Santa Cruz, Samiapata, ValleGrande, Sorreano, Sucre,
10.05.2007 -17 °C
Okay so after the hassle of having to backtrack in Paraguay to get the bus we wanted we arrived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on May 10th. Our accommodation of choice was Residential Bolivar. For a double room with shared bathroom it costs 120 bolivianos (about $15). The courtyard is a very relaxing place with hammocks to while the hours away while watching the permanent residents, two toucans. One shy, while the other is cheeky and plays biting games with guests. Don’t get me wrong he’s not vicious, just playful and Arjan swears it doesn’t hurt. Hopefully the photos turn out
The city itself is nice and clean in the center, it’s quite a sprawling city and near the bus station isn’t the nicest.
The street of our hostel was shut down, as there was a sit in demonstration for disabilities, the posters covered deafness, blindness, lost limbs and wheelchairs. From the day we arrived till the day we left four days later they were sitting there 24 hours a day. It seemed to be a peaceful demonstration made up of all ages, from a baby a few weeks old to a man in his eighties; it’s just a pity that the street was turned into a public toilet. There was also a demonstration and mini march around Plaza 24 de Septembre. It only lasted a few hours but trouble was expected. Armed riot police overlooked the group of indigenous protesters chanting anti political words.
As we still weren’t sure if we had seen condors we headed off to the Santa Cruz zoo (price 10 bol), its bigger inside then it looks. We discovered besides seeing condors from a great distance learning how to fly we hadn’t actually seen any before then. So now I just have to figure out what birds are in the photos The best part in the zoo is a large cage, which you can walk into and either take a tiny stroll or sit and watch the birds fly over and around you. It’s a very relaxing place to sit. Outside the zoo are telephone boxes shaped like parrots, though they were unique but we’ve seen them a few times now.
As the spiderman 3 movie had just come out we tried to find a cinema to see it but lo and behold the ones we knew about were either shut down for a long time (judging by the state of the buildings), had turned into churches (don’t ask) or were closed early. So we headed for a quick drink in the Irish pub, we had decided to give it a second chance. We’d been there during the week and though the layout and music were good the service was absolutely terrible. The pub has many waitresses, too many really, who either stand at the bar chatting or all shout the orders at the three equally confused barmen. The barmen all seem to try to catch all the orders and then get themselves into a knot. For example we were sitting right beside the bar but the barmen had a waitress take the order and then it proceeded to take 20 minutes to get two bottles of beer in a quiet pub... but we gave it another chance because we were told it was good and we probably got it on a bad day.... well we went back, service improved a tiny bit but if you’re in town you’re better off going somewhere else. Anyway after a few drinks we headed back to the hostel to hear some really good music coming from a balcony. We sourced it to the upstairs Lorca Cafe on the square, a local blues band, La Maga was playing. So the band and the cafe saved the night, but not counting what we drank led to really sore heads the next day.
On the Monday we caught a shared taxi (25 bol each) for the 2.5 hour journey to Samiapata. We checked into La ´Posada del sol, run by Trent and Rosario. They’re a really friendly family. The room itself was a spacious spotlessly clean double room ensuite with a separate area in the corner with laundry sink. May sound like a small point but its a nice touch. The balcony with comfy chairs enjoys a view of the surrounding mountains. The damage as they say for this was 80 bol/ $10.... not bad.... oh and they also had the best breakfasts of any of the places we’ve been to... In the town there seems to be a lot of foreigners living there, we found out later it appears this way because they’re all in the tourist or food trade, there are about 50 out of a population of 3000. It means though that the standard in a lot of the places is higher then you would originally expect from a small town. The best restaurant in town for food, drink and a really nice atmosphere is Latina Cafe run by a friendly French owner and his Bolivian wife (who doubles as chef). They told us that it took them 5 years to build the place but it looks great. The town has many agencies and tour guides but I found the best one to be the German run roadrunners. The guys are really friendly and helpful and they have a large book exchange, which I really needed at that stage. They also have weather information and can tell you all about the local area without pressuring you into buying tours. They even advised one customer that for their requirements of staying in the Omboro Park they should book with the Dutch run, Ben Verhoef tours, as they were the only group licensed to negotiate with the lodge. We were also thinking of doing one of bens tours taking the old trade route to Sucre combined with part of the Che route but at $250 it was over our budget.
