San Cipriano is one of those places that I accidentally stumbled upon but will never forget. Before entering Colombia, I had never heard of it. Most probably haven’t. With less than 600 inhabitants, all of Afro-Colombian descent, and nestled in the jungle somewhere near Colombia’s Pacific Coast, it’s a bit off the typical tourist track.
The best part about San Cipriano is the unique way that you enter the town. Take a bus from Cali to Córdoba, walk downhill for a bit (and get guided by a local hoping for a small tip), and suddenly stumble upon motorcycles pulling wooden carts over railroad tracks. No trains. Just motorcycles. I cannot make this up.
This unique mode of transportation is half the reason to go. Where else have you ever seen anything like it? Called motobrujas, these carts take you on a ride through the jungle from Córdoba to San Cipriano; there is no road. It costs 5,000CP for a Gringo and supposedly only 3,000CP for a Colombian. (Don’t let them charge you more!) Once aboard, I felt like a kid on a roller coaster but with a way better view. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop smiling!
Once in town, which is essentially one main dirt road, there are several hotels/hostels/restaurants/shacks to choose from, but it’s hard to tell which ones are in service because many appear abandoned. Our moto driver lead us to his friend’s place (or was it his place?) and for some reason, I said, sure. This is fine. I guess I was looking for a local experience? It was a tiny box with a twin mattress for sleeping quarters and the kind of shared bathroom you hope you never need to use. Needless to say I did not shower there. If we had kept on walking, we probably would have found more comfortable accommodations, but still nothing modern and all of them definitely way more costly. We only paid 10,000CP (Colombian Pesos) each ($3.37) for the night, so I was fine with it. This was jungle life!
It started raining after we arrived, the crazy kind of downpour that makes Gringos stay inside, or in our case, under the roof of an open air restaurant. Hannah and I stayed there for hours, enjoying cervezas, snacking, people watching, playing with kids (and getting hustled by them). All I could do was laugh at the situation. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but all I kept thinking was how different this tiny town is. What would it be like to grow up here? A different life indeed.
Eventually, a woman from our hotel/restaurant sold us a bottle of Crema de Arrechón. This mixed bev consists of viche, alcohol made from sugar cane that is unique to the Pacific coastal communities, spices, and milky stuff that kind of makes it taste like eggnog. It even comes with a homemade looking label. Try it if you dare. I asked a guy what was in it, and I think he said: milk, milk powder, and condensed milk…there may have also been another type of milk I have forgotten. Eventually the rain stopped long enough for us to take a walk, so Hannah and I walked around drinking from the bottle and found some arepas for a $1 dinner.
We were invited by some of the locals to go out dancing that night. We could hear the music but couldn’t see anything. Where was there dancing in this tiny town?? We were guided through the darkness off the main road and towards the loud music where we joined a group of college students visiting from Cali I presume. I let the locals lead me in a few salsa numbers (where I also elbowed one of them in the head because I didn’t understand his move; I’m a beginner), and then everyone got on the floor to shake their booties when the popular Reggaeton song “Shaky, Shaky” by Daddy Yankee played. I looooove to dance, and I hope that this memory will be forever ingrained in my mind. I don’t take my iPhone out at night, so I don’t have any photos to document it. I just have the images of the Colombians, Hannah, and me standing in a circle and dancing like we do back at home. (Google “Shaky, Shaky” and have a listen!)
The next day the weather was looking up, so we walked along the path to visit the Cascada del Amor (waterfall) and swim in the river. It turns out a lot of Colombians visit San Cipriano over the weekend, so we got to see how they hang out, party, and picnic with their family and friends. I saw some fancy cakes and wish they invited us to join them! The swim was perfect in the 100% humidity. (Don’t fact check me on that, but it certainly felt like 100%!)
One day and one night is enough time to spend in San Cipriano, so after our walk, Hannah and I packed our bags and said chao to one of the most unique places I’d ever been to. Little did I know that I was going to head somewhere even more unique and off the grid!
What’s one of the most unique places you’ve visited?