After staying a few days in Santa Cruz with Ana Maria and Alfonso, parents in-law of my friend Jenny, I went to visit the village of Samaipata for the weekend. At first, I wasn’t planning to go but everybody told me that I must and, finally, it was a pleasant surprise.
Samaipata is a village of 3,500 inhabitants situated at 1,600 metres above sea level. To get there, I took a mini-bus; the trip lasted about three hours and cost 30 Bolivianos. I’d followed the tips of my guide book and used an agency in Santa Cruz called Expreso Samaipata. You have to wait for the bus to fill up which meant I had to wait an hour and a half as I was the first there. The two last passengers were a French couple, Gaëlle and Florian with whom I got along really well, so I stayed with them for the following days.
When we got to the village, we looked for a hostel and stayed two nights in the Hostel Don Jorge situated five minutes away from the Plaza. I paid 50 Bolivianos per night without breakfast which I thought was a little expensive. The beds weren’t comfortable at all. It felt like I was sleeping on a piece of wood.
The first night, we dropped our stuff at the hostel and went for a drink in a bar called La Bohème. It’s the kind of bar I like, good atmosphere and good music. After a beer we decided to eat there and have a bottle of Bolivian wine, which is tasty. As the rhythm is different from Europe, we went to bed at 9 pm. Yes, sometimes I do feel like a grandmother because I can’t stay awake in the evening!
The next morning we went to the fortress at Samaipata. We decided to walk there. It’s nine kilometres (three on a flat road and six uphill). The weather was better than the day before. The sun peaked out from behind the clouds which made a welcome change after the few grey days spent in Santa Cruz. On the way to the fortress, we discovered pretty landscapes: green hills and cultivated fields – which I haven’t seen until now. We even saw a vineyard where they made red wine.
This hike is not difficult although we had to walk on the road. As it wasn’t the high season, there weren’t many cars. The hike also saved us a taxi ride. It’s a pleasant walk and there are beautiful view points over the different valleys. It took us about two hours to get to the site.
When we got to “El Fuerte”, we paid the entrance fee of 50 Bolivianos per person. There’s no need to hire a guide as the site is very well organised. There are information panels everywhere with explanations in Spanish and English. It took us two hours to go around the site. When we’d finished, a lady called us a taxi to go back to Samaipata.
When we got back to the hostel, we rested for a while then went for diner. Afterwards, we went back to La Bohème for mojitos. Friends of Gaëlle and Florian who’d just arrived from Santa Cruz joined us there.
The next morning we all met up for breakfast then we walked to a rescue centre for animals. The owner is a Swiss lady so it was nice to talk to her for a little while. She’s been in Bolivia for 14 years and 12 years since she’s been back to Switzerland. This little park is attractive and well equipped. There are all sorts of animals: parrots, monkeys, toucans, mountain cat, lamas and even a funny (and very smelly!) pig who loves being cuddled. Since travelling in Africa and being lucky enough to see animals in their natural habitat, I’m not a huge fan of zoos. I tend to avoid them, but this centre rescues animals and treats them well. Some of them can be released back into nature after a while.
While we were walking, two monkeys joined us and they climbed on Gaëlle and Gauthier’s shoulders. The monkey seemed very at home: one of them was sucking his thumb and nearly fell asleep!
After the visit, we walked back to the village so I could take the bus back to Santa Cruz where I stayed another two nights before travelling to Cochabamba. This place is a little paradise on earth where a lot of expats live now. People of more than 30 different nationalities now live in Samaipata. If you are in Bolivia., it’s not to be missed.