A Bolivian Pause…Heading Slowly East
It proved a bit of a task choosing a route through Bolivia. After La Paz, what next: the Bolivian Amazon, Salt Flats, the cities or elsewhere? And how to get there?
With a little regret we ruled out the Amazon and Rurrenabaque, as the route can be treacherous, buses get stuck for days on end and the wildlife sounded very similar to that we’d seen in Iquitos. The famous Salar de Uyuni was somewhere we wanted to be as we exited Bolivia but, in any case, Uyuni was blockaded at the moment.
When Bolivians get annoyed at something, they blockade cities preventing any ingress or egress for days on end. You do not try to pass a blockade although they can sometimes be circumvented with long detours. Uyuni seems to be blockaded semi-permanently…that may or may not be an exaggeration.
Once again Dr Lenton came to the rescue, divining a route through Cochabamba, Samaipata and Santa Cruz that would eventually lead us to Sucre the official capital. And even better: we’d fly some of it to avoid long, winding bus rides and potential blockades.
In the event, it proved that none of these places was of great interest, so we had what felt like a 10 day pause, treading water and keen to get to Sucre and beyond. The rest did us good though, allowing us to catch up on blogging (a little bit anyway), do our own cooking and reduce our outgoings a little. It also drove us a little nuts.
Bolivia’s fourth city in size. We arrived two hours late, due to a blockade, having driven a huge detour on dirt roads via Oruro. At times it was so bumpy it seemed the bus would capsize.
The hostel, on the outskirts of the town, had a fabulous huge garden so we barely left during our stay. We just soaked up the sun, reading and relaxing.
Cochabamba has the world’s largest statue of Christ (when you don’t include the crown), bigger even than Rio’s. We saw it from a distance, but I’m ashamed to say we couldn’t be bothered with a close-up. There is a lot of debate about the height of Christ statues around the world. Who knew?
Samiapata is two and a bit hours outside of Santa Cruz. We flew into Santa Cruz, got swindled by a taxi driver (bastard) who took us to the wrong bus terminal on purpose, and eventually wound up in a collectivo to Samaipata after a ride in a very, very dodgy taxi. The road is rough and half-way up we encountered a convoy of trucks and buses stuck in the mud. Fortunately we managed to skirt them and arrive almost on time.
A rustic little town high up in green valleys in the Andes, Samaipata is famous for a day tours: the fort, the jungle and its huge ferns, the so-called elbow of the Andes and more. The only problem is that to get a reasonable price you need others to take the tour too, so you end up approaching people in your hotel, on the street, in restaurants to see if you can team up.
We selected the elbow of the Andes for some nice mountain walking, finally found two French ladies who were willing to join us, paid, booked and made our sandwiches and packed lunches. That evening the tour operator came to our hotel to tell us it was cancelled.
So four nights in a cute mountain town, great scenery but essentially twiddling our thumbs.
We did find a small zoo/refuge 2km out of town that we visited one afternoon. We should have volunteered there for the four days!
Bolivia’s second city in the east. Huge sprawling and largely uninteresting. Lots of restaurants, shops, markets and a central square less impressive than many smaller towns.
Still, the market area was quite cool:
- There was a huge section devoted to all manner of iron-mongers that was interesting to see.
- We also found a street dedicated to zebra pattern sofas, of the kind I’d imagine in a seedy club.
- A section was devoted to refurbished ancient foot-powered Singer sewing machines suitable for Mennonites (who eschew most forms of technology and seem to thrive in Santa Cruz).
And it had an old plane in one park. Ok then!
But in the final analysis, two nights was too long and it was with great relief that we boarded our plane to Sucre.
Rested, bored and keen to move on, we weren’t sad at all to leave Santa Cruz. In fact we were straining at our self-imposed leash to get to Sucre and beyond. On the plus side, it made this post short, sweet and easy to write!