Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lomas y Mariposas

After five days of data collection, sickness, more sickness, and more data collection, I was so ready for the weekend.  As much as I love my titi's great to have a few days off to explore Santa Cruz.  This weekend we decided to tackle two of our top touristy destinations around the city: Las Lomas de Arenas and Biocentre Guembe.

Saturday: Las Lomas de Arena.  One of the most unusual attractions in the Santa Cruz area, Las Lomas de Arena (Hills of Sand = sand dunes) are exactly as the name describes.  It's basically just a huge nature-sized sand box out in the middle of nowhere.  There is usually a lagoon during the rainy season, but since we're currently heading towards the end of the dry season, there was ZERO water there.  True, that makes it a little less water, no water fowl...but we managed to make the most of our sand dune experience.  Running, jumping, lots of falling.  We were covered in sand by the end of the day.

Las Lomas de Arena
Fun in the sun/sand.  There was lots of both.
...mostly just falling...
...definitely falling...
...covered in sand.
But the most interesting part of our journey had to be the ride home.  We arrived at the dunes via bus and a very uncomfortable truck ride...the dunes are about 7 km from the actual park entrance, so despite the uncomfortableness of the truck ride, it was much better than walking that whole way.  When we left Las Lomas, we had no idea how or if we would get a ride back to the gate.  Luckily for us, we were able to flag down some nice English-speaking Asian tourists.  They not only took us to the gate, but drove us THE WHOLE WAY HOME.  Hallelujah.  I'll take a nice air conditioned vehicle, rocking out to 'Eye of the Tiger,' over a crowded bus any day.  Life here is an adventure.  One minute you're sliding down sand hills, and the next you're hitchhiking with some nice Asians.  Gotta love it.

Great times with great girls!

Sunday: Biocentre Guembe.  When we first stumbled across this place in our Bolivian guidebooks, all we really noticed about it was the butterfly sanctuary...also known as the Mariposario (butterfly = mariposa).  Well.  This place has waaaaaaaaay more to offer than butterflies.  The butterflies were only a tiny tiny part of this resort/biocenter/adventureland.  First of all, this place is GORGEOUS.  Like seriously.  Colorful flowers, lush beautiful.  We started off with a trip to the Mariposario (since that's the reason we were there in the first place).  Too many butterflies to count.

From there we made our way down the trail to the Aviario (Aviary).  You could hear this place from a mile away.  Lots of birds making lots of noise.  I'm usually not a big fan of putting birds in mesh enclosures (I mean really...they're birds...they need sky and lots of it), but if it's going to happen, this is the way to do it.  The enclosure was HUGE.  Macaws, toucans, peacocks, plus one crazy squirrel.

Inside the Aviario

Towards the middle of the Aviario was a spiral staircase leading to a rooftop observation deck-type balcony thing.  And the view was spectacular.  I probably could've stayed up there all day.  The small spiral stairs made for a dizzying descent...but it was SO WORTH IT.

Awesome view from the top of the Aviario

We took the trail out of the Aviario and walked back towards the main area of the park, had a nice all-American hamburger/fries/coke lunch, and then spent the rest of the afternoon touring all of the natural swimming pools.  And yes that's plural...pools.  Like probably 10+ pools.  Relaxing end to a fun weekend.  Ready for those monkeys early early Monday morning.

FUN SCIENCE FACT #10:  There are over a million described insect species, but some estimate there are actually between 15-30 million species.  

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