Getting Started with Diving in Taganga Colombia

Travel. In short, it’s all about exploring new worlds and developing yourself along the way. When I left Medellin and set off for Northern Colombia, I had no idea that I was going to put this statement into overdrive, and that I would soon be overcoming my fears of claustrophobia and the deep ocean waters, and exploring a whole new magical world under the sea. One week later I would be a certified PADI open water diver.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

 “Holly, the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.” These words of a trusted friend ran through my mind as I flipped through the pages of my Lonely Planet guide to South America. I had come upon Taganga, Colombia, and was learning that this formerly small coastal fishing town had become one of the best and most inexpensive places to learn how to scuba dive. I figured now was my chance. I might as well go for it.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

 Upon arrival in Taganga, I was shocked. The dry and dusty town looked absolutely run down and mostly deserted. I immediately wanted to abort my plan, and head back to Santa Marta and the Dreamer Hostel, where I had just left my friendly new travel acquaintances. But, as always, I stuck it out. I didn’t let my doubts get the best of me. I had a kind Couch Surfing host lined up for 4 days in this town, and the least I could do was meet him and take a walk around Taganga.

Taganga Colombia

 It turned out that my host also had a hostel, Casa Tara, and with that he had dozens of connections all around town. Shortly after I set down my massive backpack, we set off to explore Taganga. That’s when I heard the first explosion, a loud crack in the sky that made me duck down for cover. I looked around with panic in my eyes, and my face clearly asked the question that was running through my mind: What’s going on??
“Let me explain,” said my host. As we walked down the dirt roads towards the Main Street we heard half a dozen more “fireworks” being released into the sky. Apparently I had come on a holiday weekend. It was Friday, and Monday was the day of Saint Carmen, the important saint who helps and protects the people and fisherman of Taganga. It was going to be a weekend of celebration.

Taganga Colombia

 After popping in to a handful of dive centers which lined the streets of Taganga I decided to go with Octopus Dive Center. My Couch Surfing host had formed a relationship with them years before, and when I really couldn’t tell a difference between one place or another I decided a first hand recommendation was my best option. Plus, the woman at the front desk had the name Ada, which is the name of my home town, and she made me feel at ease from the moment I entered the office. I ended up getting started that same day, watching 4 hours of PADI preparation videos to familiarize myself with everything I needed to know about scuba diving before I took to the water.
The next morning I woke up, did a bit of yoga and meditation, and set off for Octopus. At 8am, the office was bustling with clients. I met my dive instructor, Chopper, and he set me up with a wetsuit and shoes, and we hopped into the boat, where he started explaining to me about my oxygen tank and how to set it up.  Around 8:30 we hit the sea. There were approximately 20 people in the boat, a mix of experienced divers, beginners, and instructors, and we all braced ourselves against the splash of the waves as we set off for the waters of Tayrona National Park.

Octopus Dive Center

 Once we arrived, everyone started splashing into the water. Chopper went over the list of activities we would need to perform that day: I would practice putting the regulator breathing device in and out of my mouth, I would practice sharing the “octopus arm” extra breathing regulator, I would fill my mask with water and clear it, and I would take off my mask completely and breath for an entire minute without it, and he would also simulate what it was like to not have air by closing the valve of my oxygen tank.
As soon as I put my face mask on I felt nervous and claustrophobic, and by the time I hit the water I was considering backing out, but before I knew it, I had strapped myself into the equipment and Chopper was in the water with me, signaling for me to deflate my BCD (buoyancy control device) and to let myself sink below the water. It wasn’t so bad at first. I was breathing under water. But then we immediately started going into the exercises. I panicked and kicked up to the surface, starting to hyperventilate. Chopper emerged right after me.

