Sucre is a beautiful city, the nicest of any I saw in Bolivia. We also noticed the people here seemed happier and friendlier with a few people stopping to talk to us in the street. It was nice to experience the South American friendliness again which had been missing in Bolivia a little. Sucre used to be the capital city of Bolivia but as the silver industry shrank the title switched to La Paz. With the wolf pack reduced to four (Andy, Kate, Ed and I) we spent some time exploring the city which was great to just walk around in.
On our second day we took a bus to a nearby dinosaur park. Although it seems like a strange thing to do, the park holds one of the largest and oldest collections of dinosaur footprints in the world.
The area surrounding Sucre was beautiful and we were treated to yet more great views. The dinosaur footprints sit on a limestone slab. The footprints were caused when the dinosaurs were walking along a shoreline, their feet sinking into the wet surface. There was then a prolonged period of drought followed by more wet weather. This sealed the footprints and the process continued several times. The footprints were unearthed when quarrying began in the area. Tectonic activity forced the limestone slab up to about a 70 degree angle making it perfect for viewing. Anyway, that’s enough geography for now, it was really fun, here are some photos.
Our time in Sucre was short, mainly because we only had 2-3 weeks to get through the rest of Bolivia, down through Brazil and to Buenos Aires. We made our way to Santa Cruz and although we’d heard good things about it, we weren’t all that impressed. The hostels were expensive and the four of us made the decision to go on to Samaipata. It turned out to be a very good decision as Samaipata was a beautiful town, really in the jungle. Before we left Bolivia, the cheapest country we had been to, we decided to do a jungle tour. As we were short on time it was just the two days and one night. We found a great tour company and finally a great tour guide, Chane Tours and I would recommend to anybody! The night before the tour we couldn’t get any money out of an ATM in Samaipata so Carmelo, our guide and the owner, took me on the back of his motorbike, armed with everybody’s bank cards and PINs, to another town.
As we arrived to start the tour it had been raining heavily and Carmelo advised us that doing the tour we had paid for would be a bit difficult because the roads were disappearing. He actually offered us the more expensive of the two tours for the same price so we happily went with this. A couple of hours later we set off by minibus and arrived to the start of the trek which happened to be a golf course. Personally, I think this was a terrible place to put a golf course, only six of the holes were finished and being a rainforest and all, there was evidence of lots of rain, too much basically.
Anyway, we set off and disappeared through some jungle before coming out into more of a clearing where we had fantastic views over the surrounding areas including the more dense jungle we would be arriving into that afternoon. We descended steeply passing insects, spiders and a few frogs before stopping for lunch by a small stream. Once or twice along the way we had noticed Carmelo’s surprise at the size of some of the rivers. Clearly they had swollen due to the heavy rains but we hoped that wouldn’t become a problem for us.
After lunch and an hour or so of more walking we came to a much larger river. Carmelo laughed and explained that we would need to cross this. He quickly stripped down to his swimming shorts and waded in to find the best route across. I’ve done lots of river crossings before but this was easily the deepest and most ridiculous of them. Nonetheless, with Carmelo’s confidence and competence we all managed to cross without any problem. As the day continued we spent a couple of hours sliding around in the mud as Carmelo walked barefoot. We soon followed suit. We had set off late and the rains had meant we were taking longer than normal so as darkness set in we were still 1-2 hours from camp. We then arrived at a series of no less than 6 river crossings, we all lost count. Some involved just walking up the river. It was an interesting position we found ourselves in, barefoot, in the dark, walking up a river in the upper Amazon basin. It wasn’t something I expected but I felt about 12 years old again and I’d be lying if I didn’t think it was amazing!
When we finally arrived at camp, Carmelo set to work building a little shelter and making a fire. We helped collect fire wood, look for clean water and then we set around as Carmelo cooked up a good meal. It was great to eat hot food after spending a lot of the day being soaking wet. We all slept very well that night (or at least I did) and the next morning none of us were up before 8am. We set off after breakfast initially retracing our steps back through the river crossings before continuing basically walking down the river. Ed and I opted to continue the barefoot approach while Andy and Kate kept their boots on. There were definitely advantages and disadvantages to both but feeling like Tarzan was the winner for me.
We stopped for lunch at a great spot, on some large rocks by the side of a river. Of course, this meant we had to jump in which was great fun as always. The rest of the day meant A LOT more river crossings until we eventually left the jungle and returned to relative civilisation. Hours were spent in the rivers, crawling under cliffs, fighting currents and trying to stay upright. We also heard and saw the aftermath of a huge rockfall as it came apart and fell into the river with dust all around. Again, Carmelo was the best guide I’ve had all trip and his family-run company is a far better option than the more commercial, touristy ones.
We returned to Samaipata where we said our final goodbyes to Kate and Andy. I’m pretty sure to be a wolf pack you need at least three people so it was the end of an era for us. Kate and Andy had been great to travel with offering us some great English humour. They put up with losing at cards on a regular basis and were more organised than us when it came to sorting hostels, transport etc…as the next paragraph will demonstrate.
Ed and I had to leave that evening to return to Santa Cruz. The plan was to take the collectivo taxi back there, stop somewhere for the night and then move on to Brazil the following day. We managed to miss the last of the collectivo’s but it still worked out cheaper to leave that night so we had a large taxi to ourselves. The rain started to come down extremely heavily on the journey back and upon waking up in Santa Cruz, it hadn’t stopped. The taxi driver set us down outside our hostel and disappeared into the night. Within seconds we were getting soaked and as the hostel worker told us they were completely full, we were a little disappointed, to say the least. We waited outside under the only bit of shelter we could find listening to the dry, happy people on the inside of the hostel. The roads filled up, turning into shallow rivers and after 20-30 minutes of waiting for a taxi nothing had arrived and the man from the hostel came back out to explain they weren’t running because it was too wet! At this point, we didn’t really have a choice but to start walking. As we joined larger roads we tried to flag down some taxi’s but none would stop. After 20 minutes in some of the most torrential rain I’ve ever experienced, we arrived at a hostel soaked to the skin. Almost everything we owned was soaked although luckily our electrical items and Ed’s guitar had escaped without any permanent damage. The following day was spent trying to dry everything we owned before our race to Buenos Aires continued. Before we got to Argentina we still had the small matter of travelling through South America’s biggest country, Brazil.