Pance, Colombia

I have an application on my IPad called “vegetarious” and there is also a website called “thehappycow.com”, both of which can show you the location of vegetarian restaurants in any city that you travel to. As a result, Mike and I have had dinner at a Taiwanese family’s house multiple times, and have eaten at a unique Colombian man’s restaurant who follows the Hare Krishna. One night though, we went out looking for another vegetarian restaurant downtown for dinner, but by the time we got down there they were all closed. Two hungry gringos alone in the street. We heard a sort of gathering going on a second floor though and decided to call up. Turns out Hare Krishna followers are sparse, but present in Cali. They welcomed us in and fed us food they had leftover which was some nice patatos and cake. We also found our first English speakers that night and one of them told me about this small town called “Pance” up in mountains not far outside of Cali. He told me that there were waterfalls and you could hike up one of the mountains to see the city from the outside in. That was enough convincing for me. I made sure with one of our Colombian friends that it was safe and off we went one week later.

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To get to Pance we needed to take a bus, a cab, and then another bus named “recreativos”. We ended up taking this run down bus halfway up the mountain range along the Pance river to Pance at the end of the line. This village that was squeezed, curved, and pinched in between the surrounding mountains, was still virgin land for tourists. We weren’t the first, but the skinny and serpentine road wasn’t tamed yet, and drops of fresh paint still peppered the guesthouse room floor we stayed in. The owner of the guesthouse put us up for the night, fed us three vegetarian meals, and set us up with a tour guide to take us up “San Pablo” the next day. All of this for $15 US. All of this for 1 hour of work online.

While we had time, we asked more locals about the waterfalls, which meant more free trial and error Spanish lessons. Two gringos with a striking similarity to monkeys. We eventually found one of the waterfalls called “La Chorrera del Indio”. Again, tables, showers, and a hostel were set up beside the little pond at the bottom, but there were still no tourists here. Perhaps it wasn’t the ideal season to go, but if this little set up was popular, people would be here year round. After all, it’s above 30 degrees every day in this section of Colombia. Even though the water was cold, we weren’t shivering when we got out.

After a relaxing sleep in our room under the rain that night, we set out to climb San Pablo the next morning with our guide. We had to create our own path at some points, and Mike slipped down a few times (haha), but we got to the top. The guy back in Cali was right, you could see the city. You could also witness the immensity and power of the Andes Mountains from a whole new vantage point. Like scuba diving, this hike showed me a part of the world that was still not influenced by humans. This was a part of the world that was here long before our species and it was truly humbling. You could just feel the natural order there. A profound history that stretched over a 140 million years, while we have only been here for 2. I felt so grateful to be there and doubted whether I was actually deserving of such an experience as a human being. In those moments, I felt like an innocent baby still oblivious to the effects of being raised by his loving and much more enlightened parents.

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