The clouds that were coming in during the evening on Friday turned into torrential rains the following day. Saturday was supposed to be the main day of the trip where we would go to the Amboro National Park to hike and see the scenery and wildlife. Undeterred by the rain, we started on the long road to the top of a nearby mountain. The rain only made it seem longer because it was incredibly steep and wet on the muddy dirt roads leading up to the park. We were completely in the clouds and couldn’t see more than about 100 feet away. Toward the top, the road was almost completely eroded so we were driving on loosely layered dirt and gravel that was slippery, narrow, and on the edge of a cliff whose bottom we could not see in the fog and clouds. It was similar to the road to Hana but dirt with an off-camber slope, no guardrails, and constant steep ups and downs. In order to take pictures, I was in the front seat with the driver enjoying the bit of adrenaline that we were all feeling. The driver, who was very friendly, explained to me with pride that the bus was turbocharged and would have no problem on the steep wet roads. This became very obvious with some very sporty performance, but the strength of the engine was the least of my concerns with the cliff looming just feet away.
We finally got close to the top where the bus drivers got out to inspect the last stretch of road. We sat in the buses, rain thundering down, and waited to hear the news. A multi-hour hike in those conditions would have been pretty miserable, especially considering we wouldn’t be able to see anything. In addition, the drivers would not drive the last stretch for safety reasons. Unfortunately, we had to drive back down right after just coming up. On the way down we had all the excitement of the muddy roads but with gravity pushing us down too! We were finally instructed to put our seatbelts on, which I thought was a nice touch. We stopped on the way down, and through a hole in the clouds looked down on Samaipata from above. It was an amazing view of the little town.
Since our main plans had been rained out, we spent the rest of the day in town clogging little coffee shops with our group of 30, visiting a garden of local plants, going to a remarkable museum on the ancient history of the area, and splashing about in the puddles. What was supposed to be the main day became the rainy day where we substituted planned activities with other activities. Despite this, everybody was in a good mood and happy to be there. We had lunch at a really nice and rustic restaurant and hotel above some vineyards; where we took lots of pictures overlooking the town. Despite the rain, we made the most of the day and had a great time. After dinner, we hung out again with much dancing, singing, and festivities to let out any last energy.
Sunday was our last day and it was a little rainy as well. We got on the buses right after breakfast and headed on our way. After about 25 minutes, we stopped at Las Cuevas. The Waterfalls. This group of three waterfalls along a river in a canyon between towering mountains and cliffs on either side are truly a sight to see. There are two larger falls and one smaller one. There was a nice beach in front of the fall, and the water was cool and clean. Some people swam in the large middle fall and I took lots of videos of the falls and mountains with my drone. It was great fun and nice to literally dive into the beauty and nature.
Our final stop was the Hotel Laguna Volcan Eco Resort, a beautiful resort up a very steep hill from where we first stopped on Friday for our group picture. Nobody had any idea what was there, or why we were there, but as we climbed the steps to the pool area it all was revealed. Behind the hotel was an incredible and glassy smooth lagoon, cradled between a hill and a mountain. At the opposite end of the lagoon was an opening revealing an enormous colorful mountain that was by far the most perfect natural picture frame I have ever seen. I brought the drone out again, and as I started to fly the views got even better, I turned the drone around to look back at the hotel and realized that just behind us was the incredible mountain with its red eye that we had seen on Friday. Interestingly enough, I was also attacked by birds which was very scary and funny at the same time. I was not flying the drone, but I walked within about 50 feet of two birds who must have been guarding some others when they flew straight at me with their pointy sharp beaks very quickly and at the last second would veer straight up in a loop and come back in for another charge. To say I ran would be an understatement, but I was also considering if doing the “deadman” facedown in the grass would also make them leave. They didn’t actually hit us, but it was quite the heart-pounder. The scenery here was unbelievable, and it was truly a spectacular end to our trip.
Rotary trips are not just an incredible time to see the new worlds in which we live, but they are also a time to see that world from the many perspectives of the diverse group of people you are with. Hearing the thoughts of my fellow RYE students on the places we went and the situations we were in was really fascinating in how the opinions, insights, and appreciation differed. This trip was our big “Welcome to Bolivia” orientation, and was completely sponsored by our district. These opportunities are incredible and we are all so fortunate to be able to take advantage of them. Thank you so much to our Rotary chaperones, organizers, and district that took care of us! I look forward to more adventures in the future!