Heading into “El Valle” – Cali

It has been several weeks since I was in a place that is flat and wide. Not since I left the savanna of Cordoba as I headed to Medellin had I seen such large expanses with a horizon that goes on forever.

I had left the Eje Cafetero early in the day and decided not to stop over in Pereira, so I made it to Cali by mid afternoon. I had left the cold and rainy mountainous region and was loving the warm afternoon sun hitting my back as I cruised into Cali.

Although Manizales is a proper city, it still had a small town feel. Cali immediately hit me as a mature metropolis filled with loads of history and certainly the hustle and bustle of a city. The first thing that I noticed was… yes, you guessed it, traffic – and this was a Sunday afternoon. As I got further into the city, I pulled over into a gas station and punched in the name of the hostel where I would be staying, Hostal Ruta Sur, in the San Antonio district. This is the old colonial part of the city.

Some of the buildings are run down, but you can quickly tell this part of town is seeing a renaissance with lots of renovation and conservation going on. Some of the buildings are absolutely spectacular – and I was just about to be one of the lucky ones to be able to stay in one of these completely restored beauties.

The hostel didn’t have a sign in front, only the street number, so I went around the block a second time to be sure I was in the right address. It’s happened to me in the past that some of the streets, believe it or not, have more than one building/house with the same number. On the second go-around I stopped, pulled my essential gear off the bike and rang the door bell.

A young lass opened the door and as I inquired about a room, Claudia, the proprietor came out to greet me. She said that it would be fine to bring in the bike, but that for that night, she only had beds in the dorm room. “that’s fine with me”.

I took the side cases off, as it was a narrow passage into the courtyard. I popped the curve, negotiated the narrow double leaf door and parked the bike next to the hammock, yes, hammock. As I pulled the rest of my gear from the bike and stowed my hard-cases out of the way, I was handed a cold amber bottle with a refreshing frothy beverage in it. “You looked like you needed this” – I was immediately sold on this place! The rest of my stay at Ruta Sur was filled with great conversation, superb tips and information of the city and amazing service. If you are traveling to Cali, this is the place to stay.

After getting settled in, grabbing a much needed shower, I headed out to explore. Claudia had recommended walking up a few blocks to San Antonio Park where I would find a number of restaurants and bistros. Also, starting around 8 o’clock, the “Cuentistas” would start telling their tales. This is an amazing tradition in Cali, where Thursday through Sunday, story tellers and comedians of sorts entertain in an open air amphitheater at the top of the park working basically for tips. It did not disappoint.

Since I had to refuel the food tank, I got there after the cuentistas had started, so I had to stand in the back. I stayed for nearly an hour laughing and laughing. As I headed out, right next to the cuentista was a small stretch of concrete on a hillside next to the Church of San Antonio where kids would rent Coca-Cola bottle crates and ride them down the hill. They were having an absolute ball.

The next day it was time to drop off the bike at the Triumph dealer to get the tires swapped out. Here come the Heidenau Scouts.. Yippeeee! These are some badass tires that will take me the rest of the trip and give me the grip I need to do some of the off-road stuff I want to do in Peru and Bolivia. I had shipped them ahead from Monteria so I wouldn’t have to keep carrying them. Smart move if I do say so myself, as it was only $10 to do so.

I typed the address in trusty Waze and off I went… or so I thought. The address was for 6 Avenida, so Waze, sure enough, takes me to 6 Avenida. After about three times around the same block looking for the dealer with no luck, I stopped at a newsstand and asked if I was on the 6 Avenida. The attendant affirmed that I was, but also was kind enough to inform me that there was a 6 Avenida, a 6B Avenida and a 6A Avenida. After those handy instructions, I quickly made my way to the Triumph Dealership.

Quick Spanish lesson… in Spanish, the way you would write out 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so forth is by adding an “A” after the number… so it’s 1a, 2a, 3a… 6a… so sure enough, the address was 6a Avenida. So, after getting a few more instructions, I got to 6a A Avenida and sure enough, there was the Triumph dealership and Andres ready to meet me.