Stuck in the rain in Samaipata

Similarly to arriving to Toro Toro, we took a night bus once again from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz which was again really good and we got some decent sleep. Definite recommendation for the bus company Bolivar! Again, we decided not to stay in the big city but move straight on to Samaipata. Luckily this time though, the ride was on asphalt roads and we had good seats in the shared taxi car. When we arrived in Samaipata it took us quite a while to find affordable accommodation – overpriced tourist town… It certainly has its charm though with the little cobblestone streets. Unfortunately we were quite tired from the journey and decided to postpone the hiking to the next 2 days. Mistake!

For next day, we had booked the hike „Codo de los Andes“ but woke up to fog in the streets and rain pouring down. We’re really not the luckiest with weather on this trip! The hike was still going through, so we basically had to suck it up and do it mostly in the rain… The landscape was still really beautiful, even though this doesn’t come out on the photos that well.

Green mountains, steep cliffs and pretty valleys… if only the sun was out this certainly would have been one of the nicest hikes we’ve done! Like this, we tried to enjoy still, but it was exhausting with slippery trails and rain starting again and again. Too bad, especially since it would have been so amazing otherwise…

Next day, we had planned to hike to El Fuerte, but guess what!? Yes, it was still raining. So we basically killed time, checked out as late as possible, sat around a lot and waited. Around 4pm, just before we were headed to dinner and our next night bus, the sun came out. As if to make fun of us. Sigh! We managed a brief walk up a viewpoint over the wineries and Samaipata and that was it…

Samaipata for sure has some great potential if the weather is good, and I’m sad we missed out on that. On the plus side, we found some really good food here at La Cocina and Noah so our poor damaged stomachs got some treats.

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Crazy rocks & dinosaurs: Toro Toro National Park

From La Paz, we made our way to Cochabamba in a comfortable overnight bus. Busses in Bolivia have really improved since I first visited in 2012, and now we were able to enjoy a full „cama“ bus which basically means super nice and broad seats that recline almost fully. Nice! So we arrived in Cochabamba reasonably well rested and decided to straight away take a minibus onward to Toro Toro. Ouuuff! Not such a nice ride or should I say dusty, bumpy, looong 5 h…until we arrived in the little town of Toro Toro. Toro Toro is known for its national park where cool geological formations and dinosaur footprints can be observed – so that’s what we planned to do over the next 1.5 days.

Unfortunately, Mathijs couldn’t join on the first day due to some nasty chicken he ate at the market the day before. So I was off with a group of 5 other people to Ciudad de Itas which can be translated into „City of Rocks“ – and a rock city it was! First though, it was quite a long drive on bad roads again, higher and higher up the mountains, more and more into the clouds. Damn. When we arrived at Ciudad de Itas, we were completely stuck in the fog/clouds and remained so for the majority of our hike. Too bad, but once again weather was not on our (my) side. Our guide led us on a circular trek past some cool rock formations over the next 3 or so hours. And it was super impressive!! Even with the cloudy weather, some rock formations were really cool and there were some nice views…only not as much into the distance as we would have hoped for. I can only imagine how amazing this must be on a clear, sunny day!

Luckily, quite some parts of the Ciudad de Itas are little caves, so the weather doesn’t matter too much. For me, these were also the highlights! Water and erosion have shaped these rocks into really cool looking caves, something you don’t see every day. It reminded me a bit of some desert national parks in the US (of course only from the photos since I have not visited the US yet).

Afterwards, it was the same bumpy ride back – but at least this time we had some views along the way and the sun was coming out! We managed to talk our driver into some photo stops along the way, which was really nice. It’s too bad anyways that you’re just driving past so many beautiful views without being able to stop and enjoy. I guess that as tourism develops in this area, roads will improve and there might be sightseeing tours offered at one point which go from viewpoint to viewpoint. At least I hope so for future visitors!

