Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Samaipata ´rest in the heights´

So we decided to cut out the jungle and step a bit off the beaten gringo track to take some time to discover the village of Samaipata, which means ´rest in the heights´ in some indigenous language. It is nestled in the Andes, just before they give way to the Chaco plains to the southeast and the Amazon to the Northest, 2 hours before the 2nd biggest city of Santa Cruz. At first, hiking up the road at dawn in the mist we were reminded of Mindo, but it wasn´t as touristy nor as small nor as expensive. So we quite enjoyed ourselves! Got a really nice hostal (private bath w/hot water and healthy breakfast!) The first day we had a nap (hey that was awful overnight bus trip!) explored the town a bit and got an almuerzo, (set lunch) yay!!! finally back to huge fresh meals for 50c-2$ so exciting. The a taxi ride up to a mysterious archaeological site on the top of a mountain with stunning views over the andes: El Fuerte (the fort) though it was more likely a ceremonial site, carved figures and niches in a huge huge rock on the crest of the hill. Will some other ruins around it. Nice hour and half hike with views over the green mountains and red dirt roads. Then back down to take in the free museum. And another nap before dinner at a nice restarant that wasn`t nearly as good as the local cheap one. But I had a bit of a cold and didn`t feel like going further.
The next day we did two trips: The first we paid a ridiculous amount of money to bump around in a truck for an hour until the start of our hike down around and up from a valley over slippery rocks with a silent guide jumping stinging ants nests, plastered in bug spray and sunscreen. Just trudung along through snake and puma filled woods, Ddying from the heat climbing for 3km straight at the end. And the second: We did a lovely hike in the mountains, first down to a clear brook bubbling over smooth red rocks in gorgeous greenery filled with more butterflied than I have ever seen. Got see a few giant fern trees and we even hiked fast enough to be able to go the little extra into a 16m waterfall which we swam in, how cool! Had a nice picnic lunch, saw a snake (not poisonous) and didn´t get a single mosquito bite. Even conquered the 3km uphill. Plus got invited by a local lady while waiting for the truck back to pick fruit and eat some (wuapura or something, like huge delicious black currants maybe but sweeter?) And back to the village in time for another merienda. OK so actually that was just 2 sides of one trip... I will remember the second version but not everything is as peachy as it can seem when I`m only writing in retrospect.
The next day was Sunday the 6th, elections! So there was a vehicule restriction on and a lot of things were closed, we had been forwarned of this luckily and had decided to spend a 3rd day in samaipata since there were no buses. best decision ever! We had also thought ahead enough and decided to bike since there were no taxis out to a waterfall 20 km away that they ensured us would be open (it wasn´t, but we called at the house next door and the awesomest kid came out and was like, it´s closed.... but I could let in. You still have to pay the entrance fee (a dollar) and well, you see, you`ll have to cross the river and for that well, you´ll have to take off your shoes. And we were like no problem! Ok, so this was the greatest day ever. Perfect bike ride there : Pavement, weather, views, slight downhill and almost no traffic for the restriction. Passed more livestock than vehicules. Then the waterfalls. just, WOW Like paradise. Plus, we were the only ones there, paradise to ourselves!! Waded across the river, short walk through a park-like place and and we emerged at a series of 2 waterfalls pouring over pink rocks surrounded by lush greenery, circled birds in a blue sky with a few puffy white clouds and a lovely sandy beach around a swimming hole below the biggest waterfall, water was the prefect temperature and we could even sit behind the waterfall, butterflies.... you get the picture, perfection. We swam and then relxed playing cards on the beach and eating our delicious packed lunch from the hostel. Later we walked up the shallow sandy river, so safe and calm. Planning to go back in 5 years for the next elections!! (shhh don´t spill the secret!) However the bike ride back was not the easiest, 14km slightly uphill we managed but then it got very steep for the last 6... and we might have lucked out with a taxi that took us the last 5. But after a hot shower we were back to perfection and took a nice walk out of town (to a viewpoint we never found, but the views we did see were awesome enough) Lovely green hills, red roads, flowers. More delicious market food for dinner, picnic in the gorgeous plaza and then it was time to pack to be ready to head out super early the next morning in a taxi to Santa Cruz, and that story will have to wait.
Now in Puno, Peru. Next 2 days on the islands of lake titicaca without internet and after straight onto Cuzco!!

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