Bolivia > Puerto Quijarro
...and so this is what heaven is like. May I introduce to you a very special place: Puerto Quijarro. Or more correctly: Tamengo Hostel in Puerto Quijarro. We're sat on the Bolivian boarder, overlooking the Pantanal (a massive swamp/lake) that washes up against both here and Brazil, which looks so close I want to reach out and touch it.
We arrived here at 9am, very tired, hungry and in need of some down time after our extremely restless death train-ride. Similar to Tupiza, this town is really small and although it's less traditional Bolivia, the locals live in a time warp different to any other part of the world we've seen; dads drinking from 9am to 9pm, the houses aren't fitted with drives but piles of rubbish that feed the angry stray dogs, pigs, chickens, horses and cows. Dinner consists of fried chicken and chips sold by a street vendor and the schools are giant playgrounds without a hint of discipline. All of which, are surrounded by dusty streets that are used as bins. If only they took a little care of their surroundings because this is a location that millions would dream of living in... Just like the owners of Tamengo Hostel. Intially we had booked this up as a pit stop to catch on that hunger, sleep and to rest; we ended up staying for 4 nights, making new friends, learning about the area, having home cooked meals everyday and relaxing/making the most of the pool. The moment they opened their doors for us, we were glad to have made this stop.
On arrival the owners Tito and Denise, were soon cracking eggs for our breakfast (what a luxury!) and treating us like friends, rather than just another couple of travellers. Well and truely off of the travellers route, there is nothing here to "entertain gringos" which turned out to be great for us as we ended up spending the majority of our time in the hostel, learning so much about the Pantanal and wildlife from the owners, and all about the locals of Quijarro from Daria and David, the only other two people at the hostel - both of whom were volunteering at seperate schools near-by. We spent a lot of time with these two and we're so glad we were able to. David successfully changed Nick's views of Americans, and Daria, the 30yr old PHD student, inspired us. We were fortunate enough to be able to celebrate David's 23rd birthday the day before we left; offering gifts of Oreo's (America's favourite cookie) and enjoying fantastic company whilst being completely spoilt with pork and mash, Spanish style and traditional Bolivian birthday cake - Denise is the most amazing chef! It's no wonder our bellies are expanding...
On two seperate occasions, Nick was able to indulge in two fishing trips on the Pantanal. Tito introduced us to Chi Chi, a 12yr old boy who lives across the street (They call him Chi Chi after a chubby cartoon character, not as an insult, as a fact, he is chubby. People are extremely matter of fact here). And so, Nick and the round little boy set off in search of Piranha. Nick was also lucky enough to catch and play a few games of football with a huge group of the locals where he proceeded to win every game: winner stays on. This was definitely the cherry on his cake. The highlight for me however, was waking up to my 5.30am alarm call and sitting outside watching the sun wake up the world. It was one of the most beautiful sights of our trip: watching the sky turn from red to pink to orange and gold, as parrotts, tucans, kestrals and humming birds begin their daily routines.
The only downfall that we were soon to face here, is the nightly mosquito attacks that come out in full force between 5pm and 7pm. Although, even with a million bites (I wasn't far from!), it still wouldn't stop me from coming back. We've already talked about coming back for a holiday - a 5* hotel on a hostel budget.