by Bennett Hennessey

Bolivian SpinetailThe Machaca forest is one of the few sites in existence which protects the endemic and Endangered Bolivian Spinetail. The Spinetail is specific to a dry forest with high plant endemism found only in the Rio Cocapata watershed. Almost its entire habitat has been disturbed with the only two relicts of decent forests known in the Machaca and Inquisivi site. In Inquisivi the forest is being destroyed for consumption in the city of La Paz Within the correct forest habitat the Bolivian Spinetail can be easily observed foraging in the tree tops, and through the low bushes (see bird list). Learn its distinctive song, as it sings through-out the day. It is almost certain that a day in the habitat you will see the species- if not phone Armonía urgently! Also look out for such species as the Green-barred Woodpecker- which is different in the area. This is also a good site to see the Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch. And of course keep an eye out for the Rufous-bellied Saltator in the fields around the village of Machaca.

Conservation Note: This site is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and an Alliance or Zero Extinction site (AZE). Armonía is working with the community of Machaca, to attempt to protect this area through education, habitat restoration and community sustainable development support. Your visit can play an important part in the conservation of this area. Tourism will demonstrate to the community that the forest has another value in its intact state. Armonía will be working with the community to create tourism infrastructure so that they can earn money from their efforts to protect the forest. But presently this does not exist. If you want to help conservation of this truly threatened habitat, the best thing to do would be to leave money in the village as a form of payment for services (not as free gifts, where the final result is a begging community). You could pay for such services as a room for the night, a dinner, someone to guide you to the trail, renting a donkey to carry your stuff (if you are going to camp in the forest), someone to wash your clothes, or purchasing local handcrafts and their farm produce. Also if you really want to help the project, you could donate to Armonia's Bolivian Spinetail Conservation Program.

Logistics: If you are renting a car, I recommend a large four-wheel drive like a Toyota Landcruiser or a Nissan Patrol- these larger vehicles will smooth-out the rough 6 hour dirt road drive in (aprox. 8 hour drive from Cochabamba). From the central plaza in Cochabamba. At this toll set your odometer to 0 km. 10 km further on there is a gas station where you should fill your tank. At the 34 km point, we saw Bolivian Blackbirds on the roadside. Pongo is at 66 km area). From Pongo you need to turn right after the sign to Independencia (see photo). The dirt road you want travels between the aqua painted two story house and Restarant Cochabamba. Set your odometer to zero again. Around 20 km, there is a type of fork in the road, where you go to the right. At 57 km, you will come to a road check point, where you need to tell them that you are going to Machaca. Travel another 4km up the road to a great high Andean restaurant called Virgen de Guadalupe. I strongly recommend that you have a High Andean style soup here. Nothing to worry about, the soup is boiled- no germs. I bet you someone in your group will have more than one.

At 63 km you will arrive at Machaca. Back to zero km. Continue up the road from the plaza. 10 km up there is a somewhat fork, where you should take the road on the left. At 16 km You must ask for a corigidor here, to pay your entrance fee to visit the forest. This is very important. This community is protecting the forest. The Armonía Bolivian Spinetail conservation program wants to show them that there is a tourism benefit from protecting the area. If they do not have a price, I suggest 5 US$ per person per day. Here you can ask for some very humble lodging. If you are staying in Machaca- you can also camp in the town (look out for Rufous-bellied Saltator), pay a guide around 20 Bolivianos to show you the trail to the forest. It is about a one hour walk. You will know you are in the forest when you come to trees with long grey beard like bromeliads- this is the nesting material for the Bolivian Spinetail- and possibly one of the limiting factors to its distribution.

If you want to travel and camp near the forestand away from the town, turn left on the first fork in the road entering the town (see photo- go down road with jeep). At 43 kmFrom Independencia you need to hire local transportation to Machaca. El senor Vitalio Heredia has a store two blocks before reaching the Independencia plaza when travelling to Machaca. He can take you and pick you up in Machaca for 400 Bolivianos round trip- but pay at the end. About a one hour drive travelling over a mountain ridge.


The initial research into the site came from the Armonía volunteer work of Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley and Ebert Rocha. More detailedinformation came from the Armonía program research by Monica Beatriz San Cristobal supported by Conservation International.

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