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Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve (Reserva Biológica Cordillera de Sama)

Near the Albergue

Near the Albergue

There are many incredible biological reserves and national parks in Bolivia which are relatively little known.  Somehow, those seem to be the ones I usually get to.  The Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve sits on the edge of the altiplano, above Tarija.  We were driving to Tarija in March, 2013 and took the opportunity to spend a night at the Albergue in the Reserve, the Albergue Turistico Comunal Pujzara.  This Reserve is a place of great beauty and abundant wildlife (mostly waterfowl).  That said, the Albergue is underdeveloped and cccccccoooold!  The beauty of the place, though, is absolutely worth spending a cold night (maybe even two).

The reserve is just 29 miles south off of the road to Tarija, and the turnoff is about 30 miles from Tarija itself (some 18o miles from Potosi).  The altiplano portion of the reserve (the only part we had time to visit) is a relatively humid area with a number of lakes and lots of birds.  All three South American species of flamingo can be found here, as well as a large variety of other birds.

All three species of flamingos that reside in South America can be seen on the lakes of the park.

All three species of flamingos that reside in South America can be seen on the lakes of the park.

Flamingos and Andean Geese

Flamingos and Andean Geese

Black-Necked Stilt, with melanurus trait

Black-Necked Stilt, with melanurus trait

Puna Flamingos

Puna Flamingos

Crested Duck

Crested Ducks

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

I'd say this is some kind of sandpiper, but which one, I'm not certain

I’d say this is some kind of sandpiper, but which one, I’m not certain

Another shot of the sandpiper

Another shot of the sandpiper

The Albergue is rustic.  Nice looking from the outside, the interior walls are not all finished.  There is no heating, but abundant blankets.  The showers have electric-heated showerheads which are capable of warming the water to a useable temperature (but not really hot), but given the air temperature you are likely to be well chilled before you can get yourself toweled off and dressed after your shower.  The staff, drawn from the local community, can provide meals with advance warning.  When we were there, we were the only guests, and I don’t think you would want to arrive without advance arrangements.  You might just find the door locked and noone around to open it.  That said, the staff were certainly friendly.

Aliciya and Myrna heading back to the Albergue

Aliciya and Myrna heading back to the Albergue

Bedroom in the Albergue

Bedroom in the Albergue

Dining Room

Dining Room

The reserve has a number of other attractions.  There is an Inca road down from the altiplano towards Tarija which would likely make a great trek.  There are sand dunes scattered between the lagoons.  And there is a colonial-era church.  We didn’t have a lot of time, but we did drive a short loop down through the park to get a sense of the place.  One could definitely spend some time here without getting bored.

The Church

The Church

To get to the reserve, turn south from the main road to Tarija at 180 miles from Potosi, or 30 miles from Tarija.  Turn left (East) at Laguna Pujzara, about 25 miles from the last turn.  The albergue is another four miles.  Here is the usual file for use in your GPS or in Google Earth.  The 1:50,000 topo map 6528-I Yunchara covers the central part of the reserve (see my maps page).

The lake by the albergue is not named on any of the maps I have.

The lake by the albergue is not named on any of the maps I have.

 

 

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