Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Bolivia - Part 1

In Quijàro, There is only one hostel. It`s a small border town, very small. Still, when giving the taxi-driver the full address & name of the place, he had to stop 3 times and ask where it is.
The hostel was 6 blocks from the center (as written in the brochure), but you couldn`t really count them in the mess of the streets called Quijàro. It also had the best view towards Corumbà, Brazil and the Pantanal.
We (3 annoying Israeli girls, 1 Argentinian, a nice English couple & I) got to the hostel late at night, and I hurried up to catch some dinner before going to bed. The girls were kind enough not to wait for me. I found my self walking alone in a very happy town, all awake. Turns out, it was mothers day, and all the families were celebrating. Music filled the streets, and all the ''restaurants'' were still open. I found a nice full place, with a ''Almuerso'' (lunch and also ''meal of the day'') for only 10 Bolivianos (1.5$ US, 5$ ISR). I was cow ''Shnitzel'' and rice. it wasn`t so tasty, so I thought - ''it`s so cheap, I could just cross the street and eat a different meal.'' That one was great! (The girls were scared of the food in the market, and so had just fries)
The next day, I went with my English friends to purchase a train ticket to Santa Cruz.
The train ride was fast and efficient. It was said we had meals during the ride (dinner & breakfast), good thing I brought some cookies with me.
In Santa Cruz, our ways parted. There wasn`t enough space in the same hostel. Thanks to that, I found the wonderful option (in Bolivia only, so far), of Alojamientos (refuge). Turns out, you can pay about 40-60$BOL for a dorm room in a hostel, OR... pay half the prise, for your own room in one Alojamiento. Sounds weird? Welcome to Bolivia.
Santa Cruz is a beautiful city, filled with markets, and it`s certainly the right gateway to Bolivia. It`s easygoing ways, almost dead streets (on Sunday), but a very full night life.
Just 2 days in Santa Cruz, and I was off to Samaipata. Two and a half hours in a special taxi from Santa Cruz, and suddenly your in heaven. I know I said it already 10 times, just in this Blog, and several more time on the phone, about other places in Patagonia, or the Iguazu Falls, but this quiet town has it all. It`s just an hour drive from a cloud forest, is surrounded by breathtaking mountains (hills in the perspective of Bolivia), and has a nice archaeological site named ''El Fuerte''. I shared a room with 2 female travelers (Lebsie from Peurto Rico & Karen from Switzerland) I met in Santa Cruz, I a nice (but a bit expensive) hostel called ''Posada del Sol''.
Posada del Sol is owned and ran by a couple (she`s Bolivian, he`s from Texas) and their lovely 15 year old daughter. They surve the best breakfast in South America - no doubt about it.
After my good horse experience in the Pantanal, I went to check out a place willing to rent me a horse with out a guide (only in Bolivia). It was in an animal refuge, I got the horse and had the best time. The horse was smart, and tested if I`m was awake every few meters, but I managed. Back in the refuge, I met an Irish volunteer, and asked her about the place. The animal refuge takes animals from all over... Hurt, abused and former home animals find a shelter there. And the best thing is, the volunteering is really volunteering! no need to pay absurd amount of money to a bureaucratic organisation like most of the places around South America. I also met 2 friendly monkeys, one named Chita, and one named Shakshuka (An Israeli volunteer gave her the name), that was a special day for Shakshuka, the first without her leash!
Posada del Sol also have a huge collection of DVD`s, and we (Lebsie, Karen & I) sat to relax in front of the movie ''Man on Wire''.
The next day I tried to find amigos to go with to ''El Fuerte'', long story short - I went alone.
Samaipata is a great place and you could find yourself spending weeks relaxing and traveling around it. I didn`t have the time.
The night bus from Samaipata to Sucre is hell. A bumpy road, for the whole 12 hours.
Sucre on the other hand (AKA the white city), is warm and welcoming. The local people all look like they`re on their way to a party of some sort. The women all wear traditional skirts, blankets and hats. The men wear all kinds of hats. But the most recognizable one is the black one, worn both by women and men alike.
After buying my self a black traditional hat, I was on my way to Potosì.
Have you every seen Gaza from a far? from up close? combine that with a dry 4000 meter mountain, and you`ve got the exact picture of Potosì. Above the town/refuge camp, stands Cerro Rico (the rich hill), AKA the mountain who eats men alive. Nevertheless, it is the main income of the citizens of Potosì. Once, it had loads and loads of silver. But expeditions both from Spain, and from the USA, came and took it all away, leaving the mountain and the people of Potosì with nothing but worthless metals, and tourists that come to blow up dynamite and see how miserable the miners are. I had enough just watching the movie ''The Devil`s Miner'' in my hostel, and decided to skip the tour to the mines.
Next stop - Uyuni.

Tips for Bolivia #1:
1. Samaipata - Plan for it, and stay there as much as you want. While you`re there, try the great breakfast of Posada del Sol.
2. Volunteering - