Keeping with my theme of “making the most of my time in Bolivia”, we decided to check out the seven waterfalls (Siete Cascadas), located in a valley within the Sucre city limits. You probably know I’m not much of a hiker, but I decided that it was worth it to check out some great local waterfalls. It almost killed me, but eventually we made it there and I was proud of myself! Here’s the story….
Note: This is part 2 of the journey, check out the first part of the day here:
After finishing our tour at the Dinosaur Park, our guide negotiated a taxi to take us to the start of the path we were going to hike. I’m not sure how you would find it on your own. It’s through a lot of small neighbourhoods with dirt roads, and eventually the road kind of stops and we got off there! The buildings were ending, and it looked like some sort of community meeting was happening at the very last building on the block. Our guide paid the driver and we got out to start our hike.
The first and last parts of the hikes were the most challenging. Lots of little rocks on skinny paths right beside big drop-offs is a bit scary for someone a bit afraid of heights and also is pretty precarious because the little stones make it slippery. After about an hour you end up walking through river valleys for another hour or so. In Bolivia, most rivers are not full all year round, and the path is a bit meandering, so the parts that are wet/dry change regullarly. You have to jump over a few streams on little rock paths and the ground is very uneven, but it’s not too challenging. Between some of the rivers there are little paths through the woods, all planted with imported Eucalyptus from former hacienda (rich mansion with large yard/plantation) owners. After awhile, we stopped for a break and ate some oranges and apples before continuing.
It was this middle part of the hike that really killed me. We had already been walking for hours and I was exhausted. We were no longer on the riverbed, and had found a street leading through a small village. Kids were playing in the stream while women washed their clothes. It was the middle of the day (around 1pm) and the sun was hot, right overhead. Our guide pointed up to a car and said “that’s where we’re going”, and I thought “no way, I’m never going to make it”. But I kept walking. Eventually I was so hot and tired that I just sat down by the side of the road and cried. I know, I’m a big baby, but it’s the truth. I have a minor physical disability, so I think it takes me a lot more energy to walk then it does for others. Steve came and told me that I could do it. I told him I was giving up and catching a car into the city. We kept walking. (Un)fortunetly (?) no cars came along, and after dragging my feet we made it to the top of the hill! At the top, we saw the waterfalls – yay! We found a rocky spot under the shade of the only tree, and our guide laid out a yummy sandwich/salad picnic lunch.
I felt a lot better after eating (even though I was trying to conserve water for the rest of the day). You can see the actual waterfall from the road, but it takes another half an hour over rocky/hilly ground to get there. The first waterfall goes into the valley so it’s easy to get there, but ther rest are a bit more tricky. There’s a bit of rock climbing involved, and I’d recommend going with a buddy because there’s no way I could have climbed up to the main swimming area (between waterfall 2 and 3) on my own. Thankfully, our guide suggested we just stay where we were, because I’ve heard that climbing to the higher waterfalls is quite intense and a bit dangerous (plus too cold for swimming). Steve and I went swimming while another girl read, and there was lots of local boys (and a few tourist teenagers) splashing about. The water was cold and you couldn’t see the bottom, but was great to cool off. After about half an hour there, we packed up to leave. The boys had to help me back down, and I quickly changed into dry clothes away from all the others (between the 1st and 2nd waterfall). The last hike was doable. It’s all uphill but mostly pretty flat ground so you’re not slipping and sliding and afraid of heights. It probably took us about 45 minutes to get to the little town…
Once we were in Alegria, we stopped at the first shop to buy water – we were parched! The first show didn’t have any small bottles, so I got a fanta and another girl bought a big water (but it was the last one left). Then we walked to the buses. Since it wasn’t full, we sat to wait, and I went to get us a big, cold water from the shop across from the parking lot. After about 10 minutes we left – headed towards Mercado Campesino. After about 30 minutes the bus was full and we were there, but traffic was crazy. We got on a second bus to Mercado Central and then went out own ways after that. It had been a long day and we just wanted to chill at home…
So, would I recommend the trip? That depends what you’re looking for! If you want spectacular waterfalls and a day full of excitement then this is not the day for you. However, if you want to see a bit more of nature, get some exercise in, cool of in a stream, and see something new – then this would be perfect for you!
- Wear proper closed shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. You do have to cross a few rivers and there’s lots of little rocks that make it inadvisable to wear flipflops…
- Bring more water than you think you’ll need. They told us to bring 2L each, we each brought one bottle (like 750mL) and we all ran out before the end of the trip.
- Wear hats, sunscreen, and have your shoulders covered. Definitely easy to get over heated or burnt.
- Bring lots of snacks or a picnic.
- Bring your camera (but perhaps use a strap so you don’t drop it down a cliff…)
- Wear/bring a bathing suit, towel, and a book. It’s a good chance to cool off and relax once you reach the waterfalls.
Planning your Trip
- When to Go: I’d recommend going on a warm day. It’s a great place to cool off in the water or lie in the sun and read your book. Apparently the water for swimming is only between April and March (otherwise it’d too dry), but we went in April and it was okay.
- How to Get There: This is the complicated part. It’s technically in Sucre, but a lot of people don’t know how to get there. Even tourists we ran into who were hitchhiking got lost. This site has better directions (but I don’t think I’d understand them if I had never been there before…).
- Accessibility: Once you get to the closest rode, you need to climb up and down skinny rock cliffs. This activity is not accessible for people with mobility/balance concerns or small children.
- Price: Free! This is a natural waterfall, so you can just show up and go swimming any time 😊 If you get a guide you’ll have to pay for that… I think we paid about $20 each for the full day including lunch, guide, all buses, and entrance/cameras for the Dinosaur Park.
P.S. We booked this tour with Condor Trekkers, which is located in Condor Cafe (a wonderful, affordable, vegetarian cafe on Calle Calvo in Sucre). You could probably do a similar tour with other agencies in town, but I found that they have the best prices. They also have longer tours to places like the Maragua Crater, cave paintings, etc. in the area. You could easily visit the dinosaur park on your own, but getting to the waterfalls would be a lot more challenging!