After a long long bus journey from Rio de Janeiro we arrived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on the 7th of March. The journey from Rio to Santa Cruz became such a long and adventurous journey, it is a story worth telling for just this experience alone. We had only just arrived in the country and had already learned to expect the unexpected and to be very patient. Here Dustin has written about this moment in time, look for the blog '48 hours on the road'.
At around four hundred meters above sea level, we stayed in Santa Cruz for a few nights while we worked out our travel destinations for our time in Bolivia. Before we left Australia, we hadn't decided if we would visit Bolivia or not, so we needed to spend a little time planning our time here. It was very tempting to stay in Brazil and head up the east coast, but there is so much to see on the west coast of South America that we couldn't resist travelling in this direction. The places on the top of our list to visit all consisted of extraordinary landscapes, Salar de Uyuni (the salt flats and desert), Lake Titicaca and the Amazon basin. Bolivia is South America's poorest country yet the richest in natural resources, and the highest country in the hemisphere. It is here that we will see surreal landscapes and a way of life that is so different to home.
Our time spent in Santa Cruz was fairly quiet and gave us a chance to recover from our long journey from Brazil. We wandered through the markets where people were selling all sorts of things from clothes to food. Even on the odd street corner here and there, ladies are selling lollies, chips, tissues, pens, unusual chocolates and all sorts of things. There are no 7 elevens here, just all sorts of random little stalls on the street. Along one street I noticed man selling jewellery all pinned neatly to an umbrella. I looked further up the street and there were about eight more people selling the same thing. The crafty stores in town are full of colourful woven gifts and clothes. My eyes are going to get a treat seeing all the colourful woven patterns made throughout the country. The llama is also making his appearance across all sorts of trinkets, garments and even on some menus. There is a mix of old fashioned stores and modern boutique stores throughout the centre of town. The footpaths are very narrow and sometimes so narrow that one must step onto the road to let the other person pass. Everything here is far different to any country I have been to before, especially the road rules. It appears there aren't really any road rules at all!
So after a few days of tasting some delicious and not so delicious foods, drinking some local beers, and exploring the markets, we had mapped out a route for our journey through Bolivia! Our next destination would be Cochabamba on our way to Uyuni. Due to flooding on the roads, we either had the option of another long bus ride taking a detoured route for around fifteen hours, or a thirty minute flight. We decided the flight would be worth it. We were wrong. Delayed for six hours and waiting in the airport until midnight with not much information from any staff, just a flashing delayed sign by our flight number. Eventually we were able to fly out and I look out the window at the night sky. Above us is a thick blanket of dark grey clouds and below us lie a sea of white clouds. The lingering dark clouds perhaps explains the delays, however anything is possible for delays in Bolivia. The flight is so short than the attendants barely had time to get up the isle and serve everyone drinks, and before we know it we are landing. I look out the window again and there is a sea of speckling lights down below. Thousands more lights than what I saw flying out of Santa Cruz. There is something magical about arriving at a new destination through the air and seeing a whole other world down below through the glow and speckle of its city lights.