27.07.2016 - 04.08.2016
Back again in my beloved Samaipata. This time was very different, as we were staying in town, with running water, electricty, and proper beds! Luxury compared to my last visit. Whether deep in the jungly valley, or up in the relative civilisation of town, Samaipata is a special place for me.
Staying in town meant I could explore the near surroundings, which I did very enthusiastically. After dumping our bags at a hostel (we had a yurt for two!) we quickly set off up the nearest hill, to the local mirador. I was so excited, I practically ran the entire way, arriving at the top some 30 minutes before Celesta. Turns out all my time at altitude in La Paz has helped my fitness somewhat, Samaipata being at a mere 2000m.
I don´t know what it is about Samaipata, but it must be something in the air that made me come over all giddy, and excited to get moving, exploring, and in the nature. It does not surprise me in the slightest that Samaipata hosts a whole community of expats, from all over the world, people have flocked to this little patch of paradise and set up home. I am sorely tempted.
Although our hostel was impressively empty, we managed to recruit a third member to our party, Michelle from Australia, to join us for a waterfall trek the next day. After some ridiculously stingy haggling, we beat the tour agent down to her lowest price, after I suggested we needn´t pay for water, as we could bring our own. Hey, every boliviano counts! To celebrate, we decided to check out the only bar in town, which we were delighted to find was run by Rudy, Udi and Doody. I kid you not. Somehow our ´just a couple of drinks´turned into extended happy hour, free drinks from the barmen, and shots all round. The next morning we arose bleary-eyed, furry-mouthed, and not at all physically inclined for a 3 hour mountain hike.
But as soon as we had summited the first mountain, I felt infinitely better, and after being given the go ahead by our guide, stormed off in the lead, determined to get to the waterfalls as soon as possible. Although my route was rather dubious (bum-sliding down a slippery mud wall to land in the river) Michelle and I arrived an hour sooner than expected. We were joined a while later, in a rather more dignified manner, by Celesta and the guide, who had obviously followed the correct path. We spent a couple of lovely hours exploring the series of waterfalls, swimming, and an extra fun activity just for me: getting eaten alive by all kinds of insects. The perfect antidote for a hangover! (I mean waterfalls, not insect bites.)
Both Celesta and Michelle left the following afternoon (after our failed attempt at morning wine-tasting), leaving me as the sole guest at the hostel. This was not at all awkward as the lovely couple running the hostel insisted on taking care of me, and making sure I was alright fending for myself. The next night I was joined by a few more guests, and our wonderful hosts insisted on cooking us all a ´family lunch´. It was such a lovely atmosphere, I ended up extending my stay just a few more days...
As soon as I arrived back here, I knew I would end up staying longer than just a couple of days (a week in the end)! It´s so peaceful, and easy, that the thought of heading back to Santa Cruz, and crossing the border into Brazil just seemed like far too much effort. So I delayed, and then I delayed a little longer, and then I delayed just one more day....and then finally I said my goodbyes, and left.
Now knowing I was not going to be joined by Jorge, I had made the decision to cross into Brazil by myself, heading towards Rio where I would be meeting Becky in a couple of weeks. So back to Santa Cruz, for one last stay at the French hospedaje, and then onwards to the border! This was a journey I was, for some reason, excited about. Between Santa Cruz and the border town, you had to take an overnight train, which was a prospect I was incredibly keen for! (There were buses available, but frankly, I´d had my share of those at this point). I somehow made friends with Fernando, the conductor from Colombia, who kept sitting in the empty seat next to me to make sure I was okay. He knew the couple across the aisle from me, and after the lady gave him an orange (for his journey), he promptly turned around and gifted it to me, which I don´t think was the original intention. But anyway, extra snacks.
Watching my final Bolivian sunset from the train window, I actually got a little emotional at the thought of moving on. 3 months, I had grown accustomed to this country, this people, and how things worked (or didn´t more often than not). I had enjoyed wonderful hospitality everywhere I went, stunning scenery whenever I ventured outside, and met beautiful people I will cherish for always. Not that heading to a new country would erase any of those things, nevertheless I felt a little daunted at having to begin again with a whole new place. So with a mixture of excitement and butterflies wrestling in my stomach, I snuggled down into my seat, and watched the last of Bolivia disappearing behind me.