A normal bus wasn’t available for our trip from Jardín to Riosucio so we had to take a traditional chiva instead. A chiva is a big, colorful, powerful bus that was once the traditional form of transportation in many parts of Colombia. They usually have bench seating and an open entrance to climb into only on the right side. The seats are quite uncomfortable and the rides can be extremely bumpy. Traditional music is often played loudly to cover the roaring noise of the engine.
We set off from Jardín at 8am on our way to Riosucio. The first few minutes of the journey were on a smooth paved road, but the road quickly turned to rough gravel and dirt. We were high up in the mountains so It was cold for the first half of the journey. The road was also quite dangerous. At some points, we could tell that some of the road had fallen off the mountain and it was very tight for the chiva to get through.
At the midway point, we stopped at a cottage in the middle of nowhere for some aguapanela. The views were breathtaking.
The second half of the ride was incredibly dusty but considerably warmer. A thick film of dust started to gather on the seats. Every time we stopped to pick someone up along the route, the driver’s assistant would collect the person’s fare, hand them a towel to wipe off the seat, and we would continue. When we reached Riosucio we were covered in dust and our clothes and shoes were brown.
Ride Your Own Chiva
It may not be the most glamorous transportation experience, but if you want something traditional and unique, traveling by chiva at least once is a must for any visitor to Colombia.
To do this ride between the two towns, Cootransrio runs chivas that cost COP$19,000 one way (as of July 2015). They take roughly three hours down a gravel road that’s very dusty and dangerous at a few points. The chivas leave Riosucio at 8am and 3pm daily, but on Saturdays only at 12pm. From Jardín to Riosucio, they run on the same schedule except at 2pm in the afternoon.