Farewell Bolivia....it's been emotional!

Published: April 9th 2012
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It’s been a while since I harped on about terrible bus journeys, and considering there have been many in Bolivia, I feel I have done well to restrain myself thus far. So, the bus we caught in order to get us from Sucre to Santa Cruz was to be a 15 hour ride. Nothing too bad there, we had done it all before, and to be honest 15 hours wasn’t a particularly long one in the whole scheme of things. However, when we caught our first glimpse of the bus that was due to perform this large journey, we were a little miffed. Not only was this a crappy old bus, but again it had a whiff of must that was difficult to ignore as well as several screaming kids for good measure. So, after a good few hours on the road, it was time for a stopover in order to use the toilet facilities and grab some food. The toilets that were available were horrendous…. There were only two cubicles here, and neither of the toilets were flushing. By the smell of it, I would say that this would have been the case for several hours already. So, after navigating these disease ridden bogs, Donna and I made our way back to the bus. Whilst we were walking, we noticed that the town we had stopped in was having a bit of a festival (naturally) and when peering over to see what was happening, we were shocked to see kids of no more than 8 or 10 waving a red sheet around in front of several bulls in the plaza! This was no practice session or joke, these kids were actually bobbing and weaving these bulls that looked a tad angry….Absolutely crazy.

We hopped back on the bus only to have a 12 year old girl that was sitting behind us start chatting to us in Spanish. Normally this would be fine, as we like to try chat to local people when possible and improve our Spanish, however being the novelty of the only gringos on the bus, this girl chatted to us constantly whilst hanging off the back of our chair. 2 hours later with no sign of slowing down or stopping, we were still being hurled questions in Spanish from this girl, to which we had no answers to. This was mainly due to our lack of Spanish linguistic skills, but also because now, the bus driver had decided to play the radio at full blast throughout the bus which was coming through loud and clear on the speaker above our heads. This music along with the question master didn’t bode well for my oncoming travel sickness. But, as if this wasn’t enough, the girl’s younger brother then decided to stand in front of me, and simply stare at me for well over 30 minutes without a word or reason, which really started to freak me out and was the last straw for me. After this, I decided to close my eyes and simply pretend I was asleep. How I could ever sleep with all the chatting, staring and Bolivian music is anyone’s guess, but I decided to pretend anyway and let Donna take over on her own….she was not best pleased with this!

After all this chaos died down, we finally arrived in Santa Cruz at the unfortunate time of 5.30am. This would have been fine had we booked a hostel, however we didn’t and therefore we just hoped and prayed that the one we had chosen from the lonely planet had rooms. Upon arrival, I woke the night receptionist with a ring on the bell and asked if there were any rooms available. The reply was not one that I was hoping for….No Tengo (I don’t have) Being that there were no other hostels around the area and because the streets were bare and it was still dark, we decided walking around with all our stuff was best avoided and so just sat on the hotels doorstep and decided to wait for sunrise. Whilst we were waiting on this deserted street at silly O’clock in the morning, we were greeted by a fella who nearly drove past us, but reversed up when seeing us on the doorstep. Great, that’s all we need. The guy then proceeded to tell us that he was Canadian and that he spoke very good English even though we barely understood a word he was saying in his thick Bolivian accent and slurring tone (we assumed he was hammered) He then told us that he lived only a few blocks down the road (in Spanish) and that we should go with him to stay the night. Now, if ever there was a time to try and politely say Thanks but no Thanks without offending someone, this was it! We were vulnerable, in a new town in the dark and had everything we owned on us…not ideal. Luckily, after around 30 minutes of repeating ‘Mucho Gracias pero eres Bien’ (Many Thanks but we are fine) with smiles on our faces and desperately trying to look sincere and not in any way patronising, he finally got the message and skidded off down the road. It took a lot to tell him that his English was good after he kept asking us constantly if we could understand him, when in reality, we had no idea what this faux Canadian was saying…..a situation we escaped unscathed thankfully!

Once this fella went and the hotel finally opened, I decided to go in and ask if they had any recommendations as to where we could stay. The guy at reception was different to the bloke who told me there were no rooms, so I decided instead just to see if he had anything first, just in case. Straight away he told me they had rooms no worries, and put us straight into a double room. We both could have strangled the night receptionist!!

Apologies, as I have now rambled on about our arrival, and none of you are any the wiser as to what Santa Cruz is like. To be honest, there isn’t much to tell. We were mainly there as it was the easiest way for us to get to Paraguay, plus we had heard that this place was unlike most of Bolivia, so we decided to give it a try. When there, you could really see the difference to the other Bolivian towns in that Santa Cruz was very cosmopolitan in comparison, and had tons of branded good stores and very little of the traditional artisanias sellers we had gotten used to.

Because of this, we decided that when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and so, we hit the arty coffee shops and Irish bars and treated ourselves to a few home comforts! Apart from this, we also managed to have a very typical English weekend as we had cable in our room which showed a few Premiership footie matches from home as well as the Superbowl which Donna and I have traditionally watched for the past several years together….. What more could we ask for than a sports fuelled, beer swilling weekend with good coffee and great Ice cream!

Other than this, we did very little here. There was of course a carnival whilst we were there, which we didn’t even consider watching due to the 15 we had seen previously, and we booked our bus ticket to Paraguay. We very nearly had a nightmare with this too. A few hours after buying the ticket, Donna for some reason checked the tickets and noticed that they were for today and not in two days’ time as we required. After running back to the agency, we were lucky to catch the girl still in the store, after closing up for the weekend, in order to change them as otherwise we would have landed ourselves in a whole heap of trouble as we wouldn’t have been able to change the ticket until Monday morning (they close from 12pm on Saturday til Monday morning) and therefore we would have been way behind schedule for meeting Donna’s little Bro Matt in Argentina, plus, would have thrown away a nice chunk of money on tickets we would have to replace….close call!!

So, it was time to say Goodbye to Bolivia. We had mixed feelings about leaving here as although we sometimes found the people to be friendly, a lot of people here were very rude, much more so than in their neighbouring countries. We also encountered some terrible buses, some worse smells and found that a lot of people were out to rip you off. Saying that though, Bolivia also gave us some of our favourite moments of the trip so far. Here we met some amazing friends, saw some stunning places and got to do some of the most amazing things we have ever done. Overall, we both loved Bolivia and are blessed to have been able to see and experience this wonderful country, however for us; we felt it was time for a change and to move on. Next stop Asunción, Paraguay……


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