Strangest vessel on earth
If you look on Colombia's map, I am not sure you will even find San Cipriano
- it definitely did not appear on our travel guide (well, perhaps it is because we are using a 10 years old book that we borrowed from my brother...). We found out about this place in the internet and it looked kind of off the beaten track - so we decided - let's go there!
We knew it would require us to connect a few times to get there from Salento, but we had no clue where exactly and when exactly. So from Salento we went by bus to the nearest big town - Armenia (~1 hour). From Armenia we took a bus going to Cali, but we were told we should get of at Buga (~2 hours), from where we would be able to take a bus to Cordoba
, which is the entry point for San Cipriano.
Well, only upon "arrival" to Buga we understood that the bus actually does not enter into Buga, and we were dropped off in the junction next to Buga where there are rumors that busses going to Buenaventura pass by and they could
REady to the ride!
take us to Cordoba. Well, its true that they pass by, but not very often - for the first half an hour or so, no such bus have passed. In the next hour, 2 or 3 actually did pass, but they were full and did not even stop to take passengers... Eventually after almost 2 hours of waiting on the side of the highway, a bus stopped - and we managed to board it (with 7 or so others that were waiting as well).
Then, we learned that though everyone told us it would be about an hour and a half to Cordoba, it took more than 2 hours. By the time we got to the entrance to Cordoba, it was already dark and people on the bus have all reccomended us to continue with the bus some 15 minutes more and get to Buenaventura - which is big and would definitely have hostels to spend the night, something no one was sure Cordoba would have... We decided to listen to these advises. We arrived in Buenaventura and one of the ladies on the bus was kind enough to walk with us to a nice hotel - she made
On track into the jungle
sure we are fine and only then left on own way. This is probably the right time to say that in general we found the Colombians to be very welcoming, nice, wanting to help and above all keen to make sure that tourists like their country.
Well, San Cipriano is a tiny village - I guess there is not more than 100 families living in it. The village is located in a beautiful setting, amidst lush green vegetation, along the shores of a crystal - clear river, but the most interesting part in San Cipriano is actually getting there and away!!
There is no road entering the village, there are not even boats along the river (it is a shallow river that suits rafting and tubing more than boating) - the only way to get into the village is along railway, but there is no longer functioning passengers' trains in Colombia for quite some time... So - the locals have invented an alternative transportation to run along the tracks: 'Bruchita' it is called (in free translation: "little witch" - I guess the idea is that you fly on the rails like the witch is flying on its broom..).
The 'Bruchita' is actually a regular motorbike (mostly Suzuky), welded
to a wooden platform, and to the bottom of the platform, they somehow attached special metal wheels (bearings). The whole construction is strangely mounted on the rails and - surprisingly - it is working like hell!. The front wheel of the motorbike, is actually not being used at all - they basically use the power of the motobike motor for the movement of the rear wheel -which is placed on top of the rails. If my explanations are too hard to understand, I just suggest you look in the pictures attached and see for yourselves... It is by far the weirdest mode of transportation we have ever used in our lives
Now, the thing is that as there is only one railway, so when one starts to ride on the rails, he has no clue on what's coming from the other side, as no one regulates the transportaion and there is no set of rules for trafic up-stream or down-stream. So, when you encounter another Bruchita coming toward you - negotiations starts on who gets off the rail (manually picking up the Bruchita to the side of the rail)
and who “wins” and get to stay on rail. Most Bizarre! From what we saw, the heavier the load of the bruchita is (more people, loaded with cargo etc.) the better chances are that it is the one to stay on the trail....
It is a nice experience but also fairly frightening, as there is no mean of security “on board” this transportaion, even the benches we were seating on are not connected to the platform itself, and that does not prevent them from driving it fast. VERY fast.
After a short negotiation we “boarded” this transpo-creature and off we go - the wind is blowing in our faces, the kids are extremely excited and shouting like we were on a roller-coaster and the scenery around us - litterally around us as there are no windows - is spectacular - first some banana plantations, green fields, thatched farmer huts, and then thick jungle, lush greenery and rivers flowing down below. Once in a while, we are crossing on a bridge, and within a 20 minutes ride, we are arriving in San Cipriano. Safe and Sound thankd god...
As mentioned before, it is a fairly tiny village, very
basic accomodation for weekend tourism from the big city of Cali (3 hours away) and some restaurants serving rice and trout fish. We strolled in the “main” street, a bit scared at the beginning since all around us were afro-colombians staring at us, but we understood later that there are not many foreigners around so that is why we drew their attention. Especially the kids. We had a nice chat with one of the local ladies, owner of one of the restaurants, and she told us all there is to know about this easy going village.
We decided to go to one of the many river beaches around, accomodated ourselves under a huge tree with Bromelias, changed our clothes to swim suits - and dipped in the refreshing cold waters. That was divine - nobody was around. Only birds singing up in the trees, and the sound of the river flowing by with its crystal clear water. We sat there, looking at beauty of nature, listening to its sounds and didnt want to leave. Well, the kids decided to build a dam in the river, and Tal soon Joined them; I hope he will not decide to become an
engineer.... Well, all were busy during the next hours, until we felt its time to leave (plus we scheduled the ride back with our Bruchite driver). So we changed again, returned to the kind restaurant owner we were chatting with earlier, and and ordered a surprisigly rich and delicious lunch - for starter - a fish soup, then a huge grilled trout, accompanied with rice, Patacon (local banana flour fried like french fries), and freshly squeezed lemonade (all for 4 $ pp)!
Later, we lazily walked towards the rails, there we met our driver and started our ride back from San Cipriano. This time there was much traffic on the way, we had to stop several times, get off the Bruchita, then board again, while Bruchitas with tons of cargo passed by.
It was pretty surreal... At a certain point, we encountered a Bruchita that broke down, so Tal had to stretch his leg forward, and using our Bruchita, we litteraly pushed the dead Bruchita ahead of us until we reached our last station. As we said, definitely the most bizarre rides we have ever had!
Later that day, we returned to our hotel in Buenaventura, the
main port city on that side of Colombia, ready to continue the next morning to our next destination, Popayan
. To view our full gallery, click on the following link:
San Cipriano photos
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