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Trinidad Bolivia

Trinidad, Bolivia

 

Los Llanos de Moxos – Gateway to the Amazon Basin

Trinidad is a small yet important city, since it serves as the commercial and administrative center for the remote lands of eastern Bolivia. It is only 236 meters above sea level and approximately 40,000 people call this their home. Since it is only 14 degrees south of the equator, heavy tropical humidity weighs down upon the city, with an average temperature anywhere between 20 and 30°C along with 90% relative humidity. Most of the rain falls during the austral summer although winter also has a good share of precipitation.

With little difference in seasons, the temperatures are relatively uniform year round. However, to break up the monotony, from June through September occasional cold winds called surazos, coming directly from the South Pole, can cause the temperature to suddenly plunge 10 degrees below normal.

The city of Trinidad lies in the Moxos (Mojos) Plains known as Los Llanos de Moxos, an ancient lake bed stretching eastward from the foothills of the Andean eastern cordillera. In 1556, Spanish captains Tristan de Tejada and Juan de Salinas established settlements in this area. In 1686 Jesuits led by Father Cipriano Barrace founded a mission at the present site of the city, naming it “La Santísima Trinidad” for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. During the annual celebration of the feast, residents wear elaborate feather headdresses and masks and partake in traditional dancing, accompanied by live music.

The city was originally established on the banks of the Mamoré River, some 14 kilometers from its present location. In 1797, floods from the swelled river forced the inhabitants to move inward, to the San Juan brook which now divides the city in two.

The Jesuits set up a society there similar to the one they would establish in the Llanos de Chiquitos and the Guarayos Hills during the century that followed (see the Jesuit Missions section in our Santa Cruz page).

 
Trinidad, capital of the Beni Department

The Department of Beni covers approximately 200,000 square kilometers with a sparse population density of only 1 person per square kilometer. Nature has continued to dominate this region, preserving the exuberant Amazon Basin.

Historically, numerous indigenous tribes, still in existence today, have always inhabited the Beni. However, the Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century paved the way for subsequent cattlemen and farmers who give the region its principle contemporary economic activity.

Other resources include, years ago, the intensive exploitation of rubber (and the gruesome tales of debt slavery that accompanied this type of economy). Rubber is still collected today, but to a lesser extent, along with Brazil nuts, quina, and a variety of valuable hardwoods.

To discover the Beni is to enter into a new, magical world shaped by water, dense and profuse vegetation, and innumerable wild animal species. Of all the tropical areas of Bolivia, the Beni, in its solitude, best represents the mythical Amazon that we’ve dreamed about.

Our tours in the Beni respect the environment and have been established to go with nature’s flow, so that you will enjoy a unique ecological experience, including intimate contact with the river, the humid tropical jungle and the native inhabitants. Here is a paradise for bird watchers, entomologists, fishing enthusiasts, photographers. Those who travel with a camera should bring plenty of extra batteries.

In this rich set of ecosystems, exotic and fascinating nature also hides the cultural treasures of magic and millenary civilizations (see collapsible panel below).

Trinidad is easily accessible from La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Regular airlines offer daily flights to&from the main cities in Bolivia.

Unique expeditions, exclusive hotels and tours for people who don't like tours in Bolivia.

Los Llanos de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon

A story of people and rivers in the Amazon

The Amazon Basin is not homogenous in its appearance, nor in its resources. In view of its enormous land surface extension and diversity of ecosystems, it is one of the most important biological reserves on earth.

The Bolivian Amazon lies in the heart of South America, in a natural corridor located in the western region of the continent, bounded by the Andean Mountain range. It is the habitat of diversified flora and is the mandatory path of many animal species and endemics. It is also the birthplace of one of the most ancient cultures on the continent.

With an average altitude lower than 250 m.a.s.l. the Llanos de Moxos is a flat region within the Bolivian Amazon, occupying much of the natural flatlands formed by the Mamoré River basin. The mean annual temperatures here are above 25ºC, and rainfalls up to 2,000 mm.

The mighty Mamoré River – its name means “mother of all waters” in Moxeño language – is the greatest waterways of the Bolivian Amazon and sees a good deal of traffic. Canoes, barges and double-decker river boats ply its silt-laden waters, carrying supplies to the isolated communities along the river bank, collecting cargoes of timber or bananas, and carrying cattle downstream to markets in Brazil. For the villagers, isolated in the midst of this immense wilderness, the arrival of a boat can be the main event of the day, and if yours stops to load or unload cargo it's likely to be besieged by locals selling bananas or fish, or simply seeking the latest news and gossip from upriver.

Three large bio-geographic regions of the Amazon Basin converge in this area, while the millenary ruins of the magic-mythic Empire of Enín, as well as the diversity of native populations, give the region a vast cultural importance.

At the confluence of three different ecoregions

The territory of the Llanos de Moxos is an immense hydrographic basin in which all the waters that come down from the Andes converge, giving place to a multitude of rivers, streams and lagoons. Temporary or permanent floods characterize the area, creating very special living conditions, particularly in the basin of the Mamoré River, the main tributary of the Amazon in the Bolivian territory.

