Samaipata – Bolivia’s ‘Little Switzerland”
April 16, 2017
After enjoying absolute perfect weather by the pool for nearly a week in Santa Cruz we finally mustered up the motivation to hit the road again. We took a three hour mini bus to small town called Samaipata. Samaipata is sometimes referred to as Bolivia’s “little Switzerland” because is is a cute town nestled in the mountains.
The mini-bus was a but interesting. To catch the bus you go to this one street where there are dozens of mini-buses lined up, once one is “full” it leaves and the next one starts to collect people. We negotiated with the driver 30 bolivianos each, plus Liam had to pay an extra 30 bolivianos for his surf board which took up the entire front seat. We also were assured by the driver that it was going to be only us three plus one more person in the bus. With all of our luggage this was all that could fit somewhat comfortably. Another passenger got on with us and we were off – for about ten minutes of driving until the driver stopped on the side of the road and picked up another passenger. And then a 50kg bag of dog food. And then a fruit basket. And then a box of who knows what. And then another passenger. So the who deal of only 4 people went out the window and I spent three hours wedged between locals sitting on a metal pole between what should have been seats.
We try to keep “the 40% rule” in mind at all times in Bolivia. This rule means that we should only expect 40% of what we are told or sold, this way we avoid disappointment. That being said, 30 bolivianos is only about 6 Aussie or Canadian dollars so we couldn’t really complain about the value of the bus (5 bolivianos = 1 AUD or CAD dollar.)
Although beautiful, Samaipata is small and limited as to the number of activities to do there. Most National Parks in Bolivia require a local guide to accompany any tourist so going on hikes is not as easy or as cheap as it could be.
We decided to spend two nights and hit the major attractions, the Inca ruins and the waterfalls. The Inca ruins are honestly nothing special, just some rock carvings and somewhat overpriced at 50 bolivianos entrance fee plus 100 Bolivianos for a taxi there and back (the only way to get there unless you hike 10km on a very windy and dusty road where taxis fly around the corners making the hike seem somewhat dangerous.) The waterfalls were actually much better, three different falls in a well kept park all within a 1km walk. They made for a nice afternoon.
Besides that, Samaipata offered lots of tourist focused restaurants that were overpriced. We managed to find a couple local restaurants and accidentally had our first try of chicken feet soup. It tasted alright actually until we found the chicken feet, I couldn’t eat anymore after that.
We caught a night bus from Samaipata to Sucre against the advice of multiple blogs I read. There is very few buses running this route and they are very run down, but therefore they are cheap. It was about a 10 hour bus ride on a bus with no heating or air conditioning or toilet (and the driver never stopped) but we were prepared for this and dehydrated ourselves all afternoon. The road was very windy and bumpy but our driver was very good and took the corners near cliffs slowly, I felt surprisingly safe and the bus ride was just fine.