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Published: September 20th 2011
Back in La Paz
The journey back from Rurre to La Paz was much shorter than the outgoing trip. Instead of 24 hours, it only 19 hours, which included 2 hours at a service stop after our driver noticed out bus was missing a wheel.
Our one day back in La Paz was haggard, slow and long. The four of us, Ciaran, Maria, Mattis and I wandered the city for a while, before I led Maria and Mattis to the various viewpoints in the city. I got bored of Ciaran's constant attempts at chatting up Maria and so walked on alone. After travelling together for quite some time, some holes had definitely formed in our travel relationship and I was looking forward to leaving for Santa Cruz alone the next day.
As seems to be an arriving tradition in La Paz, after almost no sleep, we were obligated to go out drinking. Fortunately, I had some inspiration thanks to Ireland and a group of its females who had just arrived in the hostel. Whilst I was uninspired at the prospect of spending a night out with my jungle team, I would never turn down a night out with
a group of Irish gals.
When it comes to partying, the Irish are probably the best nation in the world. Unlike the English who generally have the sole aim of getting completely mullered until unconsciousness occurs, the Irish though, are pure drunken fun. Whilst in the Adventure Brew bar, I had a long decent talk with Mattis, who was an incredibly sound guy and we realised that through the time in the jungle we had developed very similar opinions over numerous things. We moved from the balcony back inside the bar though and I split from my people to join Ireland and after some time, we moved onto a nightclub and eventually one of La Paz's more questionable locations.
We got back at an obnoxious time in the morning, the Irish still amazingly awake all things considered, though I was broken and fell promptly asleep.
The next day was a hungover one for everyone, but I found myself getting on especially well with one of the girls, Tully. She was wonderfully eccentric but smart, probably a good match for me and so we spent the day lazing about together pathetically before finally dragging ourselves out of the
hostel for lunch. As always seems to be the case for me, Tully was heading in the opposite direction and we had a mellow goodbye in the evening before I left on my bus to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz - Bolivia's Brazil
Santa Cruz is not one of the capitals of Bolivia (there is two), but it is the biggest and richest city in the country. 75%!o(MISSING)f all food produced within Bolivia comes from the region and it's position near Brazil and sources of minerals have all contributed to this wealth. I chose to head there to check out the possibilities of organising a return to the jungle. It is a personal ambition of mine to find a tapir in the wild, possibly as some form of closure for events of many years previous and as I had only seen a footprint in Parque Madidi, I needed to try again.
I had taken a semi-cama bus for what I thought was only a 12-14 hour bus journey, but I had made some mistakes, firstly the bus was meant to be 16-17 hours. When you settle into a long bus journey there is a series of
preparations that a lot of people make, a routine. For me this includes drinking the absolute bare minimum (buses in Bolivia almost never stop and the bathroom on the bus is always broken), eat the bar minimum (even if there is a bathroom on the bus, numbers twos are not allowed) and I die inside a little to minimize my mental efforts for the duration of the bus as not to be so bored. All of this means that when I think I should be arriving at my destination I reanimate, when I reanimate only to find that I have another three hours to go, I get frustrated and incredibly bored.
To compound the frustration and boredom, the bus journey was extended by another couple of hours by two random police searches during the middle of the night where every single bag and person on the bus was removed and searched whilst we waited outside in the cold night. To top off this lousy journey I had the misfortune of being sat next to a rather potent smelling local lady.
Santa Cruz feels like the richest city in Bolivia, the roads are paved, wide and in good repair;
the city has real parks and the whole place was designed so congestion is not much of a problem for the hundreds of non-taxi vehicles that are ploughing the roads. The park was the biggest surprise to me; I arrived on the weekend and there were hundreds upon hundreds of people actually allowed on the grass, relaxing and playing sports - it was great to see.
I was wandering through the park in some kind of shell-shock mode, a lack of sleep, food and water over the past 24 hours had made me feel incredibly faint and I staggered through the exit of the park in the direction of the city centre. En-route I stumble into a Burger King where I ate a foul burger that somehow woke me up a little.
There is a strange thing about Santa Cruz, considering it has a population of around 1.5 million people, there is almost no city centre. As I walked and walked, nothing seemed to change; the building remained the same size, the number of shops didn't increase; the first time I realised that I had made it to the centre of the city was when I saw the cathedral.
I spent four nights in Santa Cruz doing very little, it was easy to do for a couple of reasons. Number one, there was basically nothing to do. Number two, I was in a very good hostel. It cost over double what I would normally pay for a single room to stay in a dorm, but the hostel had a pool, a pool table, a huge television lounge and a fantastic breakfast and so it felt worthwhile.
For the most part I relaxed with the others by the hostel pool and relaxed. One evening we shared an all you can drink and eat BBQ which passed the hours nicely. The majority of my time was spent with a French news reporter and an Israeli guy. On the fourth day in Santa Cruz we decided we really should find something to do and as a lack of other options (going to the jungle was out, there were almost no tourists around), we headed in a taxi to a five star resort hotel.
To enter the grounds of the hostel for the days we coughed out what would be a small fortune in Bolivia. It was worthwhile though to be able to enjoy the sun somewhere different to the hostel. There were several outdoor swimming pools, an aviary and a butterfly park. It was a different kind of day to any other I had spent in South America, being surrounded by wealthy Brazilians, in luxury was a nice change.
News filtered that there was yet another huge protest beginning in Bolivia - over 500 people from jungle towns were beginning a march to La Paz, angry at an agreement with Brazil to build a road through their jungle to the Pacific Coast. I figured it was best not to get caught in this in any way shape or form and with my jungle plans long since burnt I caught a bus back to La Paz.
As with every other time I had a heavy night out back in La Paz with some good people. I felt rough the next day, which was understandable. When I still felt rough the day after that, I realised something was wrong. I can somewhat forgotten that most of my recent time had been at altitudes of only a few hundred metres, between the jungle and Santa Cruz and back in the highest city in the world I was suffering from altitude sickness.
My aim of being back in La Paz once more was for one of two reasons, to either leave for Peru or to attempt to climb Huayna Potosi at 6088m. After 5 days back in La Paz and still feeling lousy, I made a decision to attempt the climb anyway.
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