Travelling from Manizales to Jardin, what a journey! Read on to find out why it was a ride to remember, or skip to the bottom for our quick summary of travel directions.
Jardin is a small pueblo in the middle of the mountains in the municipality of Antioquia. Everyone we spoke to about the town told us just how lovely it was. As a result, and despite the long journey involved, we decided to bite the bullet and go. Boy, are we glad we did! You can read about our stay here.
Be wary of contradictory travel directions
Everyone we spoke to about directions for the journey between Manizales and Jardin told us something different. We even went to the station with our Spanish speaking home-stay host the day before we travelled and she was told something completely different too! When we returned the next day that travel option didn’t exist!
Through piecing together these different accounts we decided on a route and crossed our fingers. Luckily for us it worked out, although it wasn’t quite as we had expected!
Travelling from Manizales to Jardin
To get from Manizales to Jardin you will face a two part journey and it starts in the Terminal de Transporte.
First leg of the journey – Manizales to Riosucio
16,000 COP per person, 3 hours
We bought our ticket with Cootransrio (on the right of the station as you enter through the main entrance). They run services throughout the day but there is no formal timetable. The small buses just leave whenever their drivers consider them to be full enough. We set off early as we weren’t entirely sure how the journey was going to go, and if we would actually make it to Jardín. We found a bus that left Manizales at 8am.
This first leg took three hours, arriving into Riosucio at around 11am. Usually it should only take two hours, but we spent lots of time waiting in traffic due to roadworks.
When we arrived in Riosucio we spoke to the drivers at the station and it turned out one of the guys spoke English, he was super helpful, answering all of the questions that we had. He told us that there were two options to get to Jardín. The first was a small bus (not unlike the one we hard just got off) that left at 2.20pm (warning, keep reading!!), the second left at 3pm and was a traditional ‘bus’, called a chiva. He said we didn’t need to book tickets in advance and should could back about 2pm for the small bus – this meant we had less time to wait and it sounded a lot more comfortable!
Unfortunately, when we returned to the station at 2pm, as having been instructed just a mere three hours before, we were told that the mystery 2.20pm bus didn’t exist. I’m not sure what wormhole the bus, or the guy who had originally told us about it were swallowed by, but when we went back neither existed. What can I say, this is Colombia! We’re just glad we didn’t leave our bags in the office like he suggested or they might have been swallowed up too!
Passing time in Riosucio
Riosucio is a small town in the Colombian mountains and there wasn’t a great deal for two people with huge backpacks to do to pass three hours. Our saviour came in the form of a small bakery called Vienesa Café. For £5.00, we had three drinks, a sandwich and a piece of cake each and managed to pass most of our wait. For the remaining time, we walked through the pretty town. As with most of the pueblos in Colombia, there is a lovely church and square to explore.
The town isn’t used to receiving foreigners and so we caused quite a stir with our huge bags and Phil being twice as tall as most of the locals. A couple of guys came up to us to practice their English skills and all of the bus drivers were aware of who we were and where we wanted to go by the time we returned to the bus station. Everyone was exceptionally nice to us, we even got a dedicated ‘guide’ in the bus station to make sure we knew where to wait and that we got on the right bus!
Second leg of the journey – Riosucio to Jardin
20,000 COP per person, 3.5 hours
Without the 2.20pm bus, one option was still open to us. It arrived in all of its colourful glory at 2.45pm. With no seat belts, doors, or windows and sporting very questionable suspension, this wooden box on wheels would be our ride for the next three and a half hours.
The bone-shaking chiva ride
Chiva is a very traditional Colombian form of transport, and a Colombian trip isn’t complete without boarding at least one. Unfortunately for us, the journey between the towns of Riosucio and Jardin works its way through the mountains and the road is… non-existent really. In most parts, it’s just a rocky dirt path that snakes it’s way around many corners, past snoozing cows, territorial dogs, and the odd farm. In some places the dirt track is not wide enough for such a huge vehicle, I don’t think many roads are, chivas are huge! I kid you not, in certain areas where the road isn’t big enough, a few planks have been laid out, held up by a stone here or a root there. It’s really no surprise that our driver said a quick prayer to Mary before we set off.
Honestly, it’s really hard to describe this journey. Imagine three hours in a blender and you’re close to the experience. The chiva was playing music and to start with it sounded like its clients were singing along. If you paid a little more attention however, you realised that people weren’t singing at all, it was just air being pushed out of their bodies as the vehicle smashed over various stones in the road. At one particularly severe jerk in the road, despite any language barriers that might exist, there was a unified ‘oomf!’ from the passengers.
About half way into the journey I looked at Phil. With a pained expression he made this introduction: “Testicle, meet kidney…”. It was a painful, bone-shaking journey and your beloved Spud on the Run was definitely more ‘Mash on a Crawl” by the end.
As well as being a mode of transport for people, this chiva acts as a delivery service. In addition to elderly men, teenagers, mums and tiny babies, we had crates of beer, bags of onions, bottles of soda, and a cardboard box full of live chickens. All dropped off safely at their designated spots on route!!
Don’t be put off!
Reconsidering a visit to Jardin? Please don’t! The journey sounds a little extreme, but come on! It’s definitely an experience – although granted, it’s not for those with a bad back… a bad neck… bad legs… basically just really consider if your body is up for the challenge. I’m pretty sure people have sued for whiplash and won over less! HOWEVER, Jardin really is WONDERFUL (read all about it here) and we are glad that we made the effort. After the slog of the journey, we really felt like we had earned our stay in this little mountain paradise. I’m pretty sure the angels were singing as we rolled into Jardin.
Travel directions in summary
There are two parts to the journey to get from Manizales to Jardin. They are as follows:
1st leg – Manizales to Riosucio
Get the bus from Terminal de Transporte in Manizales. We went with Cootransrio who run buses throughout the day, and leave whenever the bus is full enough. For us the bus took three hours because of road works, but we were told it’s usually only two hours. It cost 16,000 COP per person.
2nd leg – Riosucio to Jardin
As far as we know, there is only one daily service which leaves at 3pm from the terminal in Riosucio. The journey is long and winding and takes 3.5 hours in total, and costs 20,000COP each.
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