Gold, Guns, Guerrillas and Gringo tax – Cali, Colombia

My last stop in Colombia is the city of Cali, the capital of salsa. It was an impromptu decision and the adventures here were well worth the detour. You can see the photographic highlights below and the full album on Facebook here.

On the way to the jungle city of San Cipriano we got off a little earlier because I had gotten a tip about an illegal goldmine in the vicinity. It was an incredibly ratty, crappy, muddy ‘town’ of tents and shacks, and it looked like we’d made a bad decision to get out here. Walking around, we ran into the police and using my phrasebook I asked them about the goldmine. They not only showed us where it was, but gave us the full tour. Soon we were standing around with a beer in our hands (and the sergeant’s assault rifle in the other), teaching them essential Dutch phrases like ‘neuken in de keuken’.

Just as we were about to leave, the foreman of the mine comes up to me holding out his phone, saying it’s for me. On the other end of the line is the American owner of the gold mine, and he sounds confused and worried that there are 3 tourists walking around there. I tell him we’re just looking and he says to me “You do know that it’s not safe around here?” – the gold mine is apparently deep in guerrilla territory!

To get to San Cipriano you have to take a train. The only difference from our idea of trains is that to a Colombian, a train is a small motorcycle with a plank of wood attached to it that races across the tracks at full speed. The town itself was not that great (also because it was pouring down, rainforest style) but the journey was awesome. I filmed a little bit of it:

Cali itself was not super interesting, but the nightlife was good and I enjoyed two nights of salsa dancing. I was pretty terrible, but some of the locals took me under their wing and got me out on the dancefloor. It’s very intense but tons of fun!

My Spanish is getting places. I was traveling with two lovely Australians (whose blog you can find on and I was the one in charge of communicating with the locals. It went well, I got good deals and followed directions. I got into an argument with a shopkeeper about money (he was trying to fuck me out of my change) and won, which makes me think I’ve arrived. Sure, it took a good half hour, but it worked.

I’m off to Ecuador tomorrow, doing a quick stop in Quito but then heading down to the volcanoes of the Quilotoa circuit.

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