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Cali, Colombia is my hometown. I have been back countless times since my move to the states at 6 years old, but this visit took on new meaning. I was taking my boyfriend for the first time and was dedicated to being the best tour guide considering we are both adventure/travel junkies. In preparation for our trip, I thought of the best things to do, see and eat. I wanted to incorporate those into our itinerary, in doing so; I realized I had to dream up the best of Cali in a week. Food, obviously being the most important factor was my first challenge. We went to Platillos Voladores (Colombian fusion), El Obelisco (mini empanadas) and even a wannabe American sports bar where we indulged in a traditional “American sampler”. When we weren’t eating out, my family was stuffing us with traditional Colombia food. (This won’t be a problem for most travelers, unless they decide to stay with my family). The food in Cali is undeniable delicious, yet it’s the breathtaking scenery which truly draws one in.
In a few days, we were able to experience beauty from high above in several unique locations. Perched atop a mountain just west of Cali stands the magnificent Cristo Rey Monument – where a statue of Christ looks out over the vast valley below. The contrast of the fertile farmlands against the density of the city created a compelling, lasting impression. On another day, we drove a narrow, winding road up the mountainside to the town of Dapa. During this ascent, perhaps our greatest memory of this trip was born. We parked our car alongside a bend in the road, and squeezed through a small gap – where the slightest slip would result in a painful introduction to rusty and jagged barbed wire. Our reward proved most worthwhile; a narrow path to a summit which yielded extraordinary views of the surrounding countryside and mountain range. With a ferocious wind at our backs, we hung onto each other tight – breathing in the cool, crisp air and grasping the power and beauty of nature. These moments foment deep reflection. These moments simply transcend all others and remind us why we explore.
Traveling allows us to combine the best of what’s familiar with the intrigue of the previously undiscovered. With each trip, Cali continues to evolve and impress. Whether walking the crowded maze of boisterous street vendors at El Centro, or embarking on a daunting hike up to Tres Cruces to view the morning sunrise, this city is not afraid to hide its true identity. The searing heat of each afternoon gave way to an intoxicating breeze under the night-time sky.
This trip was filled with endless gastronomic pleasure, stunning vistas and refreshing new adventures. After one week, my mission of providing the best tour experience was an overwhelming success. The memories created, with family, friends and each other, will last a lifetime.
Cali never ceases to amaze me. It is chaotic and serene at the same time. Cali can and will surprise everyone – even the most seasoned traveler. The urban fabric of this South American city is complex, yet inviting. Cali bleeds an unmistakable raw beauty, which continues to lure me back time and time again. We miss it already.