Next day, Mathijs was able to join again luckily and we joined with another four backpackers to go on a long, hot (sun was out, yay!) hike to Vergel Canyon. At the beginning of this hike you also see the dinosaur tracks that Toro Toro is famous for. I don’t know, they were nice to see, but not too special for me. I guess it’s too hard for me to imagine that these animals really used to live on our planet at one point.

We then hiked for a while to reach the main highlight (I would say) of the trek – a viewpoint over the canyon with a cool bridge that has been built ideally for pictures. Good idea, Bolivians! We obviously took advantage of this photo opportunity. The sheer drop of the cliffs of the canyon was simply stunning!

What followed was a climb down into the canyon and along the almost dried out riverbed to some waterfalls where you could have a swim. I didn’t feel like changing into my bikini in front of all the Bolivian groups though, so we just chilled in the shade. Later, we had to climb all the way up again which was of course way more exhausting and I was not too sad when we finally arrived back in town…

…where we wanted to catch a minibus back to Cochabamba. Well, we did, in the end, but were a bit shocked at first that all the next busses seemed to be fully booked. I guess it might have been because it was Sunday afternoon and many Bolivians were heading back to their towns if they came here on a weekend trip. In the end, they switched something around though and we were able to hop on.

We didn’t want to arrive too late in Cochabamba since we still had to look for accommodation – in the end though we did end up walking around in the dark, trying to find cheap-ish hostels before having to accept that Cochabamba is an overpriced sh…hole. We had a day to kill there next day though, so spent some time walking around the city, visiting some markets, buying our bus tickets for the night and walking to the cable car up to the Christ statue on the hill…only to find out it was not running that day! Ooops. The only nice part about Cochabamba were the main squares, lined with some colonial buildings and the usual palm trees and benches in the center to relax. After a day though, we were more than happy to move on to Santa Cruz, by night bus once again…

Lake Titicaca – Copacabana & Isla del Sol

Our 2nd stop in Bolivia was lake Titicaca. I had visited this place before in 2012, but since the weather in and around La Paz didn’t look great for the next few days, I opted to join Mathijs and go there a second time. Good decision! Last time the bus trip from the lake to La Paz was in the dark – this time I could enjoy all the views I had apparently missed out on! 

Also, we were finally treated with some sunshine and when arriving in Copacabana, walked around the little town I already liked back then. Surely it has become a bit more touristy, but it’s still rather quiet and pretty. After some happy hour beers in the sun, we hiked up Cerro Calvario for some good late afternoon views over the town. It was just as beautiful as I remembered it, but sadly there is much more trash laying around at the top of the hill now. Even though there are wastebins!

Our next day was supposed to be dedicated to Isla del Sol, but we found out that the entire North part is closed to tourism at the moment due to some conflict between the islanders of the North and the Center and South. Too bad! 6 years ago, I had taken the ferry to the North, then hiked all the way to the South where I hopped on the afternoon ferry back to Copacabana. Now this is not possible anymore. What the ferry companies offer instead now, are combined Isla de la Luna & Isla del Sol trips – so that’s what we booked then! At least, Isla de la Luna was something new then for me as well.

The boat trip took about 2 hours until we finally arrived – while it is a scenic boat ride, 2 h is a bit much and certainly due to the very bad engines the boats have. Sloooooowwww boats. On Isla de la Luna, we misunderstood the Spanish instructions and thought we had only half an hour, so quickly went up to the viewpoint and to see the ruins. It was nice, but we felt a bit rushed…only to discover that we would have had a full hour. Haha. Oh well!

The boat then went to Isla del Sol, where we disembarked at Pilko Kaina. In reality, we (without guide) should have stayed on the boat and got dropped in Yumani harbour after, and only the people with guide would have gotten off there. That would have meant losing another 30 min at least and walking from A to A instead of from A to B. So I got a bit mad at the boat guides and we were allowed off. Haha. It was a really nice walk from here to Yumani and we really enjoyed the views! Unfortunately, the snowy mountains were mostly hiding behind a layer of clouds – but the rest of the views we got were still awesome! Isla del Sol, you’ve been good to us: lots of sunshine, lots of great views!

Destination: Everywhere