On the Road to Ginebra
´´Turn right at the guitar´´ is probably one of the strangest directions that I have ever been given. Somehow it made me think of Bugs Bunny and his famous line, ”I knew I should have made a left turn at Albuquerque” . It was however, completely accurate.
Road maps don`t seem to be common in Colombia so we set off on our adventure to find Geneva or Ginebra Valle del Cauca, locally renown for its Sancocho de Gallina – a traditional Latin American chicken soup. The roadways in and around Cali, are large and expansive. Heading out of the city towards Palmira the terrain is flat and full of sugar cane fields. Sugar cane is an important part of the local economy. With a year round growing season the fields are in varying states of production and fallow. Nonetheless the countryside is a lush green.
The stretch of highway between Cali and Palmira has fields of cane mixed with various industrial constructions as this is the main artery to the international airport. As we passed through Palmira and headed towards Buga, almost the entire landscape was blanketed green with sugar cane fields. On a regular basis there are signs saying watch for Sugar Cane Trains, yet there were no tracks in sight. Eventually we encountered one. Dominating the highway the trains are actually massive transport trucks hauling 3 trailers laden to the brim with cut sugar cane.
We knew that Ginebra was near the village of El Cerrito. Passing through town we stopped at a gas station where we received our instructions to turn at the guitar. Sure enough a few miles up this narrow two lane winding road was a large “statue“ of a guitar.
Ginebra is a small Colombian town, located in the Cauca Valley of the Andes Mountains. It has a population of about 21,000 in total with a large agricultural base. Sugar cane, coffee and Isabella grapes are part of its crop production. We even saw some cacao trees. On weekends and holidays people flock to the many large restaurants in this region offering the tradtional local fare of Sancocho de Gallina cooked over a wood fire.
Tourist signage in Colombia is not well developed so if you make this jaunt, drive straight through town. When the road ends turn left, continue straight and it will shortly curve to the right. Follow the road out of town and you will encounter the sector of “Gastronomia“.
Here there seem to be many large old haciendas/fincas converted into restaurants. The one we chose probably had a few hundred tables and was packed full. There are lots of activities for children and this is obviously a Sunday outing for many families.
The service was slow but many people come to enjoy the day so there is no rush to hurry back to the city having already driven an hour. We ordered Sancho for five and fresh grape juice probably made from the grapes grown at the vineyard that bordered the restaurant. My companions felt the juice was a bit sweet but I suspect that was its natural qualities I could have partaken an entire pitcher my self.
While waiting for the meal we were presented with 5 very large patacons made from plantain and two salsas/sauces. The patacons were thinner than usual but delicious. The main course was served with a large platter of chicken and a separate platter of rice. Normally the chicken would be served in the soup but as the order for five was a special order, it was delivered in this manner.
Sancocho is very tradional. It usually contains cooked yucca, plantain and perhaps some other vegetables – follow this link to learn more about this delicious soup. http://colombia.escapeartist.com/sancocho-de-gallina/
The meal was topped off with a traditional wheat based snack called – hojaldra – o-hal-dra.
This is a highly recommended trip to make if you wish to see some of the countryside in the Valle del Cauca. It was a delightful and delicious journey. The late afternoon sun was warm and it bathed the Andes in beautiful tones of red and gold perfectly rounding a wonderful family outing.