If I had to split my journey up to this point into chapters I would probably devide it into the time before and after Samaipata. Both chapters would be amazing and full or experiences, but Samaipata was somewhat of a turning point. Not only did I spend some of my best days in Bolivia here, I also formed amazing connections with people I would now call friends and slowly my way of travelling changed as well.
It all started with my workaway in Paredones, just 20 minutes from Samaipata, where I met Marie. I instantly liked her and once I left the ‘espiral de luz’ joined her in the Hostal Jardin. This now favourite hostel of mine reflects pretty well what makes people stay for much longer than initially planned in Samaipata. The dorms are little artsy eco-construction houses framing a huge green garden used for camping.
Heart of the hostel is a central fireplace and big open kitchen. There you will always find travellers playing music, teaching each other handicrafts or cooking delicious meals. With children running around on the lawn, people chilling in hammocks and everyone sharing their food the place felt more like a shared home than a hostel from the first day. No wonder some travellers stay there for months. Or years. Or forever.
In fact, Samaipata is full of expats who mostly started as travellers and found their new home in the small village at the edge of Amboro National Park. So while Samaipata is definitely a Bolivian village with its typical market, many loud mototaxis and central chilled plaza it also offers almost any product one could possibly miss while travelling: wholegrain bread, good yogurt, natural cosmetics, organic honey… Many of these things are sold by people who lead a simple life somewhere in the surrounding mountains, living in self-built huts and happily inviting volunteers into their houses.
Life is slow and relaxed and although most people (both travelling through and permanently living there) don’t have a lot of money, there is always something fun to do and certainly many great people to meet. Often my days would consist of little more than cooking or going to the river to swim, but still I was never bored.
One day we felt especially adventurous and hitchhiked to some nearby waterfalls, but mostly my days were spent in the village and hostel walking around to buy food, chilling and talking to people.
After a couple of days I got invited to a hut in the mountains with a few friends where we built a dry toilet in a day, learned to sing Manu Chao songs and cooked the most delicious empanadas from scratch. I met people travelling with literally no money, was inspired to try to live in a bus and really started cooking again – something I had not done much in the last month. I also almost entirely spoke Spanish as there were many latino travellers and learned a bit about the Maya calendar.
It is difficult to sum up my experiences in Samaipata because what stuck with me most were the people I met. After a little more than two weeks it was weird to leave this wonderful hippie trap of a village behind. Luckily I left Samaipata to go to a Goa / Trance festival accompanied by a bunch of friends from the jardin, so I was a lot more excited than sad, but since then I had to say goodbye to many lovely people.
Still, a lot of Samaipata and its people are still with me in that they influenced me and my travel style. I am even slower, more relaxed and staying a lot at artesano* hostels, ditching tours almost entirely. I have also found Milena, my new travel companion who is just as excited as I am about hiking – so I am sure there are many great things to come and am thankful that I found this village. So if you ever go to Bolivia don’t miss out on this place, but beware! You might get stuck there, possibly forever…
* Artesanos are travellers who make their living by selling handmade goods (like macramé bracelets) or playing music / juggling in the streets. They are also incredible at finding the cheapest hostel in town with a kitchen.