Scuba Diving with Octopus Dive Center

“What happened?” he asked, with a kind of coach-like jostling.
“I panicked!” I said, as I started to tremble. I was seriously thinking to myself, Screw this, I will just snorkel for the rest of my life. Chopper could tell I was really scared, so he swam me to the shallow area, and let me calm down, then we tried again. This time I didn’t have a problem. Taking my mouthpiece in and out, using the coordinating hand signals, even clearing my mask of water were all ok tasks, but when it came time to take off my mask and breath for an entire minute under water without it I freaked out. Chopper quickly plugged my nose for me, and then I regained my sensibility that I could indeed breath through my regulator, and that I wasn’t doomed just because I didn’t have my mask on.
My next task was to shut off the air and experience what it felt like to be out of air. I again became unreasonably scared. Until that day, I had no idea I was capable of crying under water, but apparently I am. Chopper swam me around, showed me some fish, and after a few minutes I was ready to do it…and it wasn’t even that bad. All these tasks are vital to experience if you’re going to be a diver, I just needed to warm myself up to them.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

  By the end of our first diving session, I was so grateful to be done and out of the water. Everyone was taken to a nearby beach for a snack break, and it was there I met a girl from Costa Rica who spoke highly of diving at a place which had always called my attention: Isla del Caño. This made me realize that there was so much I could continue to explore if I became certified as an open water diver. The rest of the day I did my swimming tests, and when we got back to mainland around 1pm, I started to study the exam material.
I spent the late afternoon doing yoga on the Taganga beach, where I met a wonderful local woman who invited me to do a sort of acroyoga using cloths and hanging from the sky. This had always intrigued yet intimidated me, but I figured why not accept her invitation and give it a try. In a matter of minutes I was climbing the sheets like a pro. This helped remind me that you will never learn a new skill if you don’t give it a try. By sunset, I was feeling really good. I was happy for overcoming two sets of fears in the same day, and I was excited to approach scuba diving again the next morning, determined to overcome my fears. I watched the sun sink in the sky as the boats came in for the evening to unload and sell their catch of the day. The massive fish were impressive, and I was excited to see them alive and in their natural environment the coming day.

Taganga Colombia

 Day two was more fun right from the start. We went deeper, practiced using our own breaths to float in place, and we practiced sharing air as well as navigating with a compass. I was very lucky that I started at a time where I happened to have my instructor all to myself. Chopper was encouraging and attentive, and literally held my hand as I overcame my fears of being deep underwater. I was in awe as we swam over yellow sea worms, through schools of fish, and between coral mounds, admiring the world under the sea.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

After our scuba sessions that day, I decided to take the exam. That way the next day I could dive at peace, and enjoy the festival for Saint Carmen with the rest of the Octopus crew. I ended up scoring 100%, and left the office with pats on the back from all the instructors.
Day three of diving was full of excitement and exploration. I went on a “fun dive” with a large family group, as Chopper had two new beginner students. We found lobsters, eels, an octopus and hundreds of colorful fish ranging from the size of my pinky finger to the length of my torso. My second dive I completed with Chopper, and at 18m deep he proudly scribbled, “Congratulations! Open Diver Certified!” on his underwater clipboard, and shook my hand.

PADI Open Water Dive with Octopus Dive Center

 As we retuned to the diver center, it was time to celebrate. Anyone and everyone with access to a boat was taking them up two towns, to party and dance and float about in the sea. They invited me along for the ride, and off we went, laughing and splashing and smiling as the sun sparkled on the waves in the sea. It was a celebration unlike any I have ever experienced. There were hundreds of boats on the water, and soon people took out buckets and started throwing water onto the passengers of the other boats. From time to time all the boats would come to a stop, and people would jump out and swim, or climb and roll down a sand dune, or hop from one boat to another. They were some of the wildest hours of my life, and I was without a doubt the only foreigner in the midst of all the madness.
As the boat ride came to an end, the party took to the streets. Taganga is typically a party town at night, but this night was beyond all the rest. Everyone was out drinking and dancing in the streets. It was really special to be with people who had lived their whole life in Taganga, and to go from person to person meeting them and hearing a bit of their life story in between rounds of dancing.

