I came to Pance on a Monday since I’d been told there are usually loads of people who come to the river on Sundays. I like to avoid crowded places. This was my first visit despite its popularity and it being my fourth year seized by Cali’s allure. A friend of mine had guided the journey and I took mental notes along the way. The trip was about a 20 minute ride from the last stop on the Mío (the public transport of Cali), Universidades. A Mío card costs 3,500 COP which equates to about 1 USD and entrance into the bus system in 2,100 COP. The Mìo also provides small green commuter buses to Pance but they are only in service on weekends so my friend and I took a minibus for 2,000 COP. I marveled at the breathtaking views of Cali we rode through the mountains to Pance. We were the only passengers on the minibus.
We could see that there were already people in the river as we arrived to the pueblo (or village) of Pance. After getting off the minibus, we began to walk further south, down the only road running parallel to the river. A few shops and restaurants were open, which I imagine are to accommodate the many visitors of Pance. Some selling Colombian fast food on carts and others serving lunch. We walked until we felt we had reached an appropriate stopping point to find a spot to camp by the river. It didn’t seem so crowded since most people are at work on Mondays. Though, there were still quite a few people relaxing with their families. Others with their friends drinking beers, smoking or just relaxing. There were even a few local mothers bathing their infants in the river.
My friend is quite the guru when it comes to skin health using natural products so she brought a container with a mixture of ground coffee, honey and coconut oil. At first, I watched her with a perplexed look as she rubbed the muddy mixture on her face and body. She eventually convinced me how well it worked for exfoliating skin and invited me to join so I obliged.
I basked in the cafe aroma for about half an hour, before dipping into the river to wash the mixture off, leaving a bronzed glaze behind. Trees breathing down my my back as I soaked up the sun while cooling in the ice-cold river, I took an existential moment to be present. Birds singing in the distance. Clouds melting by the light of the horizon. I wondered what this place had looked like 50, 100 even 1000 years ago. But I was here now in the presence of other humans enjoying the same thing. It was breathtaking as I realized myself as one with nature.
Nine months later, I took the trip to Pance again but this time with my boyfriend on a Sunday, arguably the busiest day of the week to visit. There’d been an unexplained tension between the two of us and considering how peaceful my last trip was, I suggested we go. The good thing about riding the Mío on a Sunday is that you can directly connect from Universidades Station to the A14B commuter bus without exiting the station; which takes you directly to several entrance points to Río Pance. Now, the bad: lines and congestion. Anyone who’s lived in Colombia for some time knows that long lines don’t always function seamlessly, especially when it involves transportation. The same goes for traffic jams when many people are headed in the same direction.
The line was pretty long when we arrived to the commuter bus stop inside Universidades. Thankfully several busses stopped for pickups within twenty minutes so we were on our way in no time. The ride itself was rather long because of traffic jams. A group of locals that were entertaining the journey with personal speakers and bottles of Aguardiente and viche (national alcoholic beverages), made the trip lively to say the least.
As we arrived, looking down from the bridge, I noticed that the river was much fuller than my last visit. We began to walk further south than before to find a spot to camp around less people. We ended up settling for a nook under a tree, beside a giant rock and a small group of friends. Once again, I lathered my skin with the same recipe I had gotten from my friend on my previous visit. Though getting there was slower and Pance was more crowded, it was still relaxing to be at the river, flowing graciously. Although there was silence between us, I felt the tension fading as we listened to the songs of the river’s flow.