16.07.2012 - 27.07.2012
Since my last entry, I think we needed a break from the constant moving around so stuck around in Sucre for a week. The Uyuni trip and the cold we've had to deal with since we've been in the higher altitude meant it was a relief to be in the relatively warmer climes of Sucre. The only warmth was in the heat of the day, in the sun. It was still chilly in the shade, and 2700 metres above sea level is still pretty high for us Brits. However, for part of our stay in Sucre, we had access to a hostel kitchen, which meant lots of cups of tea and gave us the opportunity to cook vegetarian food we actually want to eat. There were lots of visits to the nearby market for fruit, veg and other groceries, which probably didn't save us much money but it definitely made us feel more at home. It's funny that the bit of travelling that made us feel like we were on holiday, were the bits that reminded us of our life back home. It's surprising how tiring always eating out can get, particularly when there's limited veggies choices. I love eating out back in London, but there you have more choice than vegetarian lasagne or spaghetti with tomato sauce.
So we lazed our days away, and also enjoyed the festival of Alasitas, which is a Bolivian festival of abundance. There were loads of market stalls of miniatures of the things you wish for in the coming year - houses, cars, shops, fake money, passports etc.
We then moved on to Samaipata, a place we'd heard of from other travellers that is a few hours outside Santa Cruz, but is very picturesque. It's also the first place where we arrived in the early hours of the morning. We've been very careful with timings of bus travel to avoid arriving in a place at 4am with all our belongings on us, but we had no choice with Samaipata. All the buses from Sucre left around 5pm headed for Santa Cruz for 7am, and stopping in Samaipata along the way. Our bus was running early, so we were the only passengers getting off there at 4am, no taxis, so we walked to find our hostel in the dark with only cockerel noises to keep us company. It was pretty eerie!
Samaipata was great, we met a fantastic Austrian guy called Olaf, who runs a tour company called Road Runners. He was incredibly helpful about things we could do in the area and we went with him to see El Fuerte, some Inca ruins on a mountain nearby. These were the last Incan ruins we'd see, and it was a lovely way to wrap up all the Inca culture we'd been seeing in Peru and Bolivia. The clouds were pretty low on the day of the trip, but it made the whole place look more atmospheric and we were lucky that the clouds cleared up while we were up there to see the whole place properly.
Now, we're in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the most prosperous city in Bolivia, to the point that the locals want to split off from the rest of Bolivia to be completely autonomous. It would be a disaster for the rest of Bolivia, so there's a lot of resistance from the government. You can definitely tell the difference from the rest of Bolivia, both in terms of the shops here (lots of western designers and amerian high street shops), as well as the prices of food ($7 for a main course, outrageous!).
Tonight, we're catching a train to the border town of Quijarro, setting off at 4pm, arriving by 8am tomorrow. We'll then get a taxi to the Brazilian border to spend some time in the Pantanal. We'll be sad to wave goodbye to Bolivia, it's been an amazing country of contrasts. Nervous about Brazil simply because I'm much more confident in my Spanish now and no knowledge of Portuguese means starting from scratch. Definitely looking forward to some more adventures though after lazing our way for the last 2 weeks.