Taganga Colombia As my time in Taganga came to a close, I was amazed as I reflected on everything I had experienced in my long weekend there. I had devoted my energy to developing myself, and in the process I had overcome tremendous fears, earned myself a PADI Open Water Diver certification, and I had gotten to know the people of the town on a personal level. The small fishing town which had originally felt so foreign now felt a bit more like home. As I set off on my next adventure, exploring Tayrona National Park, I knew that Taganga would always have a special place in my heart, and that every time I embark on a dive in the future, I will always remember my time with Chopper, and be grateful to my wonderful Couch Surfing host for introducing me to the Octopus Dive Center.

Taganga Colombia

 

*Scuba pictures courtesy of Octopus Dive Center. All others taken by me.

Climbing El Peñol the Gigantic Rock of Guatape Colombia

When you first spot the great rock of El Peñol de Guatape it is impressive. As you get closer and start to clearly see each individual step you must climb to reach the top it is downright intimidating. However, don’t let this stop you from actually climbing El Peñol! The 360 degree view of the surrounding lush, rolling hills which pop out from the man-made reservoir is worth each one of the 740 steps it takes to reach the top.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 As you make your way up, pause frequently; enjoy the view. Think of all the work that went into constructing these solid, concrete stairs that you’re climbing. Take note of the air plants which cling to the rock, and run your hands over the rough texture of the walls, noting the different minerals and colors that come together to make up this gigantic wonder.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 When you make it up to Step 675 of El Peñol breathe a sigh of relief -you’re technically at the top! However, you will quickly notice that there is another large structure, with more stairs, which tempt you to climb them for an even better view. You might be tired, but trust me, those next few steps are worth it!

Climbing El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 At the top of the rock there are snacks, refreshments, and trinkets available for purchase, so why not have a look? If it’s a warm day and you’re in the mood for a treat, enjoy an arequipe and queso ice cream on a stick while listening to the traditional music of the Colombian country people and soaking in the spectacular surrounding view.

View from El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The first person to climb El Peñol was Luis Villegas back in 1954, and he was the visionary behind putting stairs up to the top so others could enjoy the view as well. At the very top there are many artistic facades, or  zócalos, honoring him and his dream.

Luis Villegas and El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The way down from El Peñol is a different route from the way up. By the time you reach the bottom, your legs will probably be shaking. Again, take it slow and enjoy the journey. Once at the bottom, head up the road to the magically colorful town of Guatape.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The town of Guatape is covered from the waist down with the impeccably painted zócalos depicting different flowers, animals, cars, or scenes of traditional Colombian life, like the famous “silleteros” who carry things like flowers from their farms to the cities in containers on their backs.

Silleteros

 Back in the 1980s the leaders of Guatape decided to beautiful the town, and thus began the creation of the artistic zócalos. Because of this, easy to spend hours wandering about Guatape, enjoying the cheerful colorful houses, and admiring the details of the town.

Calle de Recuerdos in Guatape

 If you are traveling in Medellin, Colombia, then a day trip to El Peñol and Guatape are definitely a “must” on your to do list. From climbing the rock to exploring the town, you will be happy you took the time to come out and explore.

Calle de Recuerdos in Guatape

Two Weeks Traveling Colombia

When my mom was planning our travels around Colombia, I was little to no help. I was in India, with intermittent access to Internet, attending a yoga teacher training course that kept my days full with meditation, yoga, and lectures. I told her, “Go for it! Whatever you want to do, I’ll do, and whatever we end up doing will be great, because we will be together.” This gave her free range to plan whatever she wanted. She utilized a Lonely Planet book and TripAdvisor, and ended up planning an incredible, off the beaten path, 9 day adventure-packed journey around Colombia.

