Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pueblo Transportation

Living in a small, rural pueblo presents itself with plenty of challenges and obstacles. Power is lost without warning. Air conditioned rooms are a luxury. Running water is something found in the large, bustling cities. Despite these perceived limitations, there is one thing that is relatively easy to access and use: transportation. Getting around the pueblo itself and to other surrounding areas is fairly easy and straight forward. Below are five of the most common ways to get around a Colombian pueblo...

1. Moto

Easily the most convenient and popular option of locals, motos can be found at pretty much every street corner and major intersection in town. For less than $0.50 USD, you can be transported anywhere in town that you would like. Motos also run between pueblos and are sometimes the only option available when a bus is missed or time is an issue. Locals are not afraid to transport any item on a moto, as I have personally witnessed pots of sancocho, bookshelves, and queen sized mattresses moved on the back of a moto.

2. Motocoches

These three-wheeled bikes are almost as popular as motos. Used mainly by large groups of people wishing to travel together or people with lots of luggage/groceries/items, motocoches provide a bit of a safer, slower ride. Prices are normally a littler higher to use one of these (closer to $1.00 USD), but when trying to transport lots of items, the slight uptick in price is definitely worth it.

3. Bus

When traveling outside of the pueblo, the most effective form of transportation is the local pueblo bus. These colorful vehicles are normally adorned with various decals, ranging from Looney Tunes to pictures of Jesus to American flags. These buses are marked with the name of the final destination, usually painted across the front, just above the windshield. Most also provide a small plaque stating the name of the pueblo where the bus is headed. Getting on the bus early and finding a seat, preferably by a window, is a necessity as the bus tends to fill up quickly. The lack of air conditioning can make the commute extremely uncomfortable some days. Buses leave once every hour, more or less on the hour, starting at 5 am, with the last bus leaving town around 4 pm. From Repelón, the two-hour bus journey to Barranquilla costs roughly $3.00 USD.

 4. Bicycle

The bicycle is also a popular way to move about the pueblo. Used by all ages, biking provides for a more relaxed, controlled ride. One of the really interesting things here is how people use their bikes. It is very common to see two or three people on one bike - one person sitting on the bar between the seat and front tire, one person on the seat, and someone else hanging on the back wheel. Also super common is seeing grown adults (usually men) riding bikes designed for small children. While an amusing spectacle, I personally cringe every time that I see this, just thinking about how uncomfortable that ride must truly be.

5. Walking!

My personal favorite and preferred way to get around my pueblo is by walking! Everyone in town is always in shock that I choose to walk the ten minutes to my house from school every day. I am constantly bombarded with cries of "but the sun - it's going to turn you black!" To this, I quickly reply "that's the goal!" One thing that I've come to understand and appreciate here is how Colombians judge distance. It is not uncommon to see a Colombian take a moto three blocks - anything to avoid extra steps! While the heat does sometimes make walking absolutely horrendous, I love the exercise, along with the ability to greet and converse with others that I encounter.

Added Bonus: Mule Cart

The occasionally mule cart will make its way through town. Normally used by local farmers transporting their goods from the finca to town, this form of transportation always adds a bit of adventure in maneuvering through town. Getting stuck behind a slow moving mule is almost the same as following a combine back home during harvest season - you aren't going to be getting anywhere anytime soon!

With the various difficulties that living in a pueblo can present, it's nice knowing that getting from one place to another is relatively easy and stress-free. It'll definitely be an adjustment when I finally return back to the US getting used to the pace at which everything moves, including transportation. I'm also going to have to retrain myself in the art of driving, something I will not have done for over two years! The accelerator is the pedal on the left, right?? ;)

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