Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Samaipata, Bolivia

Km 10 170

Our little trip has a good start: When we land, we see many palm trees and our first action when we get off the plane is to take off our jackets. We take the bus into town and settle in a small hotel not far from the centre. To enjoy the last sunlight of the day, we walk to the main square. We are in T-shirts and feel a small refreshing and pleasant breeze. We are surrounded by palm trees and have a small aperitif. A real holiday feeling sets in right away!

The next morning we start the day with breakfast at a bakery that specialised in products made from wholemeal flour. Everything is excellent, empanadas, croissants and cinnamon rolls. We are ready to leave for Samaipata. Luckily we have eaten well, because we have to search for a long time for a bus, and when we finally find a bus company, we have to wait for enough people to gather so that the bus can leave. During the 2 hours we have to wait, we were more than once ready to give up. Finally, around lunchtime, we set off on the almost 3-hours journey. Time is getting tight to do all the sightseeing we had planned for the afternoon. Nevertheless, we get off at Cuevas just before Samaipata. The place is super nice. It is a small park with 3 waterfalls in an exotic setting. We settle down at the edge of the first waterfall for a picnic, then we try a small bath. The water is so cold that we end up just dipping our feet in. Still, it’s nice to walk in the sand to get very close to the waterfall. After drying ourselves in the sun, we take the short walk to the viewpoint and the 2 other waterfalls. We couldn’t say which was the most beautiful, we liked them all. We hitchhike the last 20km to Samaipata and check into a hotel in the town. For dinner we order a vegetarian menu consisting of a spinach soup and an aubergine escalope. Finally, a bit of variety in the menu!

The next day, we have a very busy programme, and in order not to be dependent on other people for transports, we rent bikes. The first destination is the fortress of Samaipata. These are ruins around a large red rock considered sacred by the Incas. The rock was already venerated by the local people before the Incas arrived, but the Incas made it a military fortress and in the rock, they was carved the shapes of sacred animals, waterways for religious rites and mortuary niches. A lot of details have been preserved, and as we were almost alone on the site, we really enjoyed this visit. At noon, we go back to Samaipata to eat, then we start the climb up the mountain opposite of the village. The dirt road is difficult and very steep, even with our light mountain bikes we struggle. When we are almost at the top, we leave our bikes on the side of the road and start walking on a small hiking trail. Welcome to the giant fern forest, part of the Amboró national park! At the beginning, there are no ferns in sight, but the path through this virgin forest is nice anyway. We pass by a viewpoint on the valleys below and then continue to the top. Unfortunately, it’s foggy and we can’t see the extent of the national park. We don’t stay, we take the path at the side of the mountain back to our bikes. There is almost no path, we have to make our way through the abundant vegetation. We arrive at the edge of a stream and have finally found the forest of giant ferns. The path follows the stream and we walk between the ferns measuring around 10m. The ferns are real trees that look a bit like palm trees. This is how we imagine the jungle, this is the kind of experience we came here for. It’s already late and it’s getting dark in the forest, we run a bit to avoid having to ride our bikes down the mountain in the darkness. Finally, we make the descent just at sunset. The red earth lights up, it’s really beautiful. Arrived at Samaipata, we give back the bikes and we get our stuff at the hotel. The last objective of the day is to find a vehicle to return to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. We settle down with a beer and some empanadas on the side of the national road, but we don’t even have time to finish when a minibus stops and the driver shouts: Santa Cruz! We jump on the opportunity, but unfortunately the back of the minibus is full of vegetables to sell on the market. There is only one seat next to the driver. We negotiate a bit, and finally we get the right to squeez in both in the front seat. In Bolivia, everything is possible, there seems to be no traffic rules, or at least they are not applied. After 2h30 of driving, we don’t know how to sit anymore, together on 1 seat, we arrive in the suburbs of Santa Cruz. Our driver unfortunately doesn’t go to the centre, but he brings us to a hotel and he even negotiates the price for us so that we don’t get cheated. The room is perfect and in the little restaurant downstairs, there are meat skewers with a buffet of side dishes. We taste for the first time the fried manioc, it’s really good.

It’s already our last day in Santa Cruz and we don’t really know what to do with it. There are many possibilities, but finally we follow our reason and we go to do an antigenic test so that we don’t have any more stress in the evening in La Paz. Afterwards, we make a small walk in the centre before settling down in a restaurant to eat. They are showing the European Championships football matches, so we stay to watch and Matthieu takes the opportunity to work. As he still has a lot of things to do, we decide to go to the airport earlier so he can finish his work. We would have liked to stay a bit longer in Santa Cruz, but tomorrow we leave for Peru and we still have to pack our bikes, so let’s get to work!

To see all photos, please click here:
Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Samaipata

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