Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Samaipata and Santa Cruz (June 19th - 25th, 2013)

Samaipata is a small town (ca 3000 inhabitants) flanked by "the elbow of the Andes" (el Codo de los Andes) on one of its sides, and by the cloud forests of Parque Nacional Amboró on the other. We arrived to Samaipata expecting another San Pedro de Atacama. We expected many tour agencies trying to sell us various interesting tours to surrounding places. Well, there were some agencies in Samaipata, but they did not seem very enthusiastic about organizing and selling tours. Also compared to San Pedro, it rains quite often in Samaipata. These were some of the reasons why we ended up going on only one tour instead of the three we were hoping for. Fortunately, there were enough things we could do on our own.

The arrival went smoothly. We had left Sucre with an overnight bus, got off at around 5 AM, and rang on the doorbell of our hostel twenty minutes later. La Posada del Sol was the nicest place we stayed so far on our trip. Run by a guy from Texas and his wife from Cochabamba, things just worked here. We especially liked the adjoined restaurant and bar.

Because of the long night on the bus, we were quite tired on the first day, and therefore spent it by getting price offers from different tour agencies. We also met Olaf from Austria, working as a guide at Road Runners, who gave us many tips and lent Laura a book from his extensive library. When we wanted to go for a short hike to the hill next to Samaipata, it started to rain. Instead of hiking we rather enjoyed the happy hour at our hostel - two cocktails for price of one.

Next day the weather was quite OK, so in the morning we walked to a nearby animal refuge. This place provides shelter to animals that have been rescued from various situations. The people working there (mainly volunteers) try to give the animals as much freedom as possible, so monkeys were running all around and they seemed to enjoy our company.

Wild cat with no interest in us.

In contrast, monkeys, especially Cheetah, really enjoyed our company.

After the zoo and a lunch we took a taxi to el Fuerte. El Fuerte is a large pre-Inca holy place which is even on the UNESCO world heritage list. It was quite empty as it was drizzling a bit, but when we were ready to hike back to Samaipata, we already saw many more people. They were preparing for the celebration of the longest night in the southern hemisphere. Since we heard that the celebration is usually badly organized, starts very late, and because it looked like rain, we decided not to stay for the party.

El Fuerte

Back in Samaipata we asked if any agency already had a group for the next day, but only Michael Blendinger agency, run by a German botanist, had one person signed up for a tour. Because the price of a tour depends on the number of people who join, they suggested that we check with them later the same night or the following morning. We went to our hostel to enjoy another happy hour, and talked with a nice English couple who are on an indefinite journey in South America, and perhaps the world.

The next morning we returned to the agency during their listed opening time, but they were unfortunately closed. Once they opened an hour later, they had sad news for us: the tour had been completely booked the previous evening: we would simply not fit in the car. We were a bit sad about it, but our spirits improved a lot when we hiked up a nearby hill, with lovely views of the surroundings.

Samaipata from the top of the hill we hiked to

On our way down from the hill we took a short look at Pueblito, which was conveniently on our way. This is a hotel built in the form of a small village (one woman just really wanted to have own village), including a square, a chapel, a graveyard, and several cottages. Each cottage had a different "function", such as the baker's, the shoemaker's, the smith's, etc. There was also a colorful and noisy aviary.

After a vegetarian lunch in town we took a taxi to the nearby waterfalls (las Cuevas). There we hiked a bit along the river, which had couple of small, but beautiful cascades. We also encountered a solitary cow, eating her way through the forest.

Laura in front of waterfalls

In the evening we finally managed to book a tour for the Parque Nacional Arboró.

The tour through the park was just great. Our guide was very knowledgeable about all the plants. Not only did he know their names, but also what they are good for. We saw plants that help treat heart disease, diarrhea, coughing, and many other ailments. We had perfect weather and the trail conditions were much better than on the previous day, as the majority of the mud had already dried. The cloud forest was amazing, especially the giant ferns, which were nearly as high as the surrounding trees. During the tour we met Cynthia and Gonzalo - a very friendly couple from Santa Cruz. They were actually the first Bolivians working outside of the tourist industry we had the pleasure of meeting.

Cloud forest, with a giant fern

The last full day of our stay it was raining, so we relaxed and used the local slow Internet to catch up with our blog. In the evening we had some wine and cheese in a local pub and played a game of chess (our first one ever), which Laura won.

Next day, the weather was still bad, so we decided to continue our journey. We wanted to go to Cochabamba. Samaipata is actually on the old road from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba, but we were told that this road is not very good (and possibly not safe). Moreover, the buses that go along this route are not very comfortable. We therefore took a shared taxi to Santa Cruz, with the intention of catching a bus that would go along the new road to Cochabamba. The three-hour ride was very uncomfortable, because there were more people than intended in the taxi.

Santa Cruz de la Sierra is one of the largest and richest cities in Bolivia, and its inhabitants, along with the people in the rest of the Santa Cruz department are generally not supportive of the current government. There have even been calls for more autonomy of the region.

Rain in Santa Cruz

We stayed in Santa Cruz for a day and a half, and the whole time, it was raining. The highlight of our stay was a dinner with Cynthia, whom we'd met in the Amboró National Park (unfortunately, Gonzalo had to work late and could only meet us when we already needed to leave for the bus station). Cynthia took us to La Casa del Camba, and gave us a great overview of the local food (lots of meat and an astounding variety of potatoes).

All pictures are, us usually, available here.


  1. hey guys, r you talking to the people about politics? Morales was forced to land in Vienna yesterday and his plane was searched on behalf on US, a big shame on Austria and EU :-(((((

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    We are discussing politics with people quite often. My favorite topic is to warn people from nationalism as it was main reason that Czech Republic lost 40 years of its economical development :(

    We did not had a chance to discuss the plane issue as we were in the mountains last two days without civilization.


    PS: It would be nice if you could sign yourself next time.

  3. Hi dear Laura and Radek! We we delighted to meet you and hope you are having and amazing experince and time in South America! Stay safe and enjoy! Huge hugs from Bolivia. Cynthia and Gonzalo

  4. Dear Cynthia and Gonzalo,

    Many thanks for your wishes! You are without a doubt our favorite Bolivians!

    With hugs from Lunahuana,
    Laura and Radek

  5. Bolivia say Thank you very much for visiting Bolivia and we hope to return soon and Bolivia loves you. :-D GOD take care and GOD bless... :-D