Santiago de Cali, known to all as simply ‘Cali’, is the major city in the southwest of Colombia, famous as the capital of salsa dance but also having a reputation as a bit of a rough area.
Most backpackers that stop at Cali only do so for a day or two en route to San Agustin, to break up the journey and do a salsa lesson maybe. We probably wouldn’t have visited Cali but then chose to fly from there to Bogota and on to the Peruvian capital Lima.
Also, having met the kind Posada family in Salento they had offered to put us up in a nice hotel for a night and so it worked out beautifully! The hotel was the 5 star Hotel Spiwak Chipichape, in the upmarket Chipichape district.
It was the fanciest place we’d stayed on the whole trip (and still is) and was connected to a modern shopping mall. We decided to spend two nights in Cali and so spent the first night at another nice (but cheaper) hotel, Hotel MS Chipichape Superior, down the road from the Spiwak. It was a real treat after staying in hostels up to that point.
We decided to do ‘normal’ things in Cali, that we might do on a regular week in London: window shopping in the mall, a trip to the zoo and the cinema.
Cali Zoo is regarded as the best zoo in Colombia. As well as species indigenous to Colombia and South America, the zoo has lots of animals from all over the world, including an Australian outback set up.
The enclosures I remember best are the butterfly walk-through enclosure, the monkeys, the kangaroos, emus and ostriches, zebras, tigers (including a white one), lions, flamingos, and a massive grizzly bear.
After spending a few hours in the zoo, we got a cab to the San Antonio area which is meant to be the backpacker zone. There was nothing going on there, so after wandering for a bit we headed back to Chipichape.
We didn’t have any memorable meals in Cali, mostly eating in the mall restaurants for convenience.
We went to see the new Ghostbusters film (or Cazafantasmas as it is called in Spanish) which was in English with Spanish subtitles. Distinctly average, but only a few quid each.
We flew to Lima, via Bogota, the next day with Viva Colombia, with the flight only costing about US $150 so a really good price.