Only 20 minutes southwest of Cali, in the foothills of the <<Farallones de Cali>>, the mountain peaks where this cherished river is born, is el Rio Pance. By far the most popular local getaway for Caleños, this unique ecosystem of Humid Forest boasts a wide range of flora and fauna, in turn attracting an abundance of birds and unique wildlife. Along with the river, recreational trails, and waterfalls, it’s easy to see why Pance is so special to locals.
True Caleno tradition is to go to the river, make a fire, and cook a hearty soup of plantains, yuca, corn, potatoes, and, a whole hen. This is Sancocho de Gallina and is always served with rice and hopefully avocado. If you’re not into cooking your meals open fire, you can always order one at several restaurants in the area, usually for around 20,000 to 25,000 COP (Colombian Pesos) per person.
There’s only one road to get in and out of the Pance area. Whether you go by car or bus, your options will be one of the following.
Option 1. Pance EcoPark – located towards the bottom of the river, the park has restaurants, public bathrooms* few vendors selling various food and drink items, as well as paths around the EcoPark. There is also a man made lake in the middle to swim in and good for kids and those who don’t want to brave the cold river. Being relatively flat, the river flows a little slower at the EcoPark, compared to higher elevations. Nevertheless, this is the most crowded part of the river, and many people come on the weekend, hammock in hand, and cook Sancocho with their family and friends.
Every day is a journey. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
The Pance EcoPark is a great way to interact with locals and is the most accessible and closest location to the city. With trails and flat terrain, jogging or walking and biking are all possible. Birds abound, as in all of Cali, with some species endemic to the area.
*Tip: The public bathrooms aren’t for the faint of heart. At the 3rd and 4th entrance of the EcoPark are restaurant’s where you can pay 500 COP (about 25 cents) and use a more private bathroom. It probably won’t be impeccable, but worth the 25 cents depending on the situation.
Option 2. Head higher along the road until you come to the pueblo of <<La Vorgáine>>. Situated higher in the mountain, there is less people congestion, the river flows more rapidly, and the views are more dramatic. You loose the trails of the EcoPark but you gain more privacy (if such a thing exists in Colombia) and a better feel of the rushing river. All the same food items can be found higher up, as well as restaurants that serve Sancocho.
Here all you need to do is scope out a large smooth rock, of which there are plenty, throw down your towel, grab a beer and enjoy the day and the rush of the river beneath your feet. When it’s hot enough for you, jump in! The water is cold but feels great in the sun.
Option 3. Between La Vorgáine and Pueblo Pance is La Chorrera del Indio, a powerful 100+ foot tall waterfall, with a manmade pool to swim in. There’s a fee of 6,000 COP (about $3.00) to enter the waterfall area and the area is equipped with bathrooms, grills, and picnic tables to pass the time. There’s also a store selling beer if you forget to bring your own, and a restaurant which makes, of course, Sancocho. On the weekends this is a fun place to watch brave souls stand under the raging waterfall. trying to get that one get photo. You’ll definitely get your fill of laughs up here, so grab a beer and a camera, and get snapping!