Cats and Capybaras in Cali

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Cali, the capital of Colombia’s Valle del Cauca department, is a city full of character and spirit. It was the last stop on our June trip, where we spent just two days before flying back to Barranquilla. The country’s Afro-Colombian heritage is really evident in Cali, where the people are warm and passionate, and the city buzzes with a seductive energy.

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It seemed similar in many ways to Barranquilla – both are hot, humid, medium-sized cities populated with friendly people. But it felt more creative and cosmopolitan; street art bringing life to the sidewalks, lots of green spaces invigorating the city’s inhabitants, historical buildings mixed in with the skyscrapers.

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Cali is the salsa capital of the world, but we were exhausted and gave the nightlife a skip. We spent most of our time wandering through the narrow streets of San Antonio – a hip, bohemian neighbourhood full of restaurants, cafés and bars, the likes of which Barranquilla definitely does not have.

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We also visited the zoo, after hearing it is apparently one of the best in Latin America. This doesn’t say much for other zoos, because it wasn’t particularly amazing, but it wasn’t awfully depressing either. And it was nice to see some animals that were new to us Africans! First time I’ve ever seen a tapir, capybara, condor or cougar!

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As we walked along the river after admiring the llamas and capuchins, we came across a park full of cats – not too many furry kitties, but rather one large bronze sculpture, El Gato del Río, and his fifteen “brides”, las novias del Gato. Quite a sight to behold, with each having been painted or decorated by a different Colombian artist according to its own theme.

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We explored the city centre, visited some churches, relaxed in the shade at various parks – basically, we just took it easy and savoured Cali’s sultry vibe. Although Cali doesn’t tend to attract many tourists, and it can’t quite measure up to Medellín, Guatapé or Salento, we really enjoyed the city and would have liked to stay a couple more days before hopping on a plane back to Barranquilla.

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