A view from the walkway. You might just be able to make out some carvings!!
Having spent so long in Sucre I was looking forward to getting back to nature a little bit. Thus, I headed to the small town of Samaipata, about 10 hours north-east of Sucre. Only problem was that the bus would arrive there at about 4 a.m. and drop me at the side of the road - or that was the plan. Predictably, they forgot about me - but luckily I was on the ball and managed to get the driver to stop only 200 metres past the town!!!
One of the big draws in Samaipata are the ruins of "El Fuerte", a pre-columbian site dominated by an absolutely huge rock complete with carvings that are apparently pre-Inca. Unfortunately, those pesky tourists that used to climb all over, and graffiti on the rock back in the day, have meant that the site can now only be viewed from the raised walkways that surround it. To be honest, the carvings on the rock were very badly eroded so I had trouble making out anything of interest, but the weather was great and overall the site was very pleasant so it was a cool day out.
Another day, I decided to hire
The most spectacular of the falls, viewed from a small "beach" where I topped up the tan.
a bike and visit Cuevas, site of a set of very pleasant waterfalls. It was a 20 km ride each way, which didn't seem too much before I started out. Unfortunately, about 15km of it was a pretty steep gradient - which was an absolute blast when I was hooning down the hills to the waterfalls - but not so much fun as I toiled my way back to Samaipata!!!
The falls themselves were great. Two major cascades and a third minor set of falls, each with small beaches at the base which were great for relaxing and whiling away the time. You could also climb to the top of one of the falls and teeter on the edge (no health and safety here!!), which was good fun.
I think Cuevas gives an example of tourism in Bolivia - or rather the lack of it in some parts. A beautiful set of falls, fabulously exploitable with their proximity to a tourist town and the number of visitors the day I was there - 5 (including me)!! Each of us paid 5 Bolivianos a head and so thats takings for the day of about GBP1.80!!
The main attraction
Parque Nacional Amboro
The forest looking quite moody in the cool morning air.
of Samaipata, though, is its proximity to Parque National Amboro - apparently one of the most Biodiverse places in the world. Not in-keeping with my usual penny-pinching ways I plumped for a two-day tour with the most expensive agency in Samaipata - Michael Blendinger tours. It was definately worthwhile as Michael - a biologist - was a very passionate and professional guide as well as being just a little nutty into the bargain!!!!
The tour was designed as a trekking tour, rather than a nature tour, and so focused on hiking through the different landscapes in the National Parl and thus suited me very well. This said, the 3 hour nature walk we took with Michael on the first day was great fun and surprisingly interesting as he explained all about the different trees, plants and animals that we came across (all of which I have probably already forgotten!!!)
The highlights definately came on the second day as, after a night spent camping in temperatures that didn't even get close to freezing - what a pleasure, Michael prepared breakfast and we wandered around the forest individually. I somehow managed to come across a snake which was pretty cool,
Probably not a Green Mamba but you never know!!
and spent about 15 minutes just watching it and hoping it wouldn't move!!
We reached our lunch-spot on the second day which was a ridge with a view across to the "Muele del Diablo" (Devil's Molar), so-called because it is a rock formation that looks a bit like a Molar and in Bolivia everything seems to be the Devil's this or the Devil's that. Leaving our backpacks behind, Michael said we could take an optional hike up to the top of a much higher viewpoint which gave us uninterrupted views of the Muele. No one else seemed all that keen, so only the two of us set off. Although at one point there may have been a path, it was so overgrown that it seemed Michael was simply blazing his own trail. We scrambled through dense forest, climbed upsteep rockfaces using roots as handholds and slid down steep descents on our backsides - basically everything you ever wanted to do when you were a kid but couldn't!!! It was great fun!!!
We reached the top slightly out of breath but completely invigorated. The view up there was fantastic. We could see for a great distance both up and
Trying to be "arty"
A shot from the top of the same falls, as the water cascaded over the side.
down the valley, and of course we had the Muele del Diablo up close in front of us. A bit too close in front of us for my camera, as I couldn't fit the whole thing in, but the almost sheer walls of the Muele Del Diablo stretch almost down to the valley floor and are an impressive sight.
After relaxing up at the viewpoint for a while we headed back to join the rest of the group for lunch, before taking on a knee-breaking descent through the forest which got up back to the truck where Michael's assistant had cold beers waiting. Top man!!!
Overall, it was a top tour with a great guide and a great group, and it rounded off my time in Samaipata brilliantly.
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