Guatape

 The journey started in Bogota, Colombia with a group of flower enthusiasts known as the World Flower Council. With this group, we visited a local market, breezed through the Gold Museum, walked around the city and stopped in the beautiful Botero Museum, full of statues and paintings done by Colombia’s own Fernando Botero. We also had the chance to visit the countryside outside of Bogota and to see three different and distinct flower farms: Jaroma Roses, Alexandra Farms, and Eclipse Gardens.

Jaroma Roses

 From Bogota we caught a plane to Cali, Colombia, where we enjoyed four days of learning about floral design and connecting with hundreds of other people involved in the flower world, all in the name of “World Peace through flowers”.

World Flower Council

 Our solo travels started out the Monday morning after we finished up with the World Flower Council and Iberiada floral summit. We set off on a day-trip to Cordobá, where we embarked on a wild ride on a “brujita”, a wooden bench cart which is pushed by a motorcycle on a train track to the jungle town of San Cipriano. We spent the day enjoying all San Cipriano had to offer: a cool and refreshing river to swim in, delicious fresh fish meals and coconut muffin tortas, and an extremely rugged yet rewarding hike through the jungle to a waterfall.

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 The next day we set off for the town of Silvia, near Popayán, where we spent hours and hours  walking around the town’s Tuesday market and mingling with traditionally dressed locals.

Silvia Market Colombia

 From there, we set off on the mountain roads less traveled to get to San Andrés de Pisimbalá. The drive was full of breathtaking moments brought on by the both the spectacular mountain views, as well as the treacherous driving conditions. It was all worth it in the end, because our hotel in San Andrés, La Portada de Hospedaje, had the most genuine, hospitable owners and the best food of our whole trip.

Driving in Colombia

 We spent our day in San Andrés on horseback, riding through the mountainsides of the archaeological sites of Tierradentro, climbing down steep stairs to see some amazing ancient tombs which were well-preserved with their wall paintings and carvings.

Tierradentro Colombia

 When it came time to leave Tierradentro, we drove through the hot desert-like Huila region of Colombia, pausing to take a look at one of the biggest rivers in the country, The Magdalena, before we arrived at the microscopic airport in Neiva, where we caught a domestic flight to Medellin, the city of eternal spring.

The Magdalena River Colombia

 Medellin was impressive right from the start. As we spent nearly 30 minutes driving down a mountainside to get towards the impeccably clean El Poblado neighborhood we were able to observe the sprawling city and its beautiful mix of green space. While in Medellin, we took a free walking tour, which explained a lot about the city’s difficult past while highlighting its transformation which makes it the “New Medellin” that it is today.

Real City Tours Free Walking Tours Medellin Colombia

 Just outside of Medellin are the flower metropolis farmlands of Santa Elena, and we spent one day touring a beautiful hydrangea farm, learning about the growth process, and also oogling over the 3000 species of award-winning orchids that made up the personal collection of the owner.

Orchids in Colombia

 After a few days in the city, it was time to get back in touch with nature, so we set off for El Cañón de Rio Claro, a beautiful and completely affordable private nature reserve. The two nights we spent there were absolute bliss, with our open air room allowing us to have a birds eye view of the lush jungle that enveloped us. We could hear and see the river rushing below and we were at the same level as the colorful toucans who perched in the trees across the river. The reserve also has an amazing and intense hike through a marble cave, which involved trekking through the jungle, jumping into deep pools in the dark cave, and walking through stretches where creepy nocturnal birds cackle like goblins.

Rio Claro Colombia

 When our time in Rio Claro came to an end, we knew we only had one day left before we would separate our paths. We spent the last day driving to the massive rock known as El Peñol, and climbing the 740 steps to the top where we were able to indulge in a 360 degree view of the surrounding flooded mountains. The rock is near the cute and colorful town of Guatape, and after we descended from El Peñol we wandered the town, enjoying the beautifully painted houses.

Guatape

 One more long drive brought us back to the same hotel we had left only a few days earlier in Medellin. There we unpacked and re-packed, shared photos and reflected on the amazing trip which had just come to an end. My mom’s great energy and good attitude always make her my favorite traveling partner, and when I had to say goodbye the next morning I knew my travels would be quite a bit different as I continued on exploring Colombia without her.

