Saturday, August 25, 2007

Return to Samaipata

I’m extremely content right now. I have my own little house with a gate (called La Casita) and I’m currently sitting in a hammock, with my laptop on my thighs. I look out at vines, flowers and tropical trees. I smell herbs and flowers. I hear thunder, the rustling wind, and someone whistling to a dog.

It was so hot in Santa Cruz this morning it was almost uncomfortable. I took a shared taxi, that took an hour to fill up and cost just over $3 per passenger. I was happy to have a good driver and a comfortable ride. On the way, we passed a dance troupe and band, similar to those that performed in Cochabamba, walking down the side of the road. The dancers wore heavy red and gold costumes, with bells built into the men’s shoulders. Despite the heat and the sweat, they smiled, wiggled and blew into their heavy brass instruments.

We traveled along the old road to Cochabamba, driving under sheer rock faces, occasionally looking up for pending avalanches. As we followed the edge of a cliff over a river and winded around the mountain turns, we drove through a dense conglomeration of greenery, flowers, rocks and birds. I felt dwarfed by the nature, impressed by our insignificance.

Samaipata was quiet, but still looked the same as before – the dirt streets calm, the central, cobblestoned streets lit up by the stones, sculptures and greenery of the central square. Carefully built homes stood next to small, mud structures. Cacti grew around both types of residences, a natural art form. I noticed the signs throughout town – fresh bread, ice cream, homemade cheeses. This is a really unique town in that people seem to compete with each other to produce the most natural, healthy and organic foods. It’s a culinary paradise, set amidst a cool, flowering tropical mountain setting.

I began my culinary experience at Landhaus, a German owned hotel and restaurant. I enjoyed a meal fit for a king – pork medallions in a mushroom sauce, potato croquettes, green beans with grated cheese, vegetables, salad and homebaked rolls. This was accompanied by two bottles of mineral water and a slice of apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and sweetened cream sprinkled with cinnamon. Given the quality of the ingredients it was made with, it could easily have cost over $30 in the U.S. Here it was a mere $8. Even better, while eating, I got to watch the wind ripple the tropical trees and see a tortoise stroll by.

In the afternoon I came to my hotel, La Vispera, the place I stayed before. The hotel has a fully functioning organic farm and café, specializing in herbs and teas. I have a cabana, or a little house to myself. It has a hammock out front, where I can lie amidst the scent of fresh herbs and watch hummingbirds feed from nearby flowers.

I had pumpkin soup, cubes of gouda cheese, whole wheat rolls, and fruit tea delivered to my cabin for dinner. I could heat it up in my own little kitchen. Darkness fell at 6:15 and I moved inside, to my cozy little abode. I was struck by the silence, and by the feeling that my one-room space (that encompassed a double bed, a table and chairs, and a kitchen) was all I needed. I dreamed of returning here for an extended time with my family. Until then, I enjoyed the peace and the deliciously sweet air that surrounded me.

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