Prior to our trip to Cartagena we all, meaning the adults of our group, got excited about doing a chive tour. A chiva tour you may ask. The name ‘chiva,’ means goat, maybe its called that because its hardy like a goat and good in tough mountainous conditions. A chiva is also called bus de escalera, meaning a bus with steps referencing the ladder to allow people to pack goods on and off the roof of the bus. But basically a chiva is a bus. The chiva was the traditional transport through Colombia and Ecuador, carrying both people and goods through the mountainous, winding roads and in the cities, since the early 20th century. Today chivas are still found in mountainous areas and have been given a second life as tourist buses in major cities, whether it be to see the sites or as a party bus.
While we saw many chivas in and around Cartagena, they all have certain features in common; no windows, no doors, long wooden bench seats with an entrances at each end, a ladder to the roof and it is brightly coloured, all over. Most chivas found in the cities will also be accompanied by music or a tour operator’s voice over the loud speaker.
As we were travelling with children we opted to do the chiva tourist tour that went to Castella di san Felipe, the Monastery of La Popa, Giant boots and some of the mansions in Grand El Cabrero. I will start with the positives of the tour, the bus is a very cool and colourful and the kids enjoyed this component. The guide was friendly. Our group was a diverse mix of nationalities and ages.
Unfortunately I feel the tour fell far below our expectations. We spent the first 45 minutes going around in circles picking up guests from hotels and at times returning to the same hotel twice. Central meeting point would be so much more convenient and not waste precious time in Cartagena. As our tour got underway we were told that we weren’t going to the Monastery La Popa. One of the reasons we chose the tour was because its not safe to walk to the Monastery La Popa and on the website it advertises,
“considering the entry price to La Popa and the San Felipe fort is about 25,000 pesos alone, and the minimum cost of getting a taxi to La Popa is 20,000 pesos.. then you’ll appreciate the 55,000 peso ticket price is very good value”
Perhaps the website needs a little updating. While the English guide did speak some English, the English portions were very small, the speakers were barely audible, so we didn’t really hear most of what he was saying. The tour visited the Old City, which we had already done on a walking tour the previous day, it was the first stop at an Emerald Store to give a brief explanation of Colombian emeralds that we decided we would continue on our own. We weren’t really there for a sales pitch.
So whilst the tour itself was disappointing, the Castello and bus ride in a traditional chiva was great. Perhaps shop around for a better tour.
Chiva Tour Information
Cost: 55 000 cop per person
Tour Time: starts at 1.30 if meeting at the Subway in the Laguito neighborhood and lasts about 4 hours.
To book via this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org