Coco Hits the Newstands, Semana Santa Pergatory

This Post Covers April 12th- April 19th

Click below to listen to a very classic Colombian song, it’s from a genre of music called Cumbia that began in Colombia and is now popular all over Latin America.  This song is called La Pollera Colora recorded by Pedro Selcedo y Su Orquestra in 1963

So if I didn’t mention it before, my good friend Jr. who I stayed with in Sao Paulo and who helped me buy Coco is a journalist.  A month or so after I hit the road with Coco, Jr. landed a job writing for the Folha de Sao Paulo which is largest newspaper in Brazil (Bravo Jr.!) which must make it one of the biggest newspapers in all of Latin America.  Well a couple of weeks ago his editor asked him to come up with a story for the Saturday paper, something light and fun for people to read on Saturday morning.  He told him about his gringo friend who bought a VW bus and drove it across the whole country and proposed a story about it, his editor liked the idea, checked out my blog, got even more excited, and by the end of the day he had decided to give Jr. an entire page of the Saturday paper for the story!  So I went to work answering a slew of interview questions for Jr, and his editor and well…it didn’t run in the Saturday paper but it did run in the Sunday paper!  The Adventures of  Coco made big news all across the entire country of Brazil!  Hits on my blog went through the roof!  So below is the article as it ran in the paper. Hope you all have been practicing your Portuguese.

Ok, back to Colombia and picking up where I left off in my previous post. During my adventurous bus ride back to Cali from San Cipriano (if you havent seen the video I made about the adventure you can view it here: The Scenic Route Through San Cirpiano.)  I had plenty of time to think about the quickly approaching “Semana Santa”, a holy holiday that would begin in less than a week.  For the Colombians, Semana Santa is kind of the equivalent of the American Thanksgiving holiday, but instead of gathering to give thanks for….what exactly are we Americans giving thanks for on Thanksgiving?  Indians?  Food?    Anyways, like thanksgiving, Semana Santa in Latin America is a reason for people to travel from all over the country to spend a long weekend with family.  Just replace the turkey and stuffing with religious processions.  Statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary being paraded through streets and plazas, the smell of incense mingling with an instrumental version of Simon and Garfunkels “The Sound of Silence” being played by a middle school marching band (Yea, I never quite figured out how that became the official anthem of Semana Santa but I heard it being played and practiced in 3 different cities) .

Everyone travels to be with their families.  For backpackers, especially ones that don’t plan ahead like me, Semana Santa is a big pain in the ass.  It was the topic of discussion in all the hostels two weeks leading up to it “What are you doing for Semana Santa?”.  “I have no idea”, I would reply.  The smart ones would reply “Well, you better figure it out soon…we booked a hostel in Popayan 2 months ago”.  Very impressive.  I did not.  The thing with Semana Santa is that if you planned ahead and booked a hostel in one of the cities that is known for its Semana Santa processions it can be a very rich and interesting cultural experience.  But since everyone travels that week the busses fill up and/or bus prices skyrocket.  So if you didn’t book a hostel in a cool “Semana Santa City”, you’re only options is to pick some other random town or city to hunker down in – wait out the storm.  That being  the option I was facing, I sat there on my overturned plastic bucket behind the passenger seat of the bus and contemplated my plans.

I decided to first head to Buga.  A place that would make every other backpacker or local for that matter ask “Why are you going to Buga?”.  I was going because A.) No-one else goes there. B.) I needed a quite place to catch up on photo-editing and blogging.  And C.) Because it is known as a bit of a Catholic Mecca in Colombia.  It is a SUPER religious town with a huge cathedral that people literally make pilgrimages to visit.  I figured it would get me into the Semana Santa spirit.  So I returned to Cali, woke up the next morning and headed to Buga.

The Cathedral in Buga
"Miraculous Store"

I actually enjoyed Buga. It’s a nice little city,the cathedral is indeed impressive and there are dozens of other small churches scattered around the center of town.  One of the funniest things was the 40 or so (literally) shops lining the streets near the  Cathedral peddling any religious merchandise you can imagine but specializing in the kitsch variety.  Want a figurine doll of Saint Barthalameu  “Claro señor! Would you like the small one, or the large one? Porcelain or wood?  With or without holy water?”.  Isnt there a story in the bible about Jesus loosing his temper with the people selling things in front of the temple?

So I killed a couple days in Buga wandering around and catching up with online chores. With 5 days until Semana Santa, my planning had only taken me as far as my next destination, Manizales.  I figured from there I would make a plan for Semana Santa and spend some days doing what people do around there, hiking around the Parque Nacional de Los Nevados, or visiting coffee plantations.  Instead I found myself trapped in my hostel for 4 days while the wettest winter in the history of Colombia (*literally*) was unfolding beyond the windows of the hostel.  Landslides and flooding killed 300 people in two months.

The day before the Semana Santa holiday was to begin I made a spilt second decision, I had to get out of Manizales before I drowned in torrential rains and my own boredom.  I jumped on a bus and headed to…Quimbaya?

A very holy update coming soon.

Where, What, When, How Much, How Long, & Personal Recommendations

  • Bus from Cali to Buga- 3 hours, 7,500 COP
  • Hostel in Buga- Called *Buga Hostel* $17,000 COP, An American andGerman guy just opened this first and only hostel in Buga…was really nice,they have artesian beer and good pizza.  You can walk there from the bus station, it’s about 8 blocks.
  • Bus from Buga to Manizales- 17,500 COP
  • Hostel in Manizales- Mountain House Hostel, 18,000 COP.  Nice place, I’d reccomend.
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A Video Adventure Through San Cipriano, Colombia

Hola todos!  So I last left you in Cali, the Salsa Capital of South America.  As I said in my last post I’m not much of a Salsa dancer and Cali was not the most attractive city to spend time so I decided to see what other juicy adventure I could sink my teeth into that beckoned in the near vicinity.  That is how I came across San Cipriano, a small town that is “supposed” to be a couple hour bus ride from Cali.  I read a bit about the place…jungle, tiny, river, hiking, no roads in or out of the town.  Yep.  I’m in.  Was even more exciting because it is definitely off the beaten path with few tourists visiting the town.  Karinna, my Chilean travel companion that I had met in Popayán was also interested in coming along so we packed our bags and set off.  We met a couple of other travelers at the bus station who were also on their way to San Cipriano, a guy from Spain and a local from Cali.  We all ended up becoming friends and sharing in the adventure of exploring this mysterious jungle town.  Turned out that us four we were the only outsiders in the whole town (yea…off the beaten path)!

So, I decided to take The Scenic Route to a new level and to make my first official “Scenic Route” video production.  I have never made a video before so had to learn a new software program and well, lets just say I have a new respect for those who make videos.  I edited the entire thing on a tiny (and not so powerful) little netbook computer and after a couple days of having my eyes glued to the screen…without further adéu, I hope you enjoy the end product:

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Where, What, When, How Much, How Long, and Personal Recommendations

  • Bus To San Cipriano / Arriving– You have to take a bus to a town called Córdoba, 25 min from the coast.  One way ticket is $7500 COP (can´t bargain).  Will take 2.5-3 hours.  Make sure the driver knows to let you off in Córdoba otherwise you will end up in Buenaventurea.  When you get off the bus you walk 5 minutes down a steep paved road to reach the train tracks.
  • Brujita– Defintely dont pay anymore than $5,000 COP one way, you might even get it for less.  They say it can be a little more expensive on weekends (and there are also some Colombian tourists who come weekends so if you want the place for yourself go during the week)
  • Accomodation – We stayed at Hospedaje David.  Very basic but acceptable. $10,000 COP per person.
  • Innertube rental– Half day $3000 COP full day $5,000 COP
  • Park entrance– The town actually sits in a national park.  When you enter you have to pay $1,500 COP