Second trip to Bolivia, part 1
Thu, 08 May 2003 15:47:32 PDT
Dear All

As promised, here is my report from the second trip to Bolivia during three 
weeks in February  2003:

I visited the provinces of Santa Cruz with the City of Santa Cruz and the 
surroundings, the province of Chuquisaca with the City of Sucre, the Province 
of Cochabamba avoiding the City of Cochabamba and the Province Beni with the 
small town of Rurrenabaque and the neigbouring lowland part of the province of 
La Paz, visiting the eco-lodge of Chalalan.

All in all it was a great trip in a wonderful country with very nice and 
friendly people. Althogh there was some unrest in La Paz at the time of my trip 
I did not experience any critical nor uncomfortable situations in the areas I 
went but this was the reason I avoided the city of Cochabamba itself.

I travelled by hired car from Santa Cruz to Sucre via Samaipata and Aiquile 
making a stop in Valle Grande. From Valle Grande I had to return to the 
Samaipata-Aiquile road because excessive rain did not allow me to go any 
further into the Andes on unpaved roads without bridges. (To go to Sucre via 
Valle Grande would be a splendid trip during the dry season!) The landscape on 
the road to Sucre was pure untamed nature, just a very narrow unpaved road 
winding through fantastic mountain scenery mostly following roaring rivers. It 
had rained a lot even in Cactus-Land but this road was in good condition. From 
Sucre I went back part of the same road but then turned west to go towards 
Cochabamba taking a shortcut from the old to the new Santa-Cruz/Cochabamba road 
thus avoiding the City of Cochabamba. I took the new road back to Santa Cruz 
through a breathtaking landscape of the Andes falling steeply into the Amazon 
basin and crossing almost all Bolivian landscapes during a few hours drive. 
Later I flew from Santa Cruz to Rurrenabaqu to visit the Eco-Lodge of Chalalan 
in the rainforest of Madidi National Park.
The microclimate and quantity of rain varies considerably even in short 
distances and combined with quickly changing altitude it makes an uncomparably 
rich assortments of different habitats, many of them still relatively intact.

The most interesting plants I saw was a beautiful Tropaeolum in Valle Grande, 
elevation 2000m: like a T. pentaphyllum but with two "mouse ears" bright red 
petals. Not far away was a striking Puya species (not P. raimondii) with large 
cream coloured flowers. On the road there was a very large flowered Passiflora 
that almost looked like P 'Incence' It may have grown from seeds spit out of 
the window of a passing vehicle. All this was summer rain  relatively moist 
weather with cool dry winters. In Valle Grande there were also some washed out 
pink flowered Bomareas growing in the hedges along the road. There were no 

In the Samaipata area which is much drier than Valle Grande there is mixed 
secondary deciduus scrub and Cacti and the owner of one of the Hotels in 
Samaipata has a small cactus nursery dispaying many common "imported" cacti but 
also some of the interesting local ones. I found a beautiful dwarf Solanaceae 
with creeping stems like Convulvulus mauritanicus but the flowers like a small 
petunia, herbaceous perennial but not tuberous. Bright (hummingbird) red Tecoma 
shrubs everywhere in bloom locally mixed with a shrubby blue Salvia. There were 
also bright yellow Tecoma species and interesting intermediate forms in all 
tints of orange.

Above Samaipata there is access the the cloud forest in the Amboro National 
Park: forests of giant tree ferns are the dominating plants, many epiphytes, 
medium size leaved Gunnera and a nice Salvia with plum purple flowers and the 
underside of the leaf the same colour.

In one of the dry interandine valleys I found a huge tuberous Araceae that at 
first glance looked like a cross between a grey cabbage and a Cardiocrinum. It 
had clusters of unripe fruits at soil level nestled among the large stalked 
leaves. Who knows what this could be? These dry valleys have very fertile soil, 
some are cultivated with artificial irrigation and the rest abounds with cacti 
and loose scrub. I do not have the knowlegde to identify cacti. Some bright 
orange and yellow Opuntia and bright pink Peireskia species were in flower and 
sometimes there was a beautiful white Asclepiad climber in bloom.

Further up toward Sucre there was Salvia land........ and Lepechinia bella! 
Very large flowerd pink shrubby Salvias next to small blue flowerd misella type 
Salvias in dry degraded scrub. In the same habitat there was Lepechinia bella a 
most striking straggly shrub with deepest dark gentian blue tubular flowers in 
clusters. There was also a bright red tubular flowered Salvia, perhaps S. 
haenkii in bloom, but no seed...... In moist shady places there was a very 
large flowered bright gentian blue tuberous/perennial Tradescantia. There was 
one Hippeastrum unflowerd on the edge of the road a bit lower down.

Even more higher up on a detour into another cloud forest there were tall 
herbaceous blue Salvias in full bloom and brightest red Bomarea species and 
bright orange Fuchsias and red Fuchsia boliviana. I kept thinking that Bolivia 
is the country of pure bright coulours. In dripping wet moss there was a dainty 
colony of a yellow Calceolaria spec. A bit lower down and a bit drier there was 
a dwarf blue Lupinus in full bloom and a spectacular Passiflora (P. 
umbilicata?) with purple bracts and stems and bright pinkish purple buds, no 
open flowers seen. There was also a lot of Mandevilla suaveolens with a 
powerful fragrance. In warm dry places there was a tall perinnial tuberous 
rooted Tradescantia with a lot of bright pinkish-purple flowers, at first 
glance looking like Lythrum salicaria.

The Sucre area was disapointing botanically: overused cultivated land for 
thousands of years........ I found a bright blue Tradescantia in a swampy 
depression but not much more. But there was a most impressive Indian Market in 
Tarabuco and i almost felt set back into Inca times seeing the traditional 
clothing....... and there was not much Spanish spoken. The City of Sucre is 
considered Bolivias most beautiful city and I do agree with it. A very lively 
and relaxed way of life and very friendly.

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