The Elbow of the Andes

After a few days relaxing in the jungle town of Samaipata, our gang of rag-tag travelers were growing restless and eager for an adventure. Sure, the waterfalls at Las Cuevas were heaven and the temple at El Fuerte was definitely a cool sight to be seen but we were thirsty for something more challenging, something where we’d break a sweat, something not for the faint of heart – after all it had been over a month since we broke our backs on the Inca Trail.

The time had come – Gillian and I were now in the company of two strapping young men whose endless supply of energy required a hike like none other we had done before.

It was time for a jungle hike.

Knowing exactly what was needed, we set out in search of the area’s more challenging hikes and best views. After perusing the streets of Samaipata looking for just the right tour, we signed up for a seven hour trek through the jungle, across a valley, up the side of the Andes to end at “Bella Vista,” one of the regions best vantage points. The 12 kilometer jaunt would not only be physically challenging, but we would be battling ferocious mosquitoes and other elements unique to the jungle.

Our mission was clear – we would conquer el Coda de los Andes. Spanish for the Elbow of the Andes, the “elbow” name comes from the point where the arm of the Andes meets the thick bush of the Amazon jungle in Bolivia.

Early the next day we boarded our chariot into the jungle, a 4X4 with bench seats in the box, and bounced our way out of town. The red clay roads proved to be no match for the powerful little truck and after an hour of driving along busted bush roads, we reached our path and met with our local Spanish guide, David. After brief pleasantries, we set off into the wild.

The little truck that could... And a gang of wild-eyed adventurers ready for some jungle time

Devin getting a little closer to nature

Leah and Will working their way into the jungle

Walking single file, we followed David as he hacked through the lush jungle bush with his long machete. We breathed in the sweet, wet jungle air and spotted tarantulas, wild orchids, butterflies and one suspicion pile of bones. The walk twisted up and down a narrow path, over logs, across the river and followed a babbling brook until we reached our lunch stop, a powerful waterfall spilling into a crystal clear pool of fresh jungle water.

Bones and baloney sandwiches, delicious

Every few kilometers we would stumble upon a rope swing and of course, we took full advantage.

Just a couple of monkeys swinging in the trees

Gillian, the amazon woman, showed us all how it was done

We continued fighting our way through the jungle until we finally broke into the valley of the Andes. The first part of our trek was complete and now it was time for the real challenge. With labored breath, we marched uphill using switch backs until we reached the infamous Bella Vista. Just over 1450 meters above sea level, the 360 degree was spectacular and worth every drop of sweat it took to hike up that beast of a hill.

The boys accepting their "diploma" at 1450 meters above sea level

Leah, slightly tomato-faced, with Gillian enjoying Bella Vista

Reaching the top is one of the most satisfying feelings after two hours of switch backs