On one of the days we went to the museo Arqueologico. Here we met with a Belgium couple who had been traveling for eight months and had only 4 weeks left. They were a bit depressed about it. I wonder how we will feel when it’s our turn to be counting down days. Enviously enough they did the Mongolian express from Russia to China...that’s something I would love to do in the future. Anyway the museum wasn’t very good and the video was cheesy, but the ticket of 32bol also included entrance to the UNESCO world heritage site - El Fuerte, the remains of a pre Inca ceremonial site. Though the site was interesting it was a bit dissappointing, some of the etchings that I had expected to see had either been covered with mud/moss or were too far away to see. As it was a nice day we'd got a taxi up to it (30 bol) and walked the ten km back. The views of the valleys were well worth the uphill struggle at times. Though the walk as a whole wasn’t hard and quite quick to do.
From Samiapata we got a bus to ValleGrande for 20 bol each. While waiting for the bus we met up with Anat from Israel who has been traveling for eight months through central and south America, though she has another four months to go and wants to see everything she admitted she was getting tired. In town we checked into Hostal El Marques, which had been recommended by Trent and Rosario. It was more a hotel though then a hostel. The room was huge, ensuite, TV and balcony for $10. After dropping the bags we met up with Anat who only had a few hours in town before catching her next bus. We headed to the Che museum; it was quite a morbid place, filled with various photos from different angles of his dead body. He had been shot nearly 40 years ago (in oct) in the nearby town of La Higuera. After been shot his body was moved to Vallegrande were it was put on show in the laundry room of the local hospital. The museum has photos of people posing beside the body and in the accompanying texts some admit to not knowing who he was while others had heard of him but didn’t realize he was close by looking to start a revolution. Its a pity when you hear he was in the wrong place and that if he had been in Potosi he would have been welcomed as they were looking to start something at that time. The museum ticket of 10 bol covers all the local Che sites so we headed to the laundry room.
It feels strange to walk through the hospital grounds, past open wards, queues of sick people and washing to get to the old laundry room. It’s quite small and covered in graffiti. A local man proudly points out were people from our respective countries have left their marks while we stand there and cringe. He also seems to take delight in asking if we would like to see the area were Che´s hands had been cut off. After this we take a taxi to the site near the airport were his body had been originally buried in an unmarked grave. The site is undergoing repairs but then to be honest there is not much to see there anyway. Previous to general Vargas 1995 admission to the whereabouts of Che´s body it has gone by unnoticed.
In 1997 the Bolivian and Cuban governments worked together to move his body to Cuba. Later in the day we had dinner in the local restaurant El Mirador. The food was filling which was good as we were all starving. There’s no menu, you get a choice between beef, chicken, fish and pork. It’s served with rice, chips, and salad. The next day we started to feel the effect in the changes in altitude, to be honest we didn’t expect to feel it so soon, Its horrible to be out of breathe all the time when you know if you were lower you’d have no problem with the little walks around town. So we took one easy day for Internet and to try to get tickets to Sucre. This proved harder then we thought. The first company said we had to catch a bus to Matarrel and if we were lucky we might catch a bus around 7ish, this all sounded a bit dodgy and the girl wasn’t very helpful so we headed to the other office, El Senator, on the same street as the hospital. The lady here was really friendly, we were to get a bus the following day to a town that wasn’t on our maps Sorreano and from there after a few hours (3 or 4 we understood) we would transfer to another bus to Sucre. So the next day we got the bus around 2 and discovered that we were in fact taking the old trade route we’d wanted to do before. The scenery was beautiful and though we couldn’t stop and take photos it was nice to see it. Though some of the roads were scarily tighter on the side of the cliffs, especially some of the bends. We arrived in Sorreano at 8pm and were told that our next bus wasn’t until 7am the next morning. We had totally misunderstood! After walking through the plaza while been gaped at we found the only place in town to stay, Alojamiento Central. A room ensuite was 50bol. ($6) The room contained four rusty squeaky beds that had seen better days. The room smelled of an old damp and musty area that hadn’t been aired in years. The bathroom was disgusting and as I don’t want to ruin anyone’s appetites I won’t describe the stains. But we had nowhere else to stay and it was only for a few hours. It came accompanied with a group of girls who stood outside giggling; Arjan had managed to get his own fan club. It turns out that they don’t get many foreigners and especially not tall blonde pony tailed men. So though the room was horrible, all we could do was get a fit of the giggles, only us, its just typical, but hey we got to see another side of the country.
The next morning we were at the bus stop before six as instructed to secure our seats and join the queue. There was no way we wanted to miss the bus. We arrived in Sucre tired and happy. We’d just calculated that we had done the tour we had wanted in our own way for a lot less, accommodation in both towns, food, transport, entry freshet cost us $40 each compared to the tour price of $250, which hadn’t included all accommodation and food.