This past weekend was a “ferriada” (3-day holiday weekend), thanks to a new government holiday implemented by Evo Morales’ regime: Plurinational State Day. Taking advantage of the break, we joined the cousins (Cayi and Ines) for a break from the heat in Santa Cruz.

Located 120 km south of the city of Santa Cruz, Samaipata is a picturesque little town nestled away in the Andes. Though reminiscent of the lush, green Andes in the Sacred Valley of Peru from afar, the terrain here is quite different. Unlike the “suspended feeling” imparted by the tall, steep peaks near Cuzco and Machu Picchu, this segment of the Andes rolls with soft peaks and gentle valleys. As if adopting the setting as their way of life, the people of Samaipata have developed a leisurely culture with soft peaks of activity.

This cute town is best known for its UNESCO world heritage site, the Fortress of Samaipata (“El Fuerte”). Many consider El Fuerte one of the most remarkable pre-Columbian ritualistic sites in the whole world. The site is divided into two functional units: the religious area of Roca Esculpida (Main Rock) and administrative area characterized by mixed architecture from differing cultural settlements over the centuries. The main rock is approximately 220m long by 60m wide and is covered with carved works, such as anthropomorphic images, geometric patterns, niches, and a water channeling system.

During our stay, we partook in a churrasco that was an absolute riot! The churrasco was hosted by the family of one of Ines’ friends (by family we mean all 30+ of them). As usual, food wasn’t served until nearly midnight, but the atmosphere was full of celebration, joking, and singing. By the end, things got a little wild and the family lunch for the next day (“cancho” or whole pig) started to look less like a pig and more like a drag queen doll (see photo below).

On our second day, we visited a series of waterfalls that is a favorite local attraction and enjoyed a nice, cool afternoon before heading back to Santa Cruz.

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