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Traveling Through Colombia in a month – Part 2: on the road from
Bogota to Cali

Previously in Colombia Travel Blog by Marcela:

Part one of the Traveling through Colombia in one month was published,
Marcela mapped out her trip through Colombia, kissed her parents good
bye, and headed Lucerito

– her 1998 Pajero truck – from Bogota to Cali, the salsa city….

After about 2 hours driving through the renewed and therefore smooth
motorway, the scenery color gradually changes from a dark green forest
tone to an array of green

tonalities sparkled with colors of flowers and fruit trees, that and
the hot weather announces that you’re not in Bogota anymore.

My first stop was for an abundant Colombian breakfast at a joint
called “Parador Rojo” just before entering Melgar ( a town close to
the home of the Panches tribe and 98k

from Bogota). El Parador Rojo is one of those typical Colombian
roadside restaurants where you can see people of various places and
origins, they have a huge buffete

with fresh eggs, arepas, bread, coffee or hot chocolate and a big
selection of fresh fruit juices or if you have a truck driver's belly
they also have an absolutely delicious

beef soup or a stake with fried eggs and rice.... mmmmm!

Besides its weather, Melgar is known for an astonishing wavy and rocky
canyon above the river Sumapaz. This canyon takes you down from 1700
m.a.s.l. to 250 m.a.s.l

in about 45 minutes and is famous because there is a huge rock that's
sticking out of the rock with a nose like shape that the locals call
"Nariz del Diablo" – The devil's

nose. Back at Lucerito and with enough energy gathered for the
remaining 6 hours of driving I had ahead, I stocked myself with loads
of water bottles to fight the

increasing heat (28 C at this point) and took the Panamerican Highway

The next checkpoint in my map was Ibague, a city located in a major
rice plantation area, which is the point in which you start ascending
to Colombia’s central mountain

range “La cordillera Central de Colombia” , but on the way there you
have to pass by Giardot, a small and lively city at the banks of the
Magdalena river where many

Colombians have their “fincas” , literally translated as “farms” but
the word is actually used to name colombian’s holiday homes ( I’ll
write a post about Colombians and

their fincas soon), anyway, before reaching the entrance to the Andes
you have to pass the cities of Espinal and Guamo too.

It was around noon already when I finally reached Ibague to fill the
tank up in order to get ready to face the road leading to the picks of
the Andes. This part of the

Panamerican Highway is known as "La Linea" (the line) , firstly
because the highest pass of the Cordillera is also called “La Linea”
and second because, oh irony!, the

road is nothing like a straight line. La Linea is the road that
communicates both sides of the Colombian Andes, meaning it is a very
busy trade route, so it takes about 3

hours (but only 35 kms) to get from 1200 m.a.s.l. to 3,500 m.a.s.l.,
through a wavy and misty road full of buses, trucks and cars.
Once again, as it is usual in Colombia, the scenery changes
dramatically…as well as the temperature, the thermometer was now
showing 10C – 18C less than before!. I

stopped for a bit to put my jumper on and to check if there was any
signal in my mobile phone to report back home, but and there was
none. It took me a about further

two hours to get down from the central mountain range of the Andes and
to reach one of the most spectacular landscapes of Colombia: The
Triangle of Coffee, a

destination that I planned to visit after Cali, so after reaching
Armenia , the first city in El Triangulo del Café I took the left
road, to Cali (The right one would have taken

me to the triangulo).

Just before reaching Armenia I stopped in Calarca for lunch. This is
the first town right at the bottom of the Andes. There, I had a
beautiful plate with red kidney beans,

rice, mince beef and avocado called bandeja paisa; very popular and a
traditional dish around this area. Having finished my lunch I headed
towards Armenia and then Cali,

the salsa capital of Colombia. The road, as opposed to a couple of
hours ago, turns into a very straight motorway surrounded by sugar
cane plantations and wineries. This

area is called el Valle del Cauca, is where all sugar consumed in the
country comes from. I could see on my left hand side the Andes and on
my right the huge sugar cane

farms. From time to time I came across some of the biggest trucks I
have ever seen carrying sugar cane to be processed.

About one hour later I finally reached the last toll before entering
Cali. 9 hours and 479 kilometers later, I finally entered Cali and
started looking for the hostel I was

planning to stay that night not far from the 6th Avenue. Luckily
Cali as the rest of the cities in Colombia have their roads divided
into Calles and Carreras identified by

numbers which means is quite easy to find your way around once you
know that the numbers decrease towards the mountains. The other good
thing is that you can

always ask a taxi driver for directions and they will be more than
happy to help. After running up and down a couple of blocks I finally
reached Calidad House. I parked

Lucerito a block down the hostel and after calling home to say that I
was ok and happy, had a shower and went straight to bed. I had to rest
to get ready for the week

ahead as I was planning to catch up with a few friends for some salsa
nights and also to visit some of the most amazing local sugar farms
and doing some rafting and

paragliding…. All that and more in my next “ Travelling to Colombia
in one month” entry about Cali.

A few tips...

- If you are driving have in mind that there are at least 5 tolls with
an avarage fee of $7.000 or US$4.
- Driving time varies between 7 to 9 hours depending on traffic.
- There are plenty of petrol stations all the way.
- If you want to go by bus try Expreso Bolivariano they are good and
have buses almost every hour, every day. Tickets are $60.000 or U$30.
- I stopped for lunch in a very local little restaurant which I loved.
Is called Gusto y Sabor, Calle 38 N 25 - 30 tel 7422095 - Calarca.
- If you are going on a budget try Hostal Calidad House, they are
friendly and well located. If you prefer to stay in a hotel try Cali
Plaza Hotel well located too with rates

from US$75 for a double to U$190 for a three bed apartment. Some other
excellent hotels are Dann Carlton, Four Points and Raddisson.

However, the best of Cali are its surroundings.... but that is going
to be my next post' subject so until then...