Cali, Ladrilleros, and San Cipriano, Colombia

Western Colombia is not a particularly popular tourist destination. Cali is known for it incredible salsa dancing but it doesn’t draw the crowds that Medellin or Cartagena do. We had come here to access El Choco, which is the region on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Whale were migrating past the area this time of year so we wanted to try and see them.

We took a long bus ride to Buenaventura. It was rough around the edges, like most port towns, and sweltering. We had enough time in the day to walk through the city which was developing a new waterfront park and had some vibrant markets. Everyone was very surprised to see American tourists so we drew a bit of attention wherever we went.

The next day we caught a “ferry” to Ladrilleros beach in Parque Nacional Natural Uramba Bahía Málaga. Here we found a room above a general store with a really nice family. The selling point was that the owner was the “best cook in the town” and from the meals we ate I think that’s probably true.

The following day we caught a boat to visit the whales. At about $20 we were thrilled with the price and figured we go out again multiple times over the next few days. The problem was that choppy seas, small boats, and impatient captains made the experience pretty brutal. I almost broke my camera in the chop and our butts were quite sore. We were thrilled that we saw whales, but probably more thrilled to be out of the boat. The following day we hopped a boat back to Buenaventura. We got caught in a rain squall that drenched all the crew and passengers too the bone.

We had a few days to kill since we were back from Ladrilleros faster than expected, We decided to hunt down a place called San Cipriano. Someone on the bus had told us we should check it out. We told our bus driver to drop us off when we were closest to the town. This ended up meaning we were dropped on the side of the highway. Luckily we didn’t have to walk to far down a hill to reach the train tracks. These “abandoned” railroad tracks are not the means of accessing the town. Locals have found an ingenious way to utilize the old tracks. By building and attaching carts to their motorcycles they can glide down the tracks in style.

We spend a couple of days exploring the waterfalls and jungle. Unfortunately, I badly sprained my ankle stepping down from tree root step on the trail. This was not a small injury and it would greatly affect the remainder of our itinerary in Colombia which was to include a lot of trekking and climbing. Still this was a magical place and we were very glad to be there.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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