Most people have probably never even heard of Cali, and fewer still would consider planning their next vacation here. It doesn’t help when WikiTravel scares people by emphasizing all of the kidnappings, robberies, and other risks of traveling to Cali. Cali has no beach. Cali has no significant ruins or monuments. What Cali does have, is SOUL.
I landed in Quito, Ecuador, with no established itinerary, no hotel reservations, and only a vague idea of why I was going there. Spontaneous travel is one of my favorite exercises. Little did I know, I was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Sayulita is a funky mixture of easy going California surf culture, a dose of traditional Mexican heritage, a sprinkle of outdoorsy, affluent American tourists, and a sub-culture of Mexican artisans, traveling musicians, and backpackers from all over the world.
Darien Province covers a huge, sparsely populated area to the east of Panama City – an off the beaten track destination reserved for botanical scientists, anthropologists, and Colombian bandits. Most people consider it a dangerous place to travel due to the odd instance when Colombian FARC encounter Panamanian jungle rangers and drug trafficking prevention squads. Yet promises of secluded beaches and unspoiled jungles gave me enough motivation to agree to embark on the journey.
The dinner party was lively enough. An Australian couple, an American couple and their kids, an American man and his Austrian wife, myself, and a handful of other pals… we had all gathered for dinner and drinks at a beach-side villa near Pedasi, Panama. We started with freshly caught tuna, diced into thick slabs of sashimi. By fresh, I mean my pal Doug had caught the tuna earlier that morning just off the coast of Pedasi.
Although the process for wine making was simpler than I thought, the actual physical effort required to make a bottle of wine is far more arduous than I expected. Imagine being hunched over plucking grapes from vines all day in the hot sun and dragging 50 pound crates of grapes between the vineyards. Despite the hardship, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try it out first hand.
With over 13 million inhabitants, Buenos Aires feels more like an odd blend of Paris and Rome, with a touch of Madrid thrown in. Yet Buenos Aires possesses its own distinct characteristics that sets it apart from any European city. For all of its similarities, Argentina is not Europe. Buenos Aires exudes a laid back bohemian vibe that leaves the “stuffiness” of Old Europe on the other side of the Atlantic.
Note: The following was a journal entry from July 16, 2000 – before I had a digital camera or a cell phone! So, unfortunately, no images from this adventure survived my many wanderings since.
While I had only given two classes to my new students, it was time for a vacation. Costa Rica was the easiest choice (Venezuela a distant second). I reached the border in two hours from my new residence in Boquete, Panama. On the bus ride I felt excited. I felt the anxiety of going to a new place without plans, without barriers, and with only my senses and intuition to guide me. I felt a fresh rush of anticipation, a rush that has me addicted to travel. Two months in one place has been enough to appreciate the unknown once again.