Thursday, May 14, 2009

Inca Ruins & Cloud Forrest of Samaipata

Santa Cruz is humid! We have come down from the elevation (to 415 metres) for a breath of low-altitude air, if only for a day. Santa Cruz is a big city (1.2 million) and was really only a stopover for us to have a sleep in a proper bed after thenight bus, shower, grab a jar of peanut butter and continue on. We are a fan of the smaller towns so the next day we caught a shared taxi up, up, up, and up a winding road to Samaipata. The taxi we ended up in was originally an right-hand drive vehicle that had been converted over to a western left-hand drive. The steering wheel came out of the glove-box, and amazingly the original guages seemed to still work(one of the few vehicles in Bolivia with working instruments).
In Samaipata we relaxed back into the small-town way of life, browsing the few shops and restaurants, reading in the central plaza, and shopping for different tours and tour-guides.
We visited the pre-inca site of El Fuerte which is set spectacularily on a hilltop. We opted for a guided tour of the site and were richly rewarded with a very knowledgable and entertaining storyteller named Marten from Holland. He made up one of three amigos who own and operate The Roadrunners, a travel agency that runs guided tours through-out South America. He informed us what was known about the original coyo moya culture that created the site, and also how the inca culture took over the site and re-shaped much of it too fit with their own beliefs. There is still much that is unknown about the site but many books with wildly different theories (alien spaceships, etc.) have been written. The site was buried until about 30 years ago when it was discovered and uncovered. While the site is now quardened off so that people can not step on it, the weather is quickly eroding the sand-stone and many of the carvings and symbols which are already fading may entirely dissappear in the next 20 years unless a solution for preservation is found.
In the picture(below) you can make out 8 large rectangular doors that have been cut out of the rock. The number 8 is important in inca culture. The doors were carved out of the rock and people who died were placed into the doors. The doors are located in a way that they get maximum sun exposure and wind and once the bodies were naturally mummified they were ready for the after-life. The bodies were then placed in barrels and buried nearby. Several of the chambers have small holes drilled into them deep into the rock. The holes were created in hopes of being able to catch a glimpse at the after-life.

From Samaipata we boarded a local toor truck and made our way to the near-by Parque Nacional Amboro. The national park is made up of a mountain range that seperates the amazon basin(lowlands) from the altiplano region(highlands). This transitional zone is extremely diverse and more species of birds visit and live in this park than all of North America.

The park is visited a cloud rain-forest with giant tree ferns whose species date back more than 140 million years and are thought to have made up approximately 60% of the dinosaurs diets.

Cattle roam in pastures that are nearby the park and sometimes wonder in. This skull is from a steer that was killed by a puma five years earlier. The Puma killed 3 head of cattle in one week and then dissappeared into the thick jungle. Our hike started in in a lush and dense rain/cloud-forest. We emerged from the lush forest and made our way above the tree-line to the summit of the cloud-forest which was, of-course, enshrouded in clouds!

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