Trip Start Jul 05, 2009
96Trip End Jul 04, 2010
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Where I stayed
Arriving in town, however, at 4am, our bus dropped us off on the highway, 3km from out intended destination, and we had to wait an hour anf a half for a taxi to arrive that was willing to drive us and our heavy bags across town and up the hill to La Víspera.
We went straight to bed and slept off the draining bus-journey, and rose in the early afternoon, to sit in their Café Jardin, where we enjoyed excellent vegetarian food and the stillness of our idyllic surroundings.
Later, we walked down to the campsite where I had stayed some years earlier. I stood in the exact spot that Hoong-Wai, David Tibbit and myself had pitched our tent, lingered in the small kitchen where we made our communal meals, and paid my respects to the wooden table at which 'Bindu over Pindu,' a card-game of immeasurable excellence & unrivaled fun, had been invented... if only someone had thought to record its many rules... I think it's fair to say that i was overcome with nostalgia, and walked around pointing out the smallest things to Finola and relating them to some memory or other, and I was extremely pleased to have returned.
And if that weren't enough, we encountered another blast from my past when we walked into the offices of Roadrunner Tours, and were greeted by Olaf, our Amboro guide of '02. Olaf completely captured the imagination of a number of us back then: An Austrian who'd left his homeland penniless, and after 18 months of working on construction sites and living in his car in Miami, headed to Bolivia where his money would go further, rented a farm and learned to speak Spanish, before setting himself up as a tour-guide and making Samaipata his home
I told Olaf who I was, and he seemed genuinely pleased to see me, and chatted happily about where we had been and what we had done back then, about our group and in particular we laughed at the idiot who'd broken his wrist out in Amboro (and subsequently prevented any further groups from enjoying the fantastic rope-swing the Bolivians had set up for us). Good times! He then brought us up to date with his last eight years: his wife, daughter and tour-guide business in Chile, that occupies half of his year.
Finola and I decided to employ his tour guide skills for old times' sake, and made a booking for him to take us out to visit the ruins of El Fuerte, the eastern most city of the Inca Imperium. Beforehand, we took us into the town museum to supply us with some background knowledge, showing us a few pieces from the exhibition that were significant, and discrediting the validity of the rest
So we visited the site, and benefited greatly from Olaf's knowledge. We learned that this site probably held even more significance for the Incas that Machu Pichu, because of it's central location between trade routes at the time. The lack of advertising, facilities and funding at the site completely confounded us if this were the case, given how well-run and touristy Machu Pichu now is... but we were thankful to enjoy the site without seeing a single other tourist. We also learned, which we didn't know before, that the Inca weren't a race of civilisation to themselves, but merely an amalgamation of many indigenous tribes under the imperialist rule of a couple of wealthy families, who perceived themselves as Gods, and that the indigenous Quechua people of Peru and Bolivia today are the very same as those original Incas.
We enjoyed ourselves immensely and found Olaf to be great company as well as a great guide, even after all those years, and we readily decided to extend our stay in Samaipata by another day, and take a second tour with Olaf. Olaf collected us from La Víspera early the next morning, and we made a couple of quick stops in town to collect a couple of other guys to join us on the tour, and to visit the once-a-week French bakery, where we bought excellent pastries to give us strength for the day.
We then piled into the back of Olaf's truck, and enjoyed an hour-long journey out of the town, passing the former police station which Che Guevara successfully raided, months before being executed, as well as using part of the unpaved track that he and his guerrillas almost certainly used en route to the raid. The journey was beautiful, and although quite blowy in the back of the truck, the sun was shining and the sky clear, and the first sighting of the Bella Vista peaks had us quite excited with the day ahead.
The route that Olaf led us upon was a new and unique one. Not only were we Olaf's first group on this particular tour, it was his first time making the ascent, and he moved on ahead every few minutes to path-find, before guiding us along semi-paths and cow-trails, on steep inclines and sometimes with long drops just beneath
Descending the highest pass, we were close to being blown off our feet, and the rusting grass across the rolling hills gave up a thousand shades of green, which swirled and drifted through one another, as far as the eye could see. It was qué bueno, sin duda.
After a couple more hours making our way down, through the woods in the valleys between the peaks, Olaf treated us to beer in a local bar, which he tells us is referenced as a landmark in Ché's diaries, before driving us back to Samaipata. With time only for a toilet break and heart felt goodbyes for our fantastic guide, we found ourselves jumping straight into a share-taxi that Olaf hailed for us,, and with the sun was going down, enjoyed the stunning scenery and evening colours as we were driven toward Santa Cruz.