Hasta luego, Bolivia...
30.11.2012 - 07.12.2012 30 °C
So, it’s been a week. Er, maybe over a week. Not entirely sure.
Regrettably, that means you’ve missed out on half of our time in Bolivia. Disappointed? I don’t blame you. Well, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s sort of my fault.
Actually, Bolivia itself is more to blame. (I don’t like to accept blame for things, ask Warren...it - as in everything wrong in the world - is usually his fault.)
The internet connections in Bolivia weren’t ideal. We were just about able to check emails; and that’s if there wasn’t a bloody toucan bullying us.
I’ll try to begin where I left off...which I believe was in Cochabamba staying with the lovely family at Hostal Las Lilas. They continued to be lovely, and even treated us to lunch on our final day. It was a traditional meal called pique macho, best known for its fiery ‘sauce’ or salsa llajwa. We both tried all of the different parts of the dish: fresh onions and tomatoes, beef, a type of chorizo, chips/steak fries, and (our least favourite) tripe.
Maria (I now know her name!) served this with fresh lemonade, and also shared a watermelon with us for dessert. Maria and Alex’s three little girls also joined us for lunch, but as we’re rubbish at Spanish, and they were too shy to speak the bit of English they knew, they soon abandoned the table for play time in the garden.
We had a nice chat with Maria and Alex, all four of us struggling with the language barrier – but laughing about it. Warren and I genuinely liked the pair and sincerely hope that they and their hostel succeed. The place has so much potential; I wish I’d taken some photographs of it.
We did absolutely nothing for the rest of the afternoon, but let our food digest and mentally prepared for the journey from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz. Maria booked us a taxi to the terminal, and as we approached the common areas (which had only been used by us for the entirety of our stay), we were surprised to see a strange man sat on the floor.
He had shown up on the doorstep hoping to book a room for himself and his friends who were due to arrive later. He soon filled us in on his life story. He was very entertaining, but a bit full-on. He was quite confrontational, and without sounding too much of a snob, I’m glad we were moving on.
He asked us what there was to do at the hostel other than relax. We stared at him blankly.
He asked us where he could buy some weed. We stared at him blankly.
He asked us if the owners would know where he could buy some weed. I tried to explain that they were very family orientated and er..might be caught off guard. He stared at me blankly.
He also made a point to brag about how he’d ripped the family off (by quite a lot) by telling Alex he’d seen a different price advertised than what they were asking for the room. He had also asked Maical (a young lad that worked for Alex + Maria) for some whiskey; Maical, who usually did construction work in the developing brewery, filled an entire glass with whiskey and didn’t charge a penny.
Warren and I, on the other hand, had decided to pay a little more than what the family had charged us. They’d provided us with good food for very little (if any) money, collected us from the bus terminal for free, and upgraded our room without charging us. This cocky Israeli lad made us even surer of our decision.
Buying tickets to Santa Cruz was a bit trickier than our other tickets; we’d decided to wait until the evening with the hope our tickets would be cheaper. The terminal was absolutely mad. It was packed full of people and people grabbers shouting destinations at the top of their lungs.
We secured our tickets and were soon on an El Dorado bus to Santa Cruz. It was a semi-cama bus, but we’d booked seats downstairs where there are half as many people. It was certainly the best sleep we’d had on an overnight bus so far.
Santa Cruz was hot. We’d come down the mountains into the altiplano where it was sticky and well over 30*C. We found Residencial Bolivar (this time, booked via email rather than Hostelworld). Warren picked it primarily for its unique pull: the toucan.
Santa Cruz was much more expensive than Cochabamba, and the hostels all seemed to cost about the same. Our room was fine and breakfast was included – however, Simón the aggressive toucan, not only perched right next to you and ate off of your plate, he’d also have a little (huge) shit on every chair in the dining area. There was nothing that could be done about this. If you put your arm in front of him to move him, he’d bite it with his MonsterBeak.
Warren and I did our best to steer clear of this hollow-boned/minded little turd, but he wouldn’t have it. While making ourselves lunch, he appeared in the kitchen, biting our toes. We cut up a bit of tomato and put it in another room to try to distract him, but he’d soon return.
uno dos tres
The novelty had worn off.