However in spite of the exuberant scenery and space distribution of the heterogenous vegetation, the lowlands in the Beni region present fragile natural conditions, very susceptible to ecological unbalance.

The Amazonic hylea is a complex mosaic of ecosystems that interact between each other and that has been divided into various life regions according to the differences of arboreal flora and other biogeographic criteria. Los Llanos de Moxos encompass three of these ecoregions —the riverside forest, the savannas in Moxos, the savannas of palm trees— intermixed with swamps and islands of evergreen humid forest.

click here to openMore about local plants and wildlife

The presence of over 2,000 vascular plants species is estimated, among which the most outstanding are the mara (Swietenia macrophylia), ambaibo (Cecropia spp.), bibosi (Ficus spp.), tajibo (tabebuia spp.), palo maría (Calophyllum brasiliense), palo santo hormiguero (Lignum vitae) and several palm species such as motacú (Scheelea princeps) and chonta (Asteo caryum chonta).

Parallel to the mosaic of vegetation, fauna is also stunningly diverse. The winding rivers are flanked by short waterloving trees and there were large wading birds — all sorts of herons, ibis, storks and spoonbills... everywhere you look. Rounding each corner of the snaking river reveals more and more birds.

In adddition to 400 species of birds, there are dozens of mammals, not considering the thousands of insects that fill the forest with life, noise and colors. Several endemics and protected species can be found in the region.

Among the 400 fish species distributed in the different water bodies of the Bolivian Amazon region, 286 species are found only in the basin of the Mamoré river. Also, 60% of the ichtyologic fauna found along our journey is endemic.

It won’t be long before you can spot monkeys and capybaras, the world’s largest rodent — they top out at around 100 pounds. Pink river dolphins, too, are easy to find but photographing them may prove difficult. They frequently break the surface with their fins and snouts but it is next to impossible to predict when and where they will come up next. Equally plentiful are the caiman sunning themselves along the banks. Finally, everyone has the opportunity to catch the infamous piraña that can later be prepared for supper, to your taste or in a delicious soup.

The terrain may remind you of the Florida Everglades but the density of wildlife is seemingly much higher. Wildlife may not be as varied as in the lush rainforests of the Andean foothills (e.g. in national parks such as Amboró-Carrasco, Madidi-Pilón Lajas, Noel Kempff Mercado...) but animals are certainly much easier to spot on the riverbanks here in the Llanos de Moxos.

Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri sp.) are common on the riverbanks of the tributaries of the Mamoré River, Trinidad, Bolivia

 

 


Ancient Peoples of the Llanos de Moxos


For more than 30 years, archaeologists have clashed over whether the vast Bolivian river basin called the Moxos plains or Llanos de Moxos, also known as the Beni savanna, could provide the resources for indigenous cultures to grow beyond small, autonomous villages.

Now a small but growing number of researchers believe that the region was once home to cultures fully as sophisticated as the better known, though radically different, cultures of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. Although the ancient Mojeños abandoned their earthworks between 1400 and 1700 C.E., researchers say, they permanently transformed regional ecosystems—a notion related to water management with dramatic implications for conservation.

Click on the collapsible panel below for more information.

click here to openThe magic of millenary civilizations

The mysterious Eldorado was the constant concern of the conquistadores in their 16th century discovery fever. Upon their arrival to our region, they searched in vain for the famous Eldorado, known locally as Enín Empire, presumed to be opulent and magnificent. They were unable to see that this ancient and mythic civilization lied at each river bend, hidden behind thousands of cultivated fields and artificial hills, dwellings and administrative or ceremonial centers.

Ancient Earthmovers of the Amazon

Yes, thousands of artificial mounds (lomas) can be found in the region although they are more easily seen from the air, and in your journey you may want to visit some of them — the highest are up to 20 meters in height and date back to when the Empire was in its maximum splendor, sometime between AD 700 to AD 1400 while older forms of earthworks seemingly date as far back as 2500 B.C.E.

The hills are connected through embankments, which like monumental dikes, served the double function of connecting one “island” with another, and as a water duct to the agricultural fields. With the help of the original and highly advanced cultivation systems, these could double the yeld of the soils through complex production techniques of organic nutrients.

In this manner, in older times the inhabitants of the Llanos de Moxos developed an extraordinary knowledge of hydraulic engineering to control the floods and fertilize the agricultural fields, not disruptive to the balance of the ecosystems of the region.

It is estimated that this extraordinary use of natural resources was maintained for a thousand years. Thus the Llanos de Moxos of Bolivia are very significant to the origin of American mankind. To this date, the few scientific research works accomplished have encompassed studies, recovery, reproduction and application of these ancient techniques to the contemporary management of the soils.

Archaeologist Clark Erickson has written that, beginning 3000 to 5000 years ago, cultures of the Beni savanna “erected thousands of linear kilometers of artificial earthen causeways and canals, large urban settlements, and intensive farming systems.”

