Driving from the coffee district to Cali we finally figured out what the immense fields of tall reeds surrounding the highway were… a question that had been playing at the back of our minds since Guatemala. It was sugar cane, and it’s what Cali was founded on. Cali is renown also for its salsa clubs and, more contentiously, claims to have the most beautiful women in the country.
A good friend of ours has family in Cali so we were to stay with them while we were in the city. We met at a well known department store (three brothers had built up the chain from nothing, a local rags to riches story). Mariela works for the cosmetic giant Yanbal and immediately reminded us of Kelsey’s go getter Aunt Nettie who works in a similar industry. Tacho, Andres’ father, introduced me to the subtle art of ventando (which translates to window-ing), this requires a quiet spot, a window sill at bar height and a meditative mind. They were fantastic hosts, it was here that we tried pan de bono … yet another delicious Colombian carbohydrate along with avena, a cold, creamy oatmeal drink in a tetra pack that I detest and Kelsey has come to adore. According to her, it is a
“tasty oatmeal milkshake!”
After a good look around the Cauca valley and the surrounding area we left to spend some more family time in Popayán about six hours south. Popayán is a cool little town that was pretty much leveled by an earthquake in 1983 and now nearly completely restored. After the heat and humidity of Cali the cooler climes of Popayán were a welcome relief, but the best thing about Popayán was the people. Again we were met with amazing hospitality, our tired Spanish complimented and our intrusion into the lives and homes of our hosts seemed little more than an excuse for a party.
Aguardiente is a local fire water made from sugar cane, we first encountered it in Guatemala but every region in Colombia boasts its own special brew. Our favourite comes from Medellin and is called Aguardiente Antioqueña, which is infused with aniseed and tastes a little like white zambucca or ouzo, but of course we had to try the local drink – our new found friends called this ‘Aguardientation’.
We left for the Ecaudorian border taking an Aunty with us – our first passenger. Marta quite liked the Aguardiente too, and together we polished off another bottle on our seven hour drive to Ipiales the Colombian border town with Ecuador.