The major injury occurred the night before we left. He was snapping away at insects drawn to the light in the open courtyard area, and we were trying to get a better internet connection closer to reception’s router. He scared Warren out of his seat (see above), but refusing to be bullied by the BirdBrain, I resisted and carried on using the computer.
I’m not sure what really set him off, but he flapped over to my chair quick as lightning and had a good pinch on my upper arm fat.
I was close to tears, but had to pull it together because another long-term resident of the hostel was watching (and laughing, the bastard). Warren thought it had scared me more than anything, but I showed him the bruise the next day.
We avoided all common areas after that, and were even forced to have breakfast in our room instead of the dining area.
Toucans do not belong in hotels.
Enough about Simón.
Woz thought Santa Cruz was a very presentable place, and would call it his favourite city in Bolivia. I thought it was a bit up its own ass, but it was a decent place to stay for a couple nights.
Everyone in Santa Cruz wears Hollister and American Eagle – genuine and knockoffs both. It’s a bit weird.
Because we’ve missed out on Brazil and the Pantanal, we ventured into Samaipata (north-ish of Santa Cruz) to see a bit of la selva. This is about two and a half hours from Santa Cruz, unless you’re in this taxi:
Then it’s over three. (Have a close look.)
The scenery is fantastic en route to Samaipata, but the shoddy taxi left my feet on fire, my clothes drenched in sweat, my legs like jelly, and my teeth grinded down to nothing it was that juddery.
Is that a word? Juddery. Well, whatever, it describes the journey perfectly.
Samaipata is the mecca of hippies. We stayed in El Jardin, a hostel and campground that featured cupulas made from adobe, really lovely flower gardens, and a load of tanned, dreadlocked Europeans with acoustic guitars.
The cupulas were all booked, but our adobe room with bunk beds was more than sufficient.
From Samaipata, it’s possible to visit Vallegrande (where Che made his last stand), Parque Nacional Amboro, Las Cuevas (a group of cascadas with pools you can swim in), El Fuerte (pre-Incan ruins), and other touristic draws. We booked a tour to see both El Fuerte and Las Cuevas in one day. It was fantastic. (We highly recommend Samaipata Tours on the corner of Calle Warnes and some other street)
After two nights in the tranquil Samaipata, we travelled the two and a half hour journey back to Santa Cruz, booked a bus for the night, killed several hours in a shopping mall and cinema, then got a 9pm bus (left at 10pm) to Yacuiba on the border of Bolivia and Argentina, a nine hour journey. From Yacuiba, we booked another bus to Salta, were taxied around by the senora of the gentlemen who sold us the tickets, taken through immigration, taxied to a tiny terminal in Argentina, waited two hours, and boarded the bus. Yacuiba to Salta would take around six hours, said the kindly old man who sold us the tickets.
Alas, it’s been some time since he’s taken the journey.
Eight hours later we arrived in Salta. We needed pesos urgently (to pee, eat, buy water, and book a taxi), but none of the cajeros were functioning. A taxi driver agreed to find us a cash point. We tried about 10 banks (no word of a lie) before we finally found one that had an ATM that was giving out cash. Unsurprisingly, it had a 20+ minute queue.
Cash in hand, we were able to pay for our taxi, check into our hostel, pee (dios mioooooooo), shower, and eat.
Our feet had doubled in size from travelling without rest over 20 hours, but today they’re almost normal again. It’s amazing what a shower and good night of sleep can do for you. Oh, and water.
Water is also important, Dad.
Woz and I have been thinking about all of you (unless you’re a stranger; I’m afraid we’ve not met).
We have just two weeks left of our travels, which is a bittersweet thought. We occasionally have days where we’re homesick (although, it’s complicated to say where home is exactly). We miss our kettle and our wash machine primarily.
Well, friends and family a bit as well. I guess.
I suppose two months was a healthy amount of time to travel for us; we have so much unfinished business back in the States. We’re keen to crack on with things on our return.
Argentina, I’m sure, will allow us to check in with you all more regularly. Hope you’re keeping well! xxx