Public transport adventures – Part I

Arriving in a new city is always a challenge. You get off the bus and step into an environment that is completely new. You can’t orient yourself, as you don’t have a city map. And, even if you had one, you just have no idea where the bus is dropping you off. You have to find out everything: how far you are form the city centre, how far from the city centre your host or hotel is, and how the transportation system works.

Like many other big cities in South America, Cali has copied Bogota’s Transmilenio and calls it Mío. But whichever the city, the line or the hour, the system happens to be just constantly overpacked. However, most of the time, I just go for the easy option upon arrival and take a cab. When arriving in Cali, I therefore left the discovery of the Mío for the following day. A discovery mission that turned out to be a complete disaster anyway.

I know what you think. By now, I should have learned from my past errors. In Cali, however, the difficulty of the exercise is amplified by the fact that  touristic city maps do not exist. But, yes, of course: I also got lost in my own thoughts and didn’t pay enough attention to the stops. By the time I got myself together to ask if my stop was still far away, I was more than half an hour past my destination. So I got off the bus, went back, and jumped off as soon as I spotted a building that seemed of touristic interest. Not the best strategy but, without a proper map, the only one I could figure out.

The area around the building was nice. The rest of what was supposed to be the city centre not that much. I was tired. And pissed. So I decided to abort the discovery mission and postpone it to the following day.

This time, I looked up all the necessary information on the internet. Clever, isn’t it? Goal of the day? Go to the museum. Mío station? Check. Bus that will take me from the Mío station to the museum? Check. Other things to do in the area? Check. This time, nothing could go wrong. Or so I thought.

I asked the driver of the bus that was taking me to the museum if he could let me know when we got there . This he kindly accepted to do. 5 minutes. 10. 15. 20. After 30, I went back to the driver to make sure he hadn’t forgotten me. I just mean… We were going up one of the hills surrounding the city. That seemed to be a little bit too much off centre for one of the city’s main museums. Of course, I had been the least of his preoccupations.
– Where do I get off to go back, then?
– Oh! No need. This is the end of the ride. I will take you back myself.

Splendid. 30 minutes back down. Only to discover that the museum was closed. Kinda makes you want to eat your hat. Except I didn’t have one.

Luckily, it was not the only activity on my list. So I went to see the Cat of the River, which is a big statue of a cat. Near, you guessed it, a river. Nowadays, they have completed the scenery with countless other cats, decorated each by a different artist. All female cats. Apparently all trying to seduce the big one. Now, it might be my feminist self speaking again but… Is this supposed to be the apology of the harem? Polygamy? About 15 ladies all trying to get the attention of the same male because what? He’s so much cuter and stronger than any other cat? He’s the President? He’s been on television? HUH??
(Or how to get completely stressed up during what was supposed to be a relaxing walk.)

El Gato del Río
El Gato del Río
One of the Cat's numerous admirers.
One of the Cat’s numerous admirers.

The walk through the old town and to the view was pleasant. So was the beer to which I got invited as I was making my way back home while taking some pictures under the nascent rain.

– You like to take pictures, right?
A very good observer. I had a camera in my hands and he interrupted me in the middle of a shooting session.
– Yes, I do!
– Interested in street art?
I was taking pictures of a painted wall.
– Obviously.
– Do you want to photograph something you have never seen before?
I have hardly been doing anything else in the past few months but, like anyone looking for an original picture, you never just say no to such a proposal.
– Why not? was therefore my answer. He invited me into his shop to give the entire explanation. And served me a beer.
– Ever seen a 3D painting?
– Only in pictures.
– Until now, they are mostly done in the States. But I’m going to do one in Cali, he announced proudly. It’s never been done here before.
– Nice. Where about?
– Not sure yet. I’m talking with two shopping centres.
– What will it be?
– A cemetery.
Good point for him. Though it seems to be a strange choice for a first, I have to admit I came to realise that, for some obscure reason, I do like to take pictures of cemeteries.
– And when do you plan to do this?
– End of October.
– Haha. But that’s in more than a month! I will be long gone by then!
– But you can stay longer! It’s something you have never seen before!
– Well, you see, I have the Galapagos and Machupicchu still on my list. I have never seen that either.

My answer didn’t convince him. I stayed a few more minutes, then thanked him for the beer and left.

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