Guatape

Driving the Colombian Countryside to Tierradentro

“If I hadn’t had two years of living in Costa Rica for training, this would be quite intense,” I said to my mom, as we both breathed a sigh of relief after passing through yet another mud pit on our way from Silvia to Tierradentro.

“Well, this is still quite…exciting,” she replied, having finally selected a word that truly captured the moment.

Driving in Colombia

 We had set off from the small town of Silvia only a few hours before, climbing up into the mountains on a lesser-traveled route to get to San Andrés de Pisimbalá, the closest town to the historical tombs of Tierradentro.
Our driver had selected the current route after asking around town and finding out that the main road to San Andrés was blocked by a landslide which had taken place 15 days prior. What we didn’t know when we set off, however, was that this new route we were taking was perhaps even more treacherous.

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  As we got higher and higher into the mountain range, we became further from civilization. Soon, we were in the middle of nowhere, in a misty fog, and the road had turned into sloppy muddy ruts from the wheels of the busses and motorcycles that had passed on before us.

Driving in Colombia

 We safely passed our first little landslide and mud patch and the road reverted to its normal compact dirt country road.
“Thank goodness that’s over,” said my mom. She had no idea we were only just getting started.

Driving in Colombia

 We spent the next five hours crawling through the mountain roads. The views were beyond breathtaking, with mountains upon mountains as far as the eye could see, and lush green countryside all around, but the roads were in terrible condition from the rain.

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  From time to time we would encounter an unmarked fork in the road and our driver would always look to me, and say, “What do we do?” or “Qué hacemos?” in Spanish, like I had the answer. Thank goodness that despite being in the middle of nowhere, we always seemed to find someone who could confirm our route, whether it was a child, a cowboy, or a “mala indígena”, a “bad indigenous person”, as our driver said under his breath after he got directions from a man cutting plants alongside the road.

Driving in Colombia

 “What’s mal??” asked my mom, snapping to attention when she recognized a word in Spanish. When I told her what the driver said, her eyes opened wide. She had done a lot of research for our Colombia trip, and the guidebooks had mentioned that the mountains around Tierradentro had a reputation for being a guerrilla stronghold. As we continued on our muddy, hilly, beautifully dangerous route, her mind ran wild with what-if situations where we got stuck in this desolate mountain region.
 At one point we were behind a “chiva”, a bus-truck that was full of people with supplies they had bought at the Silvia market down below. We watched as the men unloaded bag after bulging bag of rice and beans and other various supplies that would have to last for the next month until they went back into town to buy more.

Driving in Colombia

 Along the route we also had several encounters with horses carrying loads of sticks, which would be used as cooking wood in the houses. It was quite funny because usually these horses or donkeys would appear in our path right as we finally had a dry, straight patch of road where our driver was hoping to make up for lost time and go a bit faster.

Driving in Colombia

 One horse ended up galloping in front of us for a few minutes before darting off to the side of the road and another swayed its hips from side to side slowly walking in front of us, apparently unaware of our existence, with no owner in sight.
The last stretch of the drive was some of the most nerve-wracking of the whole five hours. Our driver was a champion, carefully easing his way down through the steep muddy stretches, maneuvering around busses and horses, and maintaining his calm when the going got tough. When we finally arrived to San Andrés de Pisimbalá, and immediately found our hotel, La Portada de Hospedaje, we all could have kissed the ground with gratitude and relief.

Driving in Colombia

 The next two days were spent blissfully relaxing at La Portada, in the quiet town tucked in the lush mountains of the Huila Departamento, and exploring the awe-inspiring archeological tombs and indigenous statues found in Tierradentro.

Step Back Into Time at the Tuesday Market in Silvia Colombia

“It’s like walking into a scene from National Geographic,” said my mom, as we stood in the middle of the bustling market in downtown Silvia, Colombia.

