As we approached the end of our time in Colombia and left the highly touristed Guatape and Salento behind, we felt it was time to get off the well trodden tourist trail and search out something even more unique. We heard about a small village called San Cipriano near the Pacific coast which is only accessible by some kind of crazy motorcycle contraption that runs on an old train track through the jungle and decided it would be the perfect adventure!
Getting to San Cipriano via brujita is a one-of-a-kind experience; it’s basically a piece of plywood with a bench nailed to it, bolted to to the side of a motorcycle. This is lifted onto the train tracks and a few small wheels on the underside hold it in place. We sat on the bench (with absolutely no safety precautions in place) and before we knew it we were flying 40km/h down the tracks. It was an exciting but slightly terrifying experience. To make it more interesting other brujitas are coming from the village racing towards you in a game of chicken, forcing one driver to tediously lift his vehicle off the tracks to allow the other one past.
20 minutes later we arrived in town without any major catastrophes and met a guy named Manuel. He was very friendly and offered us a good deal on a room at Hotel Marlon near the river. San Cipriano is a surprisingly clean village of about 500 residents with very basic accommodation (think 4 plywood walls and a mosquito net). There is one main road with a couple of shorter streets that run perpendicular. All of this is surrounded by thick mountainous jungle as an emerald green river flows by it’s side.
We spent our first afternoon exploring the village and getting to know the slightly disfunctional family that ran our guesthouse. Waking up the following morning, we had one priority: tubing the river. Manuel’s 9 year old son Marlon offered to be our guide for the day and show us the best swimming spots. We set off on the road out of town and after twenty minutes came to a trail leading to a crystal clear lagoon called refugio del amour. We spent time jumping off the rocks, admiring the small waterfall and generally just enjoying the secluded jungle setting. After that Marlon led us back to the river where we would tube to town. At the entrance to the river there were a few small shops selling cold beer so of course we bought a few for our casual float (sorry Marlon, your not old enough – he was happy with ice cream). The river is one of the most beauiful spots we have found so far. The shallow water changes from aquamarine to emerald to completely clear with dripping wet jungle over the banks. It takes about an hour to get back to town and we enjoyed it so much we did it twice (spending extra time at a particularly fun section of rapids)!
After a couple of days in the jungle we were craving some comforts and decided to head to a city. We said heartfelt goodbye’s to the family that took care of us and braved the brujita ride back to the highway where we could flag down an onward bus.
Getting To And From: If coming from Cali, take a Buenaventura bound bus (frequent service) and ask to be dropped off at San Cipriano. If coming from anywhere north of Cali, take a bus to Buga, then switch for a bus to Buenaventura and ask to be dropped off at San Cipriano. When you get off the bus there will likely be guys wanting to lead you to town and asking extortionate prices for the brujita ride (if no one is there, take the road going left from the highway, it goes down hill to the train tracks and is a 10 minute walk). Technically the brujitas are operated by a co-op and the price should be $5000 COP/person although it may be tough to get that price heading into the village, bargain hard.
Accommodation: There are several very basic guesthouses in town, all have restaurants. We paid $20,000 COP for a room at Hotel Marlon.
Food and Drink: All of the guesthouses have restaurants selling reasonably priced food. The town is known for having good sea food dishes.
BONUS TIP: People in the town might try to insist that you have a guide for tubing the river or hiking the trails, however it is definitely not necessary. You can rent a tube ($5000 COP for the day) from lots of places and then follow the road out of town (away from the train tracks) for about 30 minutes and tube back. (Keep in mind though, poverty is a big issue in San Cipriano and hiring a local kid as a ‘guide’ for a few thousand COP is money that is truly needed)