The Amboro national park is right around the corner from Samaipata and there is a bunch of agencies offering tours. Not necessarily the one I wanted though. I had been looking around and the Amboro national park consists of three separate zones, a high arrid area, an intermediate cloud forest and a very low rain forest like I had seen in the Madidi national park in Rurre. So my goal was to go to cloud forest. Unfortunately the much more popular (and therefore cheaper) route is to go to the jungle. I spent a day visiting all the tour agencies, asking if they had a group leaving to said park. They didn’t. But I kept hearing about that other girl, that was also interested and maybe if I could find her we could go together and get a better price. I did end up meeting her, but unfortunately it was only on our way out of town in the bus from Samaipata to Santa Cruz.
But, as always, there’s a way to make things work. While I wasn’t prepared to pay the official list price, one of the companies offered me a discount since they had no outing the next day. So I did some mental gymnastics to justify paying double of what I initially planned (but if you take into account that I saved money on food that day, and didn’t need to pay another night of hostels in Samaipata it was only a 100 bolivianos more) and off I went with my private tour guide the next morning.
The tour itself was absolutely amazing. We started out in a rather unspectacular patch of “standard” forest. But my guide stopped every few minutes to show me an edible plant or a medicinal plant or an herb. I’m not sure how many different plants I tried that day, but there were many. I also finally learned what “Boldo”, a lemony tea I’ve been drinking for a couple of months now, is: A green bush growing wild in the Yunga. He also explained to me that this part of the woods were quite arid since the mountain stopped the clouds and kept all the humidity on the other side, where we were headed.
Once we crossed over the ridge and started descending into the valley the forest changed dramatically. Ferns were everywhere, lichen too. I was enthralled. But when I started taking pictures my guide told me to wait, this wasn’t the good part. Granted, the leaves of the ferns were a bit brown, but I knew this might be the case since I was traveling in the dry season. My guide assured me we’d get to ‘the better’ ferns a bit further down, which were still green.
He was right, we did climb down into the valley and there the ferns were still green. Mostly because they were standing close to some small streamlet and because the trees were hiding the leaves from the sun. There I learned that Amboro means “where the water is born” because it has plenty of small water sources. He also showed me the two types of giant ferns that exist in this area. They are quite easy to distinguish, one has some serious thorns the other one doesn’t. They also grow at different speeds, the former at about 3-5cm the other at less than 1cm per year. So when you look at a 20m high fern you know it’s been around for quite a while.