12.03.2013 - 14.03.2013
Calí is not really a tourist town, which is one reason we liked it. The citizens are not slaves to the tourist trade, and therefore treat us as perhaps, curiosities, but not targets. We saw old churches and squares, but the highlight was watching and hanging with the locals.
During the day, we found a great coffee shop where the old dudes hang out and solve the world's problems. Well, that's what I imagine they do.
It seems that socialism occasionally has holes in its safety net. Those not willing or able to jump through the necessary hoops or stand in the correct lines still end up on the streets. Maybe a shortage of mental health/social workers. At any rate, there seem to be homeless people most everywhere. And I don't think they choose that lifestyle.
Calí is hot, so the action starts after the sun goes down. The city is known for its hot salsa. We did see some sort of drunk dancers, but since we were there on a Monday and Tuesday, we didn't witness the real deal.
Tuesday night we had a blast drinking and laughing with a couple locals at a mom & pop place, while watching a soccer match (Caracas v. a Brazilian team). They were obviously amigos, and loved to give each other a hard time. One is a Milan fan, and the other had a great time rubbing in their 0-4 loss to Barcelona earlier that day.
The Panamericana cuts through the Andes between Calí and Ecuador, and has suffered earthquake damage recently. Consequently, we waited in numerous stoppages where the road is one-lane due to damage/repair. Made for a long day, but the scenery was the most spectacular so far. Dramatic mountains, canyons, rushing rivers at the bottom, sheer drops from the road to another world below, patchwork mountainside farm plots in all shades of green . . . did I mention we are really digging South America? I hesitate to try to describe the scenery, because words (at least the ones I can figure out to use) do not come close to capturing actuality.
We spent the night (approximately 13 hours total) in Pasto, Colombia. My favorite part was seeing a large group of older women, all dressed on matching pink warm-up suits, exercising together in a circle in the square where I walked S&C in the morning.
From there, we made our way to the Ecuadorian border. The crossing was quite easy, except we caught the SOAT (mandatory insurance) office on their lunch break. So, we ate lunch too.
Three cows moseyed through the border area as we stood in one line. They found some nice grass just over on the Ecuador side.
Initial positive impressions of Ecuador:
The US dollar is the currency.
Gas is $1.48/gallon.
The mountains/landscapes continue to be spectacular.
We drove to (close to) the coast. Great road conditions, some rain, and increasing temps as we lost elevation. We are in the funky town of San Lorenzo, and happened upon a nice hostel that has been very recently renovated. We have been told that we are the only gringos in town, and feel welcomed.
Tomorrow, the beach!