Birding Without Borders

Day 95: The Little Witch

Birding via a different kind of iron horse.

April 5, 2015, San Cipriano, Colombia — Getting to San Cipriano, a little pueblo in the hills above Colombia’s Pacific coast, is an adventure in itself. There is no road access to San Cipriano, but an old, disused railway leads to the village. Taking advantage of this, the locals have built special carts, each one powered by a mounted motorcycle with its back tire resting on a rail, to use the tracks as a highway. They call this unique system “La Brujita”—“The Little Witch!”

Chris, Jose Luna, Juan Jose, and I climbed aboard La Brujita just before lunch today and were whisked through tunnels, over bridges, and through the forest to reach San Cipriano. After 10 minutes, we were humming along the railway like a witch on a broomstick when, around a corner, came a Brujita heading the opposite direction. A burst of brakes, and what to do? After a brief standoff, our driver sighed, asked us to dismount, then picked up the whole cart and motorcycle and moved it off the tracks to let the other one pass. Head-on collision averted, he put the cart back on the tracks and we were on our way again.

San Cipriano is a short, dusty strip of open-air hotels, dirt-floor restaurants, and stands renting truck tire tubes (for floating downriver, a popular activity with visitors) in an extensive tract of lush Pacific rainforest, and it makes a good base for a day of birding. We arrived in time to spend a couple of hours in the forest this afternoon and found a Lanceolated Monklet, Black-tipped Cotinga, and Blue-whiskered Tanager—some good birds! My little room even comes with a clean sheet and a fan, really all you need when sleeping in the tropics.

New birds today: 14

Year list: 1938

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