Loving Cali Colombia

So I got to Cali late last night – too late for me to go out, I was beat – and woke up early today to see the town. From my searches online and with my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, I found a lot of good things to see and do! Here’s a travelogue of my first day here and why I am loving Cali Colombia.

The Hostel

I started with a taxi from my hostel, Pelican Larry. I have a private room and access to a shared bathroom, which is all I need. Clean and with hot water! My room has a fan which had the dual purpose of keeping me cool and drowning out outside noise.

Getting Out of the Hostel

The taxi to downtown was quick and cheap and I got dropped off at the Modern Art Museum, which wasn’t open until 10am (it was 9:30am) so I went in search of a café. I found a good one thanks to Google Maps!

Downtown Cali

Let me explain downtown Cali first. It’s dominated by the Rio Cali, which has walkways on both sides, and a lot of the tourist sites are there or nearby. This walking route is great with lots of scenery, and compared to Cartagena, the weather here is GORGEOUS! Warm but with little humidity. Heaven after almost two weeks of non-stop sweating.

Cute Cafe in Cali

Cute Cafe Mulato was on a side street and full of locals. I was the only tourist and it was nice and homey. The waitress had a list with everyone’s name on it and what they ordered, that’s how local a joint this was.

Cafe Mulato in Cali Colombia
Cafe Mulato in Cali
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Getting Around Cartagena

So I mentioned yesterday that the bus rides in Cartagena are an experience. They are certainly affordable. Every bus costs 2,000 pesos, which translates to approximately 65 US cents, or 84 Canadian cents. Pretty cheap. But, is it worth it? It depends. Here’s what I’ve experienced getting around Cartagena on public transit and taxi.

Getting Around Cartagena by Bus

I took three buses on different routes yesterday. Two of them I would take again in a heartbeat, the other, probably not.

The First Bus From Campestre

First bus – from my home to the foundation (work). My home is in the “Campestre” barrio or neighborhood. I love that they are called barrios, it makes me feel like I’m in the L.A. of Sanford & Son or something. So retro sounding. But really it’s just a Spanish word for neighborhood.

Campestre map getting around Cartagena Colombia
Campestre location in Cartagena Colombia

Anyway, the Campestre barrio is inland – it’s a middle class area kind of far from the tourist parts of town (on the map above, that’s the area along the ocean from Bocagrande – sort of like the South Beach – to Getsemani and beyond to Old Town).

My bus ride today (which I successfully completed on my own) was really easy. I catch the bus at the corner 2 blocks down the street and take it about 20 minutes and walk about 5 minutes from the stop. All for 84 cents. I will do that every morning. No problem.

getting around Cartagena Bus
The bus I take to work in the morning

Bus To Cartagena’s Tourist Area

The second bus took me from the stop near work to the old city. I will definitely take this bus again. It took about 15 minutes, had some great views along the way, and stopped right outside the old city, which is GORGEOUS! As you can see in the map below, the foundation is pretty close to the ocean.

Map of Foundation Granitos de Paz Cartagena
Where I work in Cartagena
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First Day at Pre-School

Today was my first day volunteering. I am going to be spending my weekdays at “the institute” a division of an organization called Granitos De Paz, which is a free day care for parents who need it so they can work to support their families.  So today I got to spend the day playing with 2 year olds. 26 of them. In Spanish. Yea, I am tired after my first day at pre-school in Cartagena!

Getting There

First I had to take the bus. The buses here are not like back home. First off, no AC! Second, they are super cheap. Like 65 cents US.  And third, the ones I’ve been on (3 today) all play loud pop or dance music and have disco styling. I felt like royalty in the tassel curtained bus! I would have loved AC though, but I think that’s just going to be my lament for the month!

Check out my morning bus today:

First Day of Pre-school getting there on the bus
Fun bus ride to volunteer

I had a guide for the bus ride so it was uneventful, but tomorrow I ride alone, so wait for that! Fingers crossed.

At The School

The institute was great. I spent the day assisting one teacher. She has a class of 26 x 2 year olds so yea, I think I helped some.  These kids are adorable and full of life.

Colombian children
At the institute with the 2 year olds

The most interesting part of the day was lunch. Tables upon tables of kids (not just our classroom) trying to eat some kind of broth, pasta and meat, all in separate compartments on their plates. And then, the adults, trying to shovel the food into them so they got some nourishment instead of spilling everywhere.

I quickly pitched in to help feed the slow dawdlers. OMG The place was a MESS!! No food fight, but it looked like it! The kids had so much food on them, that we then had to take them to a huge sink to wash them. Not just their hands, their arms, faces, and necks. And then, when we brought them back to the classroom, all their shirts came off!

Then it was naptime. Isn’t napping the best?

Kids Napping First Day of Pre-school
Nap time

Not everyone slept, but there was a period of mostly silence so who can complain?

Busy First Day at Pre-School

My first day at pre-school was busy in itself but today I was ambitious and had tasks to complete. Here’s the other things I did today:

  1. Visited the Old Walled City and Bocagrande and will return many times. The bus there was easy. The bus back less so (see 2)
  2. Took two more buses one of which was driven by a crazy person racing another bus to pick up all the riders until everyone on the bus yelled at him. I need gravol from now on for bus rides
  3. Visited a scuba shop – may go diving this weekend. Will probably go diving this weekend
  4. Got a Sim card
  5. Had a Colombian cerveza
  6. Ate yummy plantains and soup

Yea, so way more to come!! Good night!

I’ve Arrived in Cartagena

It was a long eventful day but I’ve arrived in Cartagena and am looking forward to what’s next. Here’s a recap of the planes and automobiles that took me from Toronto to Cartagena.

Getting to YYZ

I took an uber pool in Toronto at 530am thinking no one would share the ride at that hour on a holiday Monday. Wrong! I ended up with two drunk girls who hadn’t gone to bed yet and were hilarious and woke me up for my flights. They got dropped off in Mississauga and I got to the airport with plenty of time for my flight. Gotta love the people you meet in uber pools.

Flight 1: Toronto to Miami

The Toronto to Miami flight was also interesting because the woman in the window seat of my row kept complaining about her health. Now I am not a medical professional so can’t say if it was legit but the Air Canada staff took it seriously and were very caring. I ended up getting to know the guy sitting in the middle seat because he and I kept having to get up to accommodate the flight crew and a doctor. Yes! They made an announcement looking for a doctor on the flight just like in the movies – and at least 3 people came forward. Anyway, my seat mate had just had a great visit to Toronto for Caribana so we had lots to talk about. And I think the lady in the window just had indigestion. Again, not a medical pro, but she ate a lot.

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Packing Light

I leave tomorrow so now is the time to pack. Those who’ve travelled with me know I like to pack light. This is a long trip, though: I’ll be gone for 5 1/2 weeks and I want to have workout clothes, working clothes, beach clothes and going out clothes! Plus shoes! You ladies know what I mean.

Want Versus Need For Packing Light

I am trying to only take one roller bag and a backpack. On top of clothes and shoes, I need toiletries, meds (hello Gravol for seasickness!), computer, phone, chargers, Lonely Planet Colombia, Spanish/English dictionary, sunblock and bug spray, of course!

packed bag
I got it closed!
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