So I’ve been in Bolivia for about 72 hours and I’ve heard Despacito about 12 times, both the version with Justin Bieber and without…thought that was just an American thing?
I’m here in a large city called Santa Cruz de la Sierra, staying with the family of my babysitter growing up. Menchi and her family are incredibly kind and generous to host me and show me around the country for the next week and a half. Menchi’s family is sosososo great and I am able to get to see Bolivia from a different perspective than say a typical tourist (and I have seen very few tourists). I’m very happy and grateful to be here with Menchi and her amazing family.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is quite the busy city. Bolivia’s commercial center has a population of over 1 million and is seemingly growing. Most of the infrastructure is older and not very tall, but I have seen several large office buildings and a brand new mall as well. There is constantly traffic and the drivers here are crazy. No one wears seat belts or uses turn signals, or stays in their own lane, but it seems to work for everyone. People just kind of drive how they want lol. Much different than driving in the U.S.
The first picture is the “Catedral de Santa Cruz” which is right in the center of town. The center of town is called “Plaza 24 de Septiembre” named after the anniversary of the revolution that led to Santa Cruz´s independence from Spain. This is the center of town and after that the city is organized with rings around the center of the city. Every few blocks there is a ring, think the beltway, but much smaller.
Yesterday, we drove about 3.5 hours South-west to go to a small city called Samipata and also to see Incan ruins known as “El Fuerte.” Again I can reiterate the crazy driving in Bolivia. Driving 50mph on unpaved mountain roads with a sheer cliff drop made for some excitement.
This was my first view of the Andes and wow, they are absolutely incredible. At first glance I was speechless. Saw a raw range, and it is realitevly young compared to other ranges, yet they contain such rich history. I am so excited to be able to climb around this range for the next few months.
This was the view from the ROAD. Nothing marked, just this incredible rock formation on the side of the road. It’s a little hard to see but there’s a Bolivian flag on top of the left side of the formation.
Anyways, about a hour later we arrived at “El Fuerte”, my first UNESCO World Heritage site of the trip! Here’s a short description from the UNESCO site. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/883/gallery/
Located in the Province of Florida, Department of Santa Cruz, the archaeological site of Fuerte de Samaipata consists of two clearly identified parts: the hill with its many carvings, believed to have been the Ceremonial Centre and area to the south of the hill, which formed the administrative and residential district and the political administration. The site is known to have been occupied and used as a ritual and residential centre by people belonging to the Mojocoyas culture as early as AD 300, and it was at this time that work began on the shaping of this great rock. It was occupied in the 14th century by the Inca, who made it a provincial capital.
This historical site is quite incredible. It sits ontop of a plateau at around 5,000 some feet. To give you an idea, Santa Cruz is at around 1,300 feet above sea level. The location of “El Fuerte” is also very interesting. It is the meeting point of the Andes, the Amazon, the plains, and the desert. For that reason the site has a very pleasant, moderate climate. “El Fuerte” has a long, rich, history which was most recently occupied by the Incas, one of the last places Incas lived. I was even shown where the “Inca trail” was, the trail the runners would take to deliver information as far away as Machu Picchu. Although runners pass the information on like a relay race, this distance is still incredibly far, about 835 miles!
The ruins are incredibly intact. By archeological standards these ruins are very newly discovered. Most of these ruins were discovered in the early 1990s by a German archeologist. Additionally, below this main area are Incan homes. Several have been excavated and archeologists think there could be up to 600 of them lying beneath the dirt. It is truely a facisnating site.
The incredible views of the Andes from “El Fuerte.”
After walking around the site for several hours we drove to the town of Samipata to have lunch. This is a very cute town with great views of the surrounding Andes. It had a real countryside charm to it, something I really appreciated.
- Ok so what’s up with Bolivia and their dogs??? I swear I’m the last three days I’ve seen upwards of 30 dogs just roaming the streets. They all seem to look happy and aren’t too thin. Need to start a photo album of “Dogs of Bolivia” for this trip.
Lastly, I just want to add how AMAZING the food is here. Lots of meat based dishes with rice, right up my alley👌 Also I have to say the ice cream here is better than that in the states. The banana split I had the other day was incrediblly dank.
A few photos of some of my meals
Thanks for reading this is all for now! Will update in a few days!