El Fuerte, The Strength.

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, March 3, 2006

We got a shared taxi out to Samaipata, a couple of hours away. Great way to travel and only twice the price of the really cheap bus (2 quid each). The journey was superb, through beautiful scenery that kept Farah busy snapping away. The town itself is a little higher up which suited Farah down to the ground. Despite the fact that she´s originally Indian and lived there for 16 years, she really can´t stand the heat, always looking for a cooling fan or wind. Meanwhile, Mr Scotland here appears to have lost his ability to withstand the cold and is far far happier in a warmer climate. I was so happy to leave the Alto Plano into tropical heat, I´m in no immediate rush to head back to the cold.

The town of Samaipata really is quite small, I was surprised to find that they have a really active chess club here. The have a small cafe and even a hostel for people to stay in. Sadly it was a bit over priced and we stayed in a really nice (& cheaper) place overlooking the Plaza. We did head down for a coffee and a quick game of chess. In the main cafe area they had numerous chess tropheys on display, so they`re obviously pretty good. They also had a wall covered with pictures of all the world champions since the early days of chess, pretty cool in a geeky kind of way.

The main reason for visiting this town was to see ´El Fuerte´, an ancient Inca or Pre-Inca site, I forget which. As it´s a few hundred meters climb I insisted that we get a taxi for the ride up, Farah wanted to walk but I was feeling lazy and I managed to persuade her otherwise. It really was quite a drive in the end, it just appeared to be never ending, of course the view just got better and better the higher we climbed.

We got to the car park and we were then forced to finish the climb on foot. We arrived at the viewing platform and saw the large rock for the first time. It`s a large rock at the top of a hill with numerous carvings engraved into it. It´s another site in the world where the true and original meaning has been lost, someone even suggested that it was a UFO taking off point due to two vertical lines that appear to shoot off towards outer space. Some people have been breathing the thin air for too long around here if you ask me. Was it worth it? Well, I wouldn`t go out of my way to see it but since I was in the area then I don`t feel too disappointed by it.

We did walk back down to town, we found the most curious caterpillar, it was half covered in a leaf that was wrapped around it. It was trying to make its way across the road but the leaf was seriously hampering its progress. I don`t understand what it was doing in there. It wasn´t a one off either, we found several of them on the way down. We also stopped at a local swimming hole on the way. Sadly it wasn`t natural, basically a large cement pool area in the middle of the river, oh yeah, and the water was green. Needless to say we kept dry and elected not to contract all manners of diseases.

It was Farah`s Birthday that night and to celebrate we headed to the fanciest place in town, we had a great dinner, desert and some drinks. Being the chivalrous gentleman that I am I insisted on paying, well you would too if the bill for a great meal came to 8 pounds, although that is a small fortune around here.

On the next day we headed into Amboró national park, or at least a very small part of it. We decided to make it a little more adventurous and try and get there ourselves. It also saved us about 20 dollars each. Stage 1 was fine, we caught a taxi to the next town, Mariana, sharing a cab with some nice Argentinians. As usual they bordered on the near impossible to understand.

We then managed to negotiate another taxi to take us up to the national park and then for his to return for us later. He dropped us off at the town La Yunga, and we headed off to register while Mr. Taxi headed back to town after receiving half his payment (Do you see where this is going?). It turned out that we still had another 5Km up a steep hill to reach the actual Fern Forest, of course our taxi man was long gone.

Sieze the day! and off we went. It didn`t take long for us to realise how long we`d be walking on this road. But as luck would have it we heard the delightful sound of an engine following us up the hill. It was a large truck with a number of people in the back. Instinct told us to stick our thumb out and it stopped for us. It turned out to be a work party heading up to pick their peaches. They managed to take us up most of the way, all we had to do was make sure we weren`t bumped out the back of the flat bed truck as they made their way over the terrible road.

After walking the last section we made it to the Fern Forest, and well worth it I think. We had the place to ourselves and were almost certainally the only people up there that day. The ferns here really were massive and very calming as you walked through them. We even had great views over the surrounding forest covered hills through gaps in the folliage. It really was great, but sadly it was tiny, it didn`t actually take long to walk round it and even then we had to get back down the hill for our 5pm taxi appointment....

It took a while to walk back down, the whole way I was thinking how fortunate we´d been to get the lift up there. We managed to get back with 5 minutes to spare. Our taxi wasn`t here yet so we sat on the grass verge and waited.... it got to 2 minutes past and he still hadn`t arrived. This is where Farah´s Americanism worked wonders, there was another taxi there and she went over and asked a price.
"Get in the Car" She shouted over to me.
"But our taxi isn`t here yet"
"Forget about him, get in this one"
"Shouldn`t we give him the benefit of the doubt? He`ll be here soon"
"Come in get in this one"

So I got in. There is only one road in and out at this point so we`d see our taxi coming, Fifteen minutes later Farah adds, "Do you see our taxi yet?"
"No" I had to reply.

And again later, "Do you see our taxi yet?"
"No, I`m glad we got in this one" I had to reply.

We managed to get back to Samaipata without too much more trouble now that we were pro´s against these guys.

Despite the main Carnival finishing a week earlier, Samaipata has another mini-carnival one week later, just exactly where we were. We were trying to decide whether we should stay for it when the hostel told us that all the rooms had been pre-booked and we had to leave. It was ok though because we could come back the next day if we wanted! Yeah right! That made up our minds and we left on the Sunday, back to Santa Cruz to decide where to go next.
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