After our amazing experience in Torotoro, we took a 15 hour-long bus ride (not quite as much fun) to Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz. We only made a quick stop in Santa Cruz, prior to heading to Samaipata, but were still able to tour around the city.
Santa Cruz is located in Eastern Bolivia, and is another great for jumping off point to explore The Amazon. It is also a great place to get more sweaty than you ever imagined could be possible. It was just as hot as Cartagena, our first stop on our this adventure, but Santa Cruz was missing that refreshing ocean breeze.
Santa Cruz has a huge town square, and the whole town comes out to enjoy it when the sun goes down. We visited this place during the day once and it was an absolute ghost town. Guess all the locals know it is better to swing in a hammock in the shade during the heat of the day, instead of wandering around the sweltering city. Maybe one day we will learn this also.
The hostel we stayed at had a resident toucan “guarding” the premises. This guy was a riot as he would hop around the hostel and entertain the guests.
He would love to sit on your arm and lightly chew on you. Honestly, it was the stories we had heard about his adorableness that brought us to this hotel in the first place.
His beak was absolutely amazing- it was as light as cardboard, not quite as heavy and thick as we had imagined. He would often click his tongue against his beak to get your attention as he cruised the grounds.
We could have stayed for weeks playing with Simon, but not wanting to melt in the heat, we made an escape to the small town of Samaipata, about 2 hours away. Samaipata is also located about 4,000 feet up a mountain, so the weather was perfect- warm (but not sweltering) in the day, and cool at night.
We originally were going to cut this area out, but Sarah and Luis (who we met in Torotoro) highly recommend Samaipata, if only for the breakfast at the hostel, La Posada del Sol. Bolivia is not know for its wonderful breakfasts, but our hostel was run by a Texan who knew how to make a great breakfast (and pretty decent Mexican food). He also somehow managed to get cheddar cheese, something we had not seen much of in over 5 months. Joe might have even bene quoted as saying, “The cheese alone has made coming to Samaipata worthwhile.”
Besides enjoying the wonderful weather and food, we visited an animal rescue, saw another Incan site, and hiked to a condor viewpoint.
The “zoo” (actually an animal rescue) was a lot of fun because they took in all sorts of animals which have either been abandoned or injured. It is all run by volunteers who try their best to educate the visitors and keep Simon, the resident spider monkey, out of trouble.
This wild pig found Joe and decided he would make a good itching post, or maybe he just liked Joe’s smell.
As with most animal rescues in South America, this one had a lot of very entertaining monkeys.
There were two howler monkeys here as well. If you have ever heard how loud these guys can howl, you would imagine it was coming from something the size of a gorilla.
Having a Howler yell in your ear was an experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, and might be an experience you want ear plugs for.
Later they made up and it was all cuddle time.
Joe even got a little time with Kristen’s new best friend.
The other Howler was a cute juvenile, who mostly kept to himself. He did occasionally join in on the howling, but for the most part, he kept his distance.
Simon, a Spider monkey at the rescue, took on many different roles, and when he was not making trouble (trapping other monkeys in the hammock rocking them back and forth), he sometimes gave rides to the smaller monkeys.
Usually different types of monkeys don’t socialize in the wild, so it was interesting to see them interact with each other in this unique environment.
The rescue was full of many other amazing animals like ocelots, jungle rodents, and many birds, but they were not as willing to be photographed.
We could have come back every day to hang out, but there was more to see in Samaipata.
The next day we went to El Fuerte, another Incan site. The actual use of this site is unknown, but the ideas vary from gold washing center, to space ship landing strip, to religious ritual site. We were undecided which theory we liked best, but the area proved to be a decent visit.
The whole site was carved into this rock, and is supposedly the “world’s largest carved rock.”
This was not the most impressive site we have ever visited, but was interesting enough to walk around and check it out.
Our final adventure in this area was a hike to a condor viewpoint. In Peru, we did a “hike” in The Colca Canyon to see condors, but they were just small dots in the distance. This area boasted that it was the best viewing point of condors in South America, so we decided that we couldn’t miss it.
It turns out they were correct, as this viewpoint and the condors were both outstanding.
We had to hike up the mountain for about two hours before reaching the top, and of course, Kristen found the only muddy spot on the entire hike.
Our guide, Santiago, was great in spotting the condors as they came into view. Some would fly by quickly, while others would spend some time floating in the thermal directly in front of us.
We got great views from below them, as well as from above.
These birds were so huge you could see them for seemingly miles as they flew away. They also could fly so high that they should have to check in with flight control.
As if the condors were not enough, the view from the lookout was beautiful in its own way. This turned out to be a great place spend a few hours and enjoy some more of the amazing things Bolivia has to offer.
Samaipata was a great stop on our adventure in South America and is highly recommended, and not just for the breakfast. The views and the weather make it a great place to spend some time, or possible move to in the future.