Cali and Environs

A month has flown by since the last post! We’ve been enjoying Cali, I must say. As long as you avoid the traffic, there are lots of nice areas. Speaking of traffic: Cali has ridiculous traffic speed limits. We recently visited Dapa, a town near Cali, and got a speeding ticket somewhere in Cali from a camera. We were going 56 kmh … in a 50 kmh zone. The fine was COP 650,000 (CAD $228) for going six (6) kmh over the limit. The street that we live on has a speed limit of 30. It’s two lanes in each direction, divided, with no driveways. Thirty. Of course everyone goes at least 50..but there are a few people who crawl along at 30. I used to wonder why, but I bet they got an outrageous ’speeding’ ticket and are now ultra-cautious. I no longer curse them. I understand.

We’re going to use Cali as our base to explore regions of Colombia suitable for living and the retreat.

Colombia is moving up the world rankings of places to visit, and is now #50. That’s up 6 from last year. Colombia ranks very high globally on competitive pricing (#8), natural resources (#10), and cultural resources (#16). Security and tourist infrastructure are the main things holding Colombia back from going up in the ranking.

The United Nations COP16 Biodiversity conference is being held in Cali in October, and that is getting lots of attention from the government here. Colombia is the most biodiverse country in the world per square kilometre!

The bigger events include, in chronological order:

Navide in Medellin

Natalia and Davide spent a bit over a week checking out Medellin and the nearby town of San Rafael for suitability for the retreat. Their thinking going in was that Medellin is already a popular tourist destination, so there are lots of flights from faraway places each day. While they really enjoyed their time, they ultimately concluded that it would not be the greatest area for a retreat.

For one thing, there are already a lot of them! The area seems saturated. It’s also getting more expensive as more foreigners retire and vacation there. And some of the downtown areas seem full of drunken partygoers on weekends….

The mayor recently shut down all AirBNBs in the city to try and combat the child sexual exploitation that Medellin is unfortunately developing a name for.

Elvia, Gordanza, and Navide in Sevilla

The five of us went to Sevilla for a four-day weekend and had a wonderful time hosted by Adriana’s cousin Luz Adriana and her fiancé Gustavo. He owns the Sol Naciente Cafe and Bar just away from the main town square. It’s doing a great business, and it’s amazing to see how many people he and Luz Adriana know. Sitting outside at the cafe, pretty much every car driver, bike rider, and pedestrian stopped to say hello to one or both of them.

Gustavo is big on local, so the coffee in the picture is grown, roasted, and obviously sold locally. Having tried some of them, I have to agree that the local coffee we tried tastes better than the big brands.

Sevilla is called the balcony of the Valle (Valley) de Cauca, because it has beautiful valley vistas.

Check out the views from the mirador in Sevilla. Everywhere we went it was like that. As we left Cali and started to rise in the mountains, we could clearly see the Valle de Cauca.

Because Sevilla is in the mountains, the temperatures are milder – high twenties in the day, you will want a light jacket at night. Pretty nice, really.

The next video below the group photo (I can resize the photos but not the videos in WordPress, so please scroll down….) is of Cafe Casablanca on the main town square.

If you look closely, behind the bar you will see racks of LPs, even some 45s and 78s, I believe. Cafe Casablanca is famous for tango, and if they cannot find your tango request on electronic media, they pull out the actual disc. [Sadly, more and more old songs and movies are disappearing as their owners don’t want to pay to host electronic versions and there are no hard copies.]

We polished off a few bottles of aguadiente there one night while singing along to old tango.


Dapa is a nice little town near Cali where we visited a hilltop restaurant that had a singer. It’s just one example of countless places like this in or near Cali. See the video below – watch to the end to see Gordanza dancing!

Gordanza’s apto

Brian and Adriana moved into the place we’ll stay while exploring the area. It’s a 3-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a five-storey building, in a complex of four similar buildings called Jardin de Pance 1. (Garden of Pance, which is an area of Cali.) We re-bought much of what we practically gave away in Canada at yard sales, from furniture to kitchen stuff. If you want to see what it looks like, you have to come and visit. 😉

We decided to splurge on having some biweekly to clean. Houseworkers here expect to be paid for a day’s work, not by the hour, so you can’t really get some to come for a few hours. As a result, there is lots to do. Some houseworkers also cook meals, walk the dog, and so on to fill the day. For a cost of COP 90,000 – 150,000 (CAD $32 – 53) this houseworker will spend the day cooking, cleaning, and generally helping out around the house. Well worth it.

We’re really happy with our apartment. There’s a blocks-long park just behind which is great for walks. Keep going a bit further and there are a pond and stream – and birds galore. You can see the trees below are full of white birds. The trees are on an island in the pond.

The apartment is also within walking distance of the main attractions. There’s a large shopping mall about 20 minutes walk away. Same for grocery stores, a number of restaurants, our dentist….

Speaking of the dentist, I (Brian) had to have root scaling. I have had some painful experiences at the dentist in the past. Very painful. I sit in the dentist’s chair and start sweating instantly. It’s a conditioned reaction at this point. So, the thought of root scaling was extremely, very, is-there-any-other-possible-way unappealing.

But, it had to be done, so I got it done. I’d tell you all about it, but I don’t remember a thing. I opted for the ‘conscious sedation’ which I had many years ago when I had some lipomas (harmless fatty globules) cut out of my arms. I watched the doctor do it, and felt no pain. I thought this time would be like that but worse, because it’s my mouth and teeth and the root thereof. Don’t worry, no before and after photos.

The sedation cost an additional COP 1,250,000,000 (CAD $439) and was worth every penny. I experienced nothing, which under the circumstances could only be good. I have no recollection of the procedure, nor of my mother-in-law and the dental clinic owner giving me a ride home. I am writing this the following day and there’s almost no pain. I can’t eat solids until things heal, but no pain. That’s remarkable. If you need a good dentist or periodontist, let me know….

Navide in Cartagena

Islena asked Natalia and Davide if they’d create some Instagrams and TikToks and whatnot to showcase the apartments she rents in Cartagena. They created an Instagram page and some of the videos also show Cartagena and the beach. Sanji is also featured, of course.

Next Steps

Gordanza are settling into the new apartment. Adriana is still working long hours, so the plan is still to use weekends to explore more local areas like we did with Sevilla and Dapa. Close by are San Antonio, Santa Rita, and Santa Teresita (do you think Catholics settled this region?), which are on the outer edges of (Santiago de) Cali. These areas are the sorts of places we’re more likely to have our house.

Further afield we want to check out Armenia, the closest coffee region city to Cali. Sevilla is before Armenia but is a town. Armenia is a three-hour drive from Cali, so it would be some place we’d look at for retreat potential. Adriana wants to look at the Santander region, too. Finlandia, Salento, Pijao (South America’s first designated “slow town”), etc.

Despite this, we’ve definitely narrowed things down! We’re focused on areas in Colombia with moderate temperatures and scenic views. Obviously it has to be safe and accessible. A sense of community like we saw a hint of in Sevilla. The coffee region seems to meet this ‘on paper,’ but we need to see it, feel it.

Gordanza coming to Canada and Florida

Brian and Adriana will be there for the month of July, more or less. First stop: Ontario to visit Brian’s mother, then Victoria to see sister, kids, grandkids, and friends, and finally Florida to help care for the nephews so Dinar and Jenifer can take a break! [Trying to persuade the grandkids to come visit us in Colombia when Julie visits. ;-)]

Here’s your parting Sanji: filthy and happy on the beach in Cartagena.

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  1. Cathy
    June 1, 2024

    I sure enjoy being able to follow your journey Brian!

  2. Alex Salazar
    June 14, 2024

    I just caught up with your blog, what an amazing journey. I am so happy for you and your family to have the opportunity to enjoy this adventure. It seems that you will be coming to Victoria soon, please let me know if you are planning to have some time for lunch or coffee.
    Happy and safe travels!

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