Because of its territorial extension and the significance of the cultural remainders found, the whole of the findings is even more grandiose than any of renowned archaeological sites of world hierarchy, pyramids or citadels found in the five continents up to date. Nowadays the quality and quantity of the ruins found throughout this territory enhance the cultural content of any trip, making it not only profound but truly unique in the world.

Archaeology in the Llanos de Moxos - Cultivated Landscapes of the South West Amazon

 

 


Peoples of the Llanos de Moxos Today


Today most part of the population in the area lives and works in a few cattle ranches and native agricultural communities.

Cattle ranches

When the first Jesuit mission was founded, at the end of the 17th century, the missionaries brought in the first heads of cattle, thus originating cattle breeding in the Beni region – the basis of the present economy throughout the Eastern plains of Bolivia.

Even though our area of operations does not include large extensions of savannas, we may be able to visit a cattle ranch. The particular life style of the cattle ranches is another facet of the Llanos de Moxos, through the current settlements under development and the absence of State assistance in these regions.

Native agricultural communities

The settlements as well as the communities are semi-nomadic. Most of them belong to the Mojo, Movima, Yuracaré and Muijiono cultures. Their subsistence depends on small scale agriculture, through the cultivation of rice, yucca, corn, sugar cane, citric fruit and garden produce.

The forest is also an important resource at the family level through fishing, complemented by hunting and recollection of eggs, honey, etc. Depending on the season of the year, over 80 species of plants are used for their fruit, fibers, wood or for medical purposes and for production of handicrafts.

The life style of the native populations must not lead to the assumption that they are lacking in knowledge. Quite on the contrary, the indigenous people have a deep understanding of their environment and are careful consumers of the products provided to them by Nature.

However, at the present time, their life has become more difficult, because much of their knowledge inherited by tradition from their ancestors regarding the management of the soils, has been lost.

click here to openConversation with a Mojeño...

We all belong to a single nation. There are many different peoples. Some live at the sides of the rivers, others in the hills, others on the plains. But all of us are sons and daughters of the jungle or the river. From the land we extract our food and everything we need. We hunt and fish to eat. We use the earth to make large jars and ceramic plates. We cut wood when we need it, for fires, houses or canoes. We use leaves for roofs, rope and fans.

We also buy some things in town. Our older people no, because they made everything they needed. They started fires with sticks, made clothing and even their sugar, oil and other things. Our elders used many other things from the hills. We’ve forgotten some of these things but we remember others.

Our peoples live a happy life. There’s lots of hunting and fishing, lots of fruit, and there’s always good land around that we can clear for growing.

Each town has its own way of doing things and each community organizes its life. But in all these place, the land belongs to everyone. In our community we share harvests, hunting, and chicha. We work together to clear the land or to organize fiestas or build a house.

Our adults teach our children. To fish, to shoot arrows, to dance, to grind cereal, to sew. Our grandparents teach us the secrets of our people.

The history of our elders was grand and noble. In the beginning only we the indigenous people lived on this land. We were the owners of all the plants, rivers, plains and curuchis. Each of our peoples named their gods in their own languages. They revered the sun and the moon in several nations. There were guardian spirits in the stars, water, rivers, lagoons and animals.

Our grandparents tell us that the gods greated things, how we received fire, animals, edible plants and medicines. They tell us how our people used bark from the trees and learned to hunt with a bow and arrow. They tell us about our languages, songs, and dances.

This is our oldest school, because our wisdom is found in our elders and in the rivers and hills.

Mojeño Kid

 

 

Trinidad is located in the north central part of Bolivia.

Trinidad, Bolivia

Through our intimate, small-group tours and private expeditions in this area you will be able to visit sites most tourists, even seasoned travelers, never find.

Join us on a discovery of a lifetime in Trinidad.

Check our selected excursions in this area:

ESSENTIAL TRINIDAD — 4 days

Trinidad & The Upper Amazon River System
{ short bolivia excursion - fully customizable }

The following package also includes this area
among other destinations.

BOLIVIA ANDES & AMAZONIA — 15 days

La Paz / Cochabamba / Trinidad / Santa Cruz
{ sample bolivia trip - fully customizable }

Or you may want to customize the following package,
and add a pre- or post-tour to Trinidad & The Upper Amazon River System.

BOLIVIA SPECIAL DEPARTURES — 13 days

Santa Cruz / Sucre / Potosí / Uyuni / La Paz
{ special itinerary - small group travel }

Feel free to customize any travel package according to your own personal interests and the specific activities you expect...

Join us on one of our Natural History Tours or a Cultural Exploration into the heart of South America. Our programs are offered throughout the year, on a (very) small group basis and mostly in private.

You may also want to make an enquiry or design your own program of activities in this area.

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You may also check other Special Interest Travel and unusual tours or expeditions around Bolivia, including:

• La Paz, Tiwanaku, Lake Titicaca
• Uyuni Salt Flats & Sud Lípez Red & Green Lagoons
• Colonial Cities of Sucre and Potosí
• Central, Inter-Andean Valleys of Cochabamba
• Santa Cruz - the Lowlands & Jesuit Missions
• Bolivian Rainforests & Amazon Basin
• Cuzco & Machu Picchu Extensions

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