So much love for Samaipata! We spent their almost three weeks (!) enjoying the nicest climate and the rest of our time helping out a Spanish family with building a small garden shed. It sound like a great time and it was!
When visiting Bolivia, Samaipata is one of the must-go’s for a lot of travelers. I don’t exactly know what it is but there are just some vibes around that make people want to stay longer than actually intended. Some blame it on “El Fuerte” which is supposed to be an energetic place and is located only a few kilometers outside of town. I think it is mainly because of the community that built around that village – Samaipata is a hot spot for expats from many places in Europe and even South America – and because of a range of different restaurants, bars, Eco lodges and hostels that all somehow follow a hippie theme. Samaipata also lies in the perfect region to explore the nature as it is at the merging point of the highlands, the jungle and the lowlands – its name translated means “The rest in the heights”. So the climate is fast changing too, you can have rain and sun within an hour and chill but humid nights.
The family we helped consisted of a Spanish couple with its two small kids aged 3 and 1, a dog and a cute little cat. They lived a little bit outside of the center in a quiet area off the hustle and bustle from all the tourist taxis and restaurants but still only a 10 minute walk there. They had two small houses, one in which they lived in and one they rented as a holiday home, but when there wouldn’t be people in the house we were able to use it for us. Otherwise we stayed in a tent in the garden and could use the kitchen and bathroom of the family’s house.
Besides the overpriced tourist restaurants and bars the center was a good place to be. The green main square was the highlight in my opinion and the little village even had a huge market that got even bigger on Sundays. You could purchase everything and anything there which was perfect because we cooked a lot during those three weeks.
During our stay in Samaipata we met a lot of interesting if not crazy people, either travelers or some that settled in the surroundings of the village. It seemed like Samaipata literally attracted uncommon characters and having chats with them was sometimes a fun encounter especially when we were not as drunk as the others. To our surprise we met a bunch of Europeans but especially Spanish people and some “white” Argentinians which all moved to Samaipata to build up their life there, founded restaurants, eco lodges, sold handcrafts and made their money from the tourism. A lot of them being the friends of the family we stayed with we got to know them a little better and their main reason was that they wanted to escape the system you are born into in Europe, so they chose to move to South America. The funny thing is that meanwhile in Samaipata there has developed a big “new” community, non-Bolivians, and a parallel society has formed. We also heard about some conflicts that formed between the locals and the expats and I believe it may be caused by the fact that the main earnings made from tourism are sacked in by the expats. What I found odd is that the many Spaniards that left Spain because they didn’t really feel like they could keep up with the society there, came to Bolivia to mingle with like-minded, fellow countrymen and kind of exploit the society there. One incident that opened my eyes was a concert we went to. It was in a bar, a group of Chilean guys were playing. The event was from gringos for gringos. (Gringos is a negative expression indigenous people have for pale skinned people.) White people playing, white people dancing, white people collecting the money. Everyone obviously tried to fit into the picture of a perfect hippie and pretend to be happy, a few were, but not many. However much they tried to live their “perfect” life off the European style, it didn’t seem to work out the way they wanted. I don’t know what shocked me that much and why I disagree with it but people are always talking about integration and participation in local customs. Here however it seemed like the Spaniards took over the place for the second time within 500 years and treated it like their own and the Bolivians are again the ones who need to adapt.
Despite this injustice we liked the place probably the best since our travels. We are thankful that we were able to get to know it a little better and call it our home, even if only for 3 weeks. When we had to renew our tourist visa, we saw it a sign to leave the place and continue our travels in Bolivia.