Silvia Market in Colombia

The items for sale were nothing too out of the ordinary, but what stood out were the hundreds of Guambino people, in their distinct traditional clothing, who had come down from the hillsides for the weekly Tuesday market in Silvia.

Silvia Market in Colombia

Although the people have their own language, they also speak Spanish, and I was extremely grateful that I could engage them in conversation. After warming up with some market talk they were more than happy to let me snap a few photos.

Silvia Market in Colombia

My mom and I were just about the only foreigners there, so we were as interesting to them as they were to us.

Silvia Market in Colombia

We walked around the marketplace for hours, trying different exotic fruits and local fried snacks, and conversing with the vendors.

Silvia Market in Colombia

People started to recognize us, and on more than one occasion we were solicited for pictures as well.

Silvia Market in Colombia

The Tuesday-only market in Silvia doesn’t have too much in the way of artisan goods, but there are several stands selling their traditional clothing and jewelry. You can find the black dome-shaped hats, and the knee length skirts; the knit shoulder bags and wool scarves; the stacks of white beaded necklaces and the pink or teal-edged  blanket shawls; and the beautifully embroidered straps which the women use for a variety of things, from holding up their skirts, to strapping their babies to their backs.

Silvia Market in Colombia

We happened to compliment one woman on her spectacular beaded necklace and she took it off and sold it to us on the spot, then found us a few minutes later and sold us her sister’s necklace as well! You can bargain if you want, but their crafts are so beautifully made and high in quality I figure it’s worth it to pay a bit more than the locals and invest your money in their community.

Silvia Market in Colombia

Before we left we sat down at one of the food stations in the “restaurant” corridor. The meals all appeared to be the same but different, serving either sancocho soup, with big chunks of potato and yucca, or a traditional rice, beans, salad and protein plate. Coffee and juice were flowing, and sweet treats could be found for sale in the main market. We opted for some cookies made from panela, which is a block of sugar derived from sugarcane. They reminded us of molasses.

Silvia Market in Colombia

By the time we left the market and the surrounding square, we were beaming from ear to ear. The experience was so traditional yet so exotic. We knew we had experienced something special, and that it would live on in our memories for years to come.

Silvia Market in Colombia

As we set off through the mountains, on our way to Tierradentro, we didn’t know if the day could get any more interesting…but boy oh boy did it ever. If you want to read about Tierradentro and the exciting drive there, click here.

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San Cipriano Colombia is an Adventure Unlike Any Other

“You know you’re in Colombia when your jungle guide is 15 years old and he tells you to walk faster so that he can have more time to play at the waterfall with his younger cousin and brother,” said my mom, as we laughed and reflected on the incredible day we had just spent exploring around San Cipriano, Colombia.

San Cipriano Colombia

The adventure began with a ride on the “brujitas”, which are essentially wooden bench-carts on train tracks, being pushed from behind by motorcycles.

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We piled onto the benches with about 15 other people, and before we knew it we were speeding down the tracks with nothing to hold on to and nothing to hold us in.

San Cipriano Colombia

As we sat there with the wind whipping our faces and the scenery rushing past us we couldn’t help but laugh with excitement. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced!

San Cipriano Colombia

Up until about 12 years ago people were actually powering these carts with man-power, pumping a stick lever to move them along the train tracks. As the need for speed grew, motorcycles were incorporated and now locals and tourists alike fly through the lush jungle.

San Cipriano Colombia

To catch the brujitas you start in a town called Córdoba and for 10,000 Colombian Pesos each way you can pile onto the brujitas to be pushed over rivers and across bridges deep into the jungle to find the town of San Cipriano.

San Cipriano Colombia

A fresh, crystal clear river flows through San Cipriano and many people come to swim and refresh in the deep river water. People climb up the rocks and trees on the banks and jump into the depths of the river with a crowd observing and cheering them on. It is also possible to rent inner tubes and walk up the road in order to float back down the river.

San Cipriano Colombia

The town of San Cipriano has a lot of Afro-Colombian influence and the food is distinct and delicious, with fish from the river as a main option on all menus.

San Cipriano Colombia

While there we enjoyed flavorful “sancocho” fish soup served in mix-matching bowls, with big chunks of sweet plantain and potato, and a fried fish lunch, as well as “torta de coco”, which are sweet coconut muffins served in half the shell of a coconut.

San Cipriano Colombia

As you walk the streets you will also see many locals selling a creamy white liquid in whatever recycled plastic container they happen to have. This is supposedly an aphrodisiac, but then again the Colombians seem to call everything an aphrodisiac, from goats milk with honey to various fruits and vegetables.

San Cipriano Colombia

As we were enjoying our lunch, a warm afternoon rain shower passed through and we watched several local boys start a game of soccer in the field across from the restaurant. It was a mix of splashing in puddles and chasing each other around the field in pursuit of the ball, but it was so cute to observe.

San Cipriano Colombia

We happened to be in San Cipriano during a national holiday, so there were many visitors and all the children were free from school. Apparently the town is usually quite quiet during the week, but because of this holiday it was extra alive and festive.

San Cipriano Colombia

After lunch we decided to search out some waterfalls, and this is when we were connected with our local 15 year old guide, Jhonny. As we walked down the street we got to know about him, and even met his younger cousin and brother, who joined us on our hike to the waterfalls. They had very limited English, and kept trying to engage my mom in a rapid-fire Spanish conversation, in between searching for river shrimp. They were amusing to say the least.

San Cipriano Colombia

Just as we were about to cross the river an old local man asked us if we were going to the waterfalls. When we told him yes he laughed at our sandals and told us we needed boots… All three of our little guides had them, but we decided to continue on, hoping for the best.

San Cipriano Colombia

As we hiked the muddy, root-ridden path, climbing up steep waist-high step wells we realized what kind of trek we were in for. Several groups of people passed us, going the other way, and they were caked with mud from their hands to the toes. It was around this time that Jhonny told me that we needed to hike faster, to make it to the waterfall and avoid nightfall in the jungle. It was only 3pm, but the shade of the thick vegetation foreshadowed just how dark the place would be come sunset.

San Cipriano Colombia

We started to get worried, but Jhonny assured us it was just “dos bajadas más” or about 15 minutes more, down two more steep declines, and we really wanted to swim in the waterfall so we persevered. In the end it was worth it. After another short walk up a river, we could hear the thundering of the water from the falls, and soon we walked up on a solid green wall, with mist hitting us before we were even to the swimming pool.

San Cipriano Colombia

There was another family there, celebrating the free day together, and we all decided to head back to the main area at the same time. Somehow the walk back only took us 30 minutes in comparison to the walk there, and by the end, the mother of this family of strangers was inviting me to stay at their home and get to know her kids. The Colombian people are truly some of the kindest and most hospitable people I have met in all my travels.

San Cipriano Colombia

After some final relaxation in the river it came time to catch the final 6pm brujitas to leave San Cipriano. Once back to the drop off point, we found a mob of people waiting to leave the jungle village. We came to understand that we needed to get a number which would give us our order for boarding the brujitas and when they finally called “80” we climbed up to the train tracks, selected our seats and prepared for takeoff.

San Cipriano Colombia

We rode back with the sun setting behind the lush jungle, creating gorgeous palm tree silhouettes on the horizon. By the time we got back to the station, I had made yet another friendly Colombian host-friend, and as we said our goodbyes I was simply in awe at the incredible adventure we had experienced in San Cipriano, Colombia that day.

San Cipriano Colombia

Have you ever experienced San Cipriano or anywhere like it? I am pretty sure it is a one-of-a-kind place. If you ever make it to Colombia, definitely take a day and check it out. You will never forget it!