A Retreat from the Gritty City of Cali: Pance, Colombia

We headed out from Santa Rosa del Cabal (and the thermal springs) to make our way south to Cali, Colombia.  And as we drove, the climate and the scenery changed pretty drastically.  We went from green mountains and stunning views to tan and dusty hills to just sugar cane as far as the eye could see.Cali is completely surrounded by sugar.  There is a railroad set up for the sugar, massive tractor trailers pulling 4 or 5 different trailers filled with sugar, guys sweating their butts off chopping down cane with machetes.  We must have driven through 30 or 40 miles of the stuff.

We decided to bypass the city and head a bit south…to the town of Pance (NOT pronounced “pants” but “PAN-say”.)  Just half an hour out, along a very pretty river coming from the mountains, you wouldn’t know a city was even near.

Off the main highway towards the town, we drove to the very end of the road (about half an hour)…to a campground/hostel/finca called La Castellano.  It was time for me to get back to camping.  All these $8 per night hotel rooms have me a few sizes too big for my britches.

Danni and Cesar pulled their home up to a relatively flat space and popped the tent.

Bedtime is always early when you are sleeping outside.  I think I was asleep by 9pm in my little mushroom tent but it wasn’t early enough.  There was some sort of black fly up in these hill…and it was feasting on my ankles and the back of my legs.  I didn’t realize until well into the next day.  Ugh.

It was a morning to cook outside.  These guys have a camp stove and refrigerator set up in the back of the truck.

The finca owner was even nice enough to set us up with a purple table cloth.

All of Cesar’s meals seem to include plantain of some sort.  The sweet fried strips are my favorite preparation.
The finca owners were so incredibly friendly and proud and their 10 year old son Jesus super helpful.  They have erected lots of buildings on their property for visitors.  They have a pool (a bit dodgy), a fish pond, a bar, a restaurant, a few cows, a sweet , half blind dog named Nino and plenty of space.  Camping is $10,000COP per person (about $6 USD) and for a hostel room, double that.
We packed up right after breakfast to drive back down the mountain, to make our way to Popayan.  Just down the road, we stopped to take a picture of this brand new baby horse and his mom.
All the way down the mountain, along the river, there are bars, water parks and clubs set up for swimming.  I would imagine that this whole area is packed on weekends with city residents trying to escape the heat.  There are a few very rickety bridges across…

But mostly it’s a place for the Cali city folk to get out of the heat and into the cooler air and even cooler water.

Lots of people soaking their feet and swimming…

A nice river to stop along if you are looking to avoid Cali (some people just aren’t city folk.)

Once down the mountain and back on the highway, we continued south to the old colonial city of  Popayan, Colombia (a popular stop for travelers driving from Cali to Ecuador).  Supposedly it is considered one of best preserved colonial cities in the Americas.  I’ll be the judge of that!

Pit of my day:  Getting attacked by about 35 blood sucking chigger/flies in the evening while camping.  (I am still itching the bites now…3 days later.)

Peak of my day:  Finding that buying ten 50mg generic Benadryl pills and a tube of corticosteroid cream in Colombia costs under $3USD.  Oh yes…and soaking my feet in the river.

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