building is beautiful, and the views are breathtaking.

View from Hacienda El Paraíso.

Patio of Hacienda El Paraíso - including María's Roses. 

More complete is the visit to Hacienda Piedechinche, about five miles from El Paraíso. The building is older and it has no romantic story to it. Just a couple that had 16 kids who were mainly raised in boarding schools in the city (boys) and in cloisters (girls). These good people, too, made their fortune from sugar cane and abusing slaves; during neither tour was this fun fact emphasized, though.

What makes Piedechinche more special to me is the magnificent garden with numberless flowers and trees. It's like being Gulliver in the land of giants - overtowered by humongous cactusses, farns, fan tree name it.

Hacienda Piedechinche 

I must say I liked both places a lot, and if someone insists on giving me a Hacienda for a weekend home, I will gracefully accept the favor.

Did I inspire you? Planning on going to Colombia?
Get detailed information on the most interesting destinations that I've travelled bye:myself.

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