10th to 15th May

Saturday 10 May

It’s with some sadness that we leave David’s family, Quito, and Ecuador today. We had planned to cross the country in 10 days, but in fact, we stayed three weeks: Ecuador captivated us, for its people, the landscapes, the diversity, the dynamism! this country is really a great touristic destination.

This morning, we take the bus to Colombia. As there is no bus going directly to Colombia, we take a bus to Tulcan, and from there, we’ll cycle through the border. As Maritza had told us, the landscape is very beautiful between Quito and Ibarra. We arrive in Yulcan at 15h, it’s still time to eat something quickly. Then we go to Colombia. There is no problem to pass the border. In Colombia, we go to the first city, Ipiales and take a bus to Pasto, our destination today.

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We arrive in Pasto around 20h, it’s totally dark. Fortunately, Jaime and his son Cristian have to pick us up. They are the family of a friend of Oscar, a classmate of Mick that we will meet in Calí. We cross the whole city behind their car, but with all the bags in the car. The bicycle is so light, nervous, now. At their house, they have as pet a big white rabbit, called Copito.

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Sunday 11 May

We have breakfast with the family, and then we go out to visit the city. There are many churches in Pasto. Unfortunately, they are either closed, or having a mass. So we cannot enter. The centre of Pasto is quite small, and within one hour of strolling, we have seen most of the streets. Today is the Mother’s day (Día de la Madre), so many people in the street sell flowers, cards to celebrate it, posters, and the bakeries are full of cake.

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We go to have lunch in a small restaurant. Here, an employee is charged to open and lock the door behind the customers: are they afraid too many people enter? Or that a customer leaves without paying? In the afternoon, we meet Nata and Anthony, a friend of his. As outside it’s raining, and many things are closed, we go to Anthony’s house for the afternoon. We laze around, watching videos and making some origamis.

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Monday 12 May

We get up very early today, so that we can take the first bus to Cali. Like this, we hope to arrive not to late in Cali, and go to Oscar’s house before sunset. We take the bus that leaves at 7h30, we didn’t even have time to take breakfast.

On the road, we see the many soldiers Jaime was talking about. As soon as we arrive in more wooded areas, there are soldiers patrols every kilometre or so, wearing pistols, machine gun, huge radio, ! It is impressive to see this strength deployment, and we start to believe that the buses at night have to make a caravan, taken in charge by the army, to cross these areas. Coming with the risk of guerrilla, the landscape is absolutely wonderful. It’s a never-ending succession of canyons, green mountains, with clouds in the sky. The road is always winding. For sure, it would have been a delight to do it by bike, but our safety goes first. In the afternoon, we enter the Valle del Cauca department (the one of Cali), and the landscape becomes more normal.

We arrive at the terminal of Calí just before sunset. There quite a lot of traffic, and they don’t respect much the cyclists! it reminds me of India, where we learnt a sportive riding of the bike. Once again, we are well received by Oscar and his family. In the evening, we go to visit the Universidad del Valle, where Oscar used to study. There are still some students, getting out of classes now, at 21h! (It is suited for the students who have to work during the day to pay for their studies)

Tuesday 13 May

The morning is very relaxed: after getting up late, we go to the swimming pool of the residential complex.

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For lunch, we go to the nearby modest neighbourhood, to eat typical food: a soup of beans, meat or fish with rice, potato, yucca, banana.

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Then, we go again to the Universidad del Valle, to meet some professors related with the chemistry and environment. You can find the report of our meetings, about fuel cells and paper making, at this entry.

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With the satisfaction of having met someone who will change our world (at least a little) we now go to an indoor climbing room. It’s the first time we will practise since Thailand. There are many young people, in a friendly, casual atmosphere. In the middle of the room, there are ribbons hanging. And between two attempts of climbing the ways, we see two girls practising some circus acrobatics with these ribbons: they climb, make knots on their body so that they don’t need to hold any more, let themselves fall only to get stopped at the last moment by the ribbons. It’s really impressive to see this here, in the middle of the room.

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Wednesday 14 May

After another lazy morning, between breakfast, computer and swimming pool, we enjoy the lunch prepared by Oscar, the father of Oscar: frijoles. It is red beans in which he has added tomatoes, onions, spices, chorizo, pork skin, ! It is delicious!

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In the afternoon, we go to visit Cali. We start with the Loma de la Cruz, a hill on which the artists, bohemian people, used to come! a little like Montmartre in Paris. Then another hill, to reach the San Antonio chapel, from where we have a great view on the city. Cali does not have a lot of skyscrapers, it does not look so modern.

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On the way, we can drink some specialities of the Valle del Cauca: the champus and the cholado. The champus is a juice of corn, with lulo, pineapple, cinnamon, orange tree leaves, panela (sugar cane juice solidified). The juice is very good, but it’s weird to eat the corn at the same time. The cholado is smashed ice, with colorant and taste powder! it’s chemical, but good and refreshing.

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On another hill (yes, there are many hills in Calí, the highest ones having a Jesus or three crosses), there is the statue of Sebastián de Belalcazar, the founder of the city of Santiago de Calí, showing the sea. On the Cali river, we find the Gato del Río (cat of the river) sculpted by Hernando Tejada. But he is not alone, he has many lovers chasing him.

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Following the Cali river, going towards the centre of the city, we encounter a jewel of gothic church: the chapel of the ermit.

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We have dinner on the 6th avenue (for some things, we feel the US in not far), at Crepes and Waffles: here all the employees are single mothers (generally widows due to the guerrilla).

Cali is the capital of salsa in Colombia, and maybe worldwide. However, the city seems to be sleeping on Tuesday and Wednesday. Neither yesterday nor today we found a place for dancing salsa: they are all closed or empty. It’s a pity. I hope it’ll be better in Medellín.

Thursday 15 May

Today, Oscar brings us to a rural part of Calí, the Pueblito Pance. It’s in the South of the city, going in the mountains. We have to take a small bus to reach it. As we climb, it seems we arrive to the end of the world: mountains all around. And anyway, the bus leaves us and goes back, there is nothing further. All the emotions to arrive here safely have whetted our appetite: we order a typical bandeja: beans, rice, meat, salad! Anf a delicious local organic coffee.

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After lunch, we are invited to visit the garden, where they grow coffee plants.

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Then we start climbing up the path. We follow the Pance torrent up: it is very turbulent. As we arrive to a correct place, we get ready to swim. But surprise: the water is much colder than expected! maybe 15ºC. And with the strong current and low depths of the torrent, it’ll be hard to swim.

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So we just enjoy to get wet, admire the landscape, when someone comes to disturb our idleness: a big black dog comes with a big branch in his mouth. Apparently he wants to play. We start gently, then stronger and stronger, till we see that he does not fear to jump into the bubbling water of the torrent to cross it. He’s really impressive, and does not want to rest: as soon as the branch is caught, he runs back to us, for another throwing.

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We go down not too late, because we have the bus for Medellin tonight. As we have to wait two hours to get the next bus at the village, we go down, to the next city, to take the bus. A patrol of police accepts to drive us down. At the house of Oscar’s parents, we pack up everything fast and leave.

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We cross the city of Cali at high speed (what? The red light was for us?) and finally reach the terminal on time. We have to negotiate a bit with the driver to put the bikes in the bus.

Here is the video of these days, where you can enjoy the exploits of the dog: