My last morning in Santa Cruz was a difficult one. Loud weekend party noise gave me a restless night and by the time I checked out, all the English speaking people of Santa Cruz de la Sierra I knew were sleeping. I somehow managed to hail a taxi, had to agree to his atrocious fare and tiredly waited for truffi stand to arrive. I had decided on going by truffi (shared taxi) to Samaipata and the taxi stand was somewhere in the city. The taxi driver was a slim shady and relentlessly shared with me the highs of cocaine. I wondered what he actually wanted and ignored him in silence till I could take it no more. Unrequited coffee craving had triggered off a dull headache and I started singing loudly in Hindi to shut him off.
That somehow worked like magic and silence ensued in our taxi till the truffi stand arrived. The taxi stop was bustling even in the wee hour of the morning and mistaken identity of being taken as a Bolivian unleashed a rapid torrent of Spanish on me. I staggered back, reeling from it when finally my weak hello broke the misconception. Immediately on being identified as a foreigner I got offered the spacious front seat and sweet patient replies to my undecipherable questions in very bad Spanish.
30 bolivianos and 3 hours took me from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to the sleepy international village of Samaipata. Literally meaning the “Heights to Rest” in Quecha language (old Indian language), Samaipata was situated at the foothills of the mighty Andes. It was cool, lush and very very beautiful.The ride to Samaipata was no less spectacular and the highway went through the beautiful Bolivian countryside. We zipped past some more Chinese fried chicken shops, factories and sprawling government institutions before finally entering the Andean foothills. Flat orange country spread on both sides of the highway and quaint little villages, farmer’s markets and toll booths bustled merrily in the morning. Andes constantly loomed in the horizon and after a couple of twists and turns, our truffi suddenly puttered into a densely forested area. We trailed along broken roads amidst red sandstone hills where tinkling streams curved along and oranges hung from trees like a million little suns. The air was fresh, crisp and I took in huge lungfuls of the cool mountain breeze.
The beautiful drive finally came to an end and we reached Samaipata at siesta time. As usual the village was centered around a square but it was completely deserted by the time I got dropped off by the truffi. I explored a bit, went around in circles till I found my Hostal Andorina with some difficulty. Although the Andean sun was high in the sky, my hostel hunt was a very pleasant one. Samaipata was a very picturesque village. Colourful tiled houses stood in rows and narrow cobbled streets went winding up and down the flowers filled slopes. A few curious old cholitas (a traditional Bolivian lady) in bright shawls and braids stopped their gossiping to eye me curiously and their friendly Spanish inquiries flew past me like alien words. I managed to fumble out the name of my hostel shamefacedly as they laughed and tutted at my awkward attempts at Spanish.
Their laughter and jokes went on for some time until one friendly cholita took pity on me and showed me the way. I trudged under a pitiless mountain sun up the winding roads once again and took in the stunning simple beauty. Big butterflies, the size of small birds flew around the copious multi coloured blooms and the cute shaggy street dogs followed me around. I finally reached the hostal and fell in love with its bright cheerful settings. A nice, bright artsy place it had brilliant patches of sunshine, lots of local art and a beautiful garden. My room was in a Heidi like loft and I could see the mountains from my window. Inti, the house cat befriended me immediately and during my entire stay chose to sleep under my blanket at nights and wake me up every morning with her loud demands for food. Samaipata beautifully did justice to its Quecha name, “Heights to Rest”. I relaxed and rejuvenated there in the quiet Andean sun until Samaipata life seduced me into its easy languid pace.
My days slowed down, became peaceful, uneventful and were spent playing with Inti, walking around the village and the surrounding vineyards and learning to play pan pipes. Starry nights, friendly cholitas at the local market, luxuriating siestas on the deckchair and smiling morning glories around my bedroom window gave me many pleasant memories and I happily indulged in something I rarely do on my travels – RELAX and just DO NOTHING.
Samaipata evenings were cold and brought out brightly coloured ethnic Aztec printed woollies, spiked coffees and gossip with other travelers at La Boheme, the only bar and watering hole for wanderlust souls. Being the jumping off base for Amboro National Park and beyond, Samaipata attracted many travelers throughout the year and was very global for its quaint charm. It’s peaceful, quiet and stress free ambiance rejuvenated all road weary souls before they went ahead with the rest of their travels. I too fell into its lazy pace, let my guards down and foolishly signed up for the Amboro Trek with Samaipata tours.
Che inspired tours and unique desert flowers near Samaipata triggered off my interest for regions beyond the village and I stumbled upon photos of the mysterious cloud forests of Amboro. Bolivia has an amazing wildlife and in spite of being a culture lover, I could not pass the chance of exploring some of South America’s most famous jungles. Samaipata Tours seemed cheap, efficient and I looked forward to my Amboro trek. Little did I know at that time, that my hasty decision would turn every thing upside down, endanger my life badly and nearly shatter my Bolivian dream.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE