Wednesday, August 14th: We get up early and head
to the park for one last goodbye to our human and animal friends. Saying goodbye takes
longer than expected and we end up having one last meal with all our friends at "the
lunch place", one of the local eateries. As we start to leave Kenny (from Scotland),
one of the volunteers, asks for a ride back to the park. He gets on the back of my bike
and off we go. Its not far, maybe half a kilometer, but I ask him if he wants to go
fast. He mumbles something that I take to be an affirmative answer (I actually never
understand what he says!) so I throttle on as we hit the bridge and nearly pull a wheelie
showing off for him. When we get to the park he is so thrilled with this little experience
that now he wants to join us all the way to Santa Cruz, about 300 kilometers. He tells a
few of the volunteers hell be back in a few hours (right!) and changes his shirt.
Off we go, finally, and discover outside of Villa Tunari that the road straightens and
flattens out to a fairly boring ride, with the exception of the brilliant red sunset as we
enter Santa Cruz. This time of year the farmers are burning off their fields, just like in
Southeast Asia, to prepare for planting season, hence the red sun. This creates a constant
haze in the air, which is fairly unpleasant when combined with the humid hot air.
While roaming the city looking at hostels we encounter other volunteers who have just
arrived, Mhairi (Gaelic name pronounced like Very) from Scotland and Lisa from Ireland, to
run errands for the park and Duncan from New Zealand and Claire from England who are
moving on to see other things. We met them later at an Irish pub for drinks after we
finally settled on a place to stay.
Santa Cruz is a bit of a culture shock for most tourists who have seen the poorer, and
many would argue the more culturally interesting, parts of Bolivia. It is rich with
natural resources including extensive agricultural and animal farming, mineral mines and
recently discovered natural gas. Its rich beginning however stems from the seedier side of
drug running. Now, there are huge houses, nice boutiques for shopping, huge supermercados,
lots of foreigners (both tourists and those working there), and everyone seems to own a
shiny new four-wheel-drive vehicle. Im immediately unhappy with it all, especially
since we are paying more for a hostel here than anywhere else in Bolivia.
We were hoping to leave SC on Friday morning, but had to spend an extra day as Chris
came down with a 24-hour fever. He felt a little bit better on Saturday, so we left for
Samaipata a little south "to get away from it all", especially the increasing
heat and humidity. The ride was nice and windy as we reentered the mountains south of SC,
and the temperature moderated and dried out a bit to make for a much more pleasant day.
When we arrived at the central plaza, a four-wheel-drive pulled up next to us and the
folks inside asked, in English, where we wanted to go. Turned out to be a lovely couple
(Daniel from Argentina and Gretchen from Colorado and recently married) who live in Santa
Cruz and come here on the weekends. They took us to a nice little place outside of town
called Traudi where they usually stay. The owner is Austrian, which is not unusual for
this area. For some reason, many of the residents of this town are German and Austrian.
The cabins were cute but a bit pricey for us (everything here was quoted in US$) so we
opted for a single room w/o bath. It was like staying on a ranch with a pool. It was quiet
and comfortable. That night we met Daniel and Gretchen for dinner at a good pizza
restaurant and had breakfast together the next day before we bid our new friends goodbye.
That was not the end of the story with them however, as we would visit them in a few more
days at their house/resort in SC.
Chris was still not feeling 100% so we stayed another night at Traudis place.
Near 5pm in comes another biker dressed in full leathers, with big panniers and a European
license plate. He is Wolfgang from Bavaria riding around South America for a few months on
his Honda Africa Twin. We have a nice little chat and invite him to join us for dinner
with our other friends Duncan and Claire. Duncan and Claire bring some other friends Urs
from Switzerland and Juanra from Spain, and we have a nice evening chatting getting to
know one another.
Duncan and Claire had arrived in Samaipata before us and discovered a nice little
hostel on the plaza, cheap, good breakfast included and a nice third-floor balcony
complete with hammock. Now its Monday, Chris feels better so we leave Traudis place,
and check into their hostal, have breakfast and go for a ride with Wolfgang, Duncan and
Claire to see the pre-Incan ruins called El Fuerte (meaning the Fort) on a nearby
mountaintop. Duncan and Claire had already been there so they hang out and enjoy the
views. They recommend a good guide name Nicolas so we hire him to explain everything to
us. He does a superb job of making us understand, even venturing into English now and then
when he sees a puzzled look on our faces. It was a very special ceremonial place for both
the pre-Incan Indians and the Incas several centuries later when they took it over. It is
basically one big rock with carvings of animals, canals for blood/water/chicha (homemade
whiskey) used in the ceremonies, and little portals for mummies built into it. Surrounding
this big rock are the remains of the houses, plaza, and planting terraces. From here there
are gorgeous views 360 degrees.
When we arrive back in Samaipata we discover some more volunteer friends have turned
up, Kirsty and Carl from England. We all have a great lunch on our roof deck provided by
Duncan and Claire with fresh vegetables from the market and fresh German bread from a
local bakery. After a late afternoon game of frisbee we go for a great vegetarian dinner
in the plaza.