The Venerable Willys, Public Transportation in the Pueblos

Make your way to just about any village or town in the Eje Cafetero, Colombia’s coffee growing region, and you’ll see a strange sight: old jeeps packed with people and possibly animals, goods piled-up sky high on top and people perilously hanging on to the back and sides of the vehicle as it careens down dusty and bumpy roads. This, my friends, is public transportation Colombian style!

While the 1940 to 1960’s vintage Willys Jeeps, also known as yipao (Jeep-pow) are mostly concentrated in the coffee growing areas, they’re also found in a large part of the country.

Always a big touristic attraction, yipao parades and competitions happen yearly as part of a festival or as the main attraction. The annual Fiesta Nacional del Café in Calarcá (Quindío) in July is arguably the most famous if you want to see the yipaos dressed-up like crazy floats or doing tricks that might even be dangerous (one I witnessed had the driver put his Willys turning in a tight circle with people just feet away then jumped out!).

If Santa Rosa de Cabal (Risaralda) has its Fiestas de las Araucarias happening, a yipao parade is sure to be featured. Willys are extensively used in this locality to take people to and from veredas (the countryside), incidentally.

We’ll look at other pueblo public transportation like chivas, motoratones and mototaxis next time!

(Photos by Klau Germain)