Salsa and adrenaline in Cali and San Cipriano, Colombia

Riding the moto rail trolley to San Cipriano

A motorbike on a railway? The unusual transport to reach San Cipriano, Colombia

By night it is salsa in Cali that gets the heart racing. By day it is travelling to nearby San Cipriano via a heart stopping, lightning speed ride through the jungle on a modified rail trolley.


Party is Cali’s moto and dancing is its soul. Cali lives and breathes salsa and on almost every corner you can find a dance studio or salsa bar.

Cali is also known for being dangerous and dirty but as I wandered the backstreets of Cali, I couldn’t help but be intoxicated by its vibe.  The streets were filled with kids playing soccer, grandparents sitting on their front steps, artists painting in their converted garages and music sounding out from the dance studios.

I came to Cali to dance and to visit the nearby village of San Cipriano, on my way to Ecuador.

Recommended Salsa Bars: Kukaramakara, Cafe Mi Tierra, Tin Tin, Zaperoco and Roncon de Don Hever.

A motorbike on a railway is ready for passenger, San Cipriano

A motorbike on a railway is ready for passengers, San Cipriano

Lightning fast ride to San Cipriano

Reaching the town of San Cirpiano near Cali requires a unique form of transport where the traditional pump action rail trolley has been fitted with a motorbike, taking you on an adrenaline filled ride like no other.

There are no seatbelt or helmets, just the option to hold on tight and enjoy the beautiful jungle scenery as you race past (and hope to not encounter an on-coming train!)

The small Afro-Caribbean village of San Cipriano is located on a small river near Buenaventura about two hours via bus (and rail trolley) from Cali. While famous for its mode of transport, it offers some lovely jungle walks to nearby waterfalls and you can rent a tube and float down river to town.

Tubing along the river, San Cipriano

Tubing along the river, San Cipriano

After recovering from the arrival transport, I was again adopted by a Colombian family and made my way to the river to cool off. The search for accommodation proved interesting and ranged from extremely basic to basic.

The following morning I joined my Colombian family to hike the jungle to reach nearby waterfalls. Once again, we spotted two snakes bringing my Latin American total to nine. I am starting to feel a little like a snake whisperer.

It was a near miss on the moto-trolley out of the jungle. Fortunately our driver was late and we avoided coming head-on into an oncoming train. The train doesn’t have a schedule so it is matter of luck and quickly removing the moto trolley from the tracks when you hear one coming.

Flying through the jungle on a moto rail trolley, San Cipriano

Flying through the jungle on a moto rail trolley, San Cipriano

Accommodation: Hotel David has basic rooms with the luxuries of a fan and mosquito net for COP15,000.

Getting to San Cipriano: Take a Buenaventura bus from Cali and asked to be dropped at Córdoba. COP20,000. The moto trolley is COP10,000 return.

Accommodation in Cali: El Viajero is a great hostel in a colonial building offering free daily salsa classes, activities, BBQs and a pool. Dorms from COP25,000, includes breakfast.

For one of Colombia’s most beautiful hostels stay in Casa Miraflores. This stunning, new hostel has great staff and gorgeous communal areas. It is quiet and a good place to capture some alone time but not so great if you want to party. COP25,000 for a four bed dorm, includes breakfast and towel. COP85,000 for a private room.

Getting to Cali: buses run frequently from Bogota, Armenia, Medellin and Popoyan and there are direct services to Quito. From Bogota, prices range from COP40,000-80,000 with VIP services offered on overnight buses.