Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Santa Cruz to Samaipata

Tomorrow will mark a week exactly that we have been in Bolivia, although it feels like it's been twice that. Since we arrived last Thursday, we have been to Santa Cruz, then to Samaipata, back to Santa Cruz and then to La Paz. And it's been amazing so far. Ups and downs, of course, but overall, it has been an incredible experience.

I'll jump right into it and will try not to be too long-winded (which, as you know, is super hard for me...).

From Santa Cruz, we took a shared taxi up into the mountains to Samaipata, which is a small village about 2 and a half hours from Santa Cruz.

We shared the taxi with two Bolivian men and one random kid who didn't seem to belong to anyone and sat on the arm rest between the driver and the front passenger. The cab ride was our first real taste of the terrifying transportation we will face on the trip. The road was narrow and curvy, and abruptly turned to gravel at some parts. The driver had apparently been taught to deal with the gravel bits by accelerating like a maniac on them. The road was lined with memorial crosses, ambling donkeys, stray dogs (they are EVERYWHERE here) and cows.

Our driver wasn't the only insane one on the road and as a result of other crazies trying to pass slower (read, sane) vehicles, we nearly had a head on collision three times. By the end of the trip, I was covering my eyes in fear. Even Vincent was scared:

While Samaipata is at 1600m altitude, it is still quite tropical and the weather was gorgeous, barring a few afternoon showers. In Samaipata, we stayed in a wonderful B&B called Posada del Sol, where we had stunning views from our balcony, a gorgeous garden to lounge in and incredible food. It was paradise. We, however, were nowhere near classy enough for the place. To give you an idea of our low-class backpacker style, here's us with our makeshift wine glasses on our balcony:

While we were in Samaipata, we explored the village, which had a cute little market.

We also did a lot of walking and went on two pretty serious hikes. The first was to some pre-Incan ruins about 5 miles from the village. The walk going there was beautiful and the ruins were really interesting.

However, while we were at the ruins, the heavens opened up and torrential rains started pouring down. We first took shelter under a viewing platform but when we realized that the rain wasn't giving up any time soon,  we just bit the bullet and finished the tour, getting soaked in the process:

Being wet didn't bother us too much, however neither of us were keen on walking back the 5 miles down to the village in wet shoes. We had the brilliant (not at all) idea of  hitching a ride with a micro bus that was leaving the ruins. While that saved us the walk, we quickly realized how unsafe it was. The road we walked up to the ruins was a beautiful, steep, winding dirt road that was a gorgeous red clay color. On the way down, however, it had been transformed by the rain into a slippery, rutted, washed out death trap. The bus slid on the mud going down and I was terrified that we would slide right off the road, down the cliff. While it was a horrible experience, it taught us the important lesson that bad roads are not to be messed with, and we'll keep that in mind for future adventures.

Our second hike was less eventful. Here are a couple pictures, but there's not a lot to say except that it was very awesome, if a little long (6 hours of hiking).

Vincent stood on an anthill while taking pictures and got attacked!

We also celebrated New Year's Eve in Samaipata with a meal at our posada, live local music and a million fireworks at midnight. It was a really cool experience, and fun to celebrate with a bunch of strangers from all over the world. One of the musicians that we talked to had rode his bike from Colorado to Bolivia and once tried to swim the Missouri river from Kansas City to St. Louis!

Partying on a dirt road under a display of fireworks.
When it was time to leave Samaipata, we went down to the main road to catch a shared taxi back to Santa Cruz to catch our bus to La Paz (our 17 hour bus, but that's another post entirely). While waiting for our taxi, a bus marked Santa Cruz stopped in front of us and we decided to get on it. We threw our bags in the baggage hold and hopped aboard. Our first realization was that this was no tourist bus- we were the only gringos on board. The second realization was that there were no more seats left on the bus for the three hour trip. It was then that we noticed a few little plastic foot stools in the aisle of the bus: our seats.

Vincent on his stool- a giant gringo in the middle of the locals
Notice the screaming baby next to me....
We were far too amused with the situation to be miserable, and the trip passed with nothing more eventful than a sore back.

Final thoughts after our first week here: Bolivia is incredible and amazingly authentic. While there is a thriving tourist industry, we have the impression that most mainstream tourists don't come here and for the most part, the locals are either indifferent to us or very kind. We haven't felt harassed at all. It is a beautiful country, extremely varied in its geography. I will write much more about that in my next post, which will also cover our loooong bus ride and our time in La Paz. My posts will be sporadic, depending on our internet access, but I'll do my best to post often enough that I can avoid marathon posts like this one.


  1. Love this post! I feel like I'm right there while sitting in my comfy home in mid mo:) it also looks like you have gone au natural loo and I'm so proud of you, you look more beautiful than ever. Miss you like crazy.

  2. Bring on the marathon posts. I loved reading this. I'm so impressed by your positive outlook on everything - rain or shine! Keep 'em coming. We can start a donation page and we can all help pay for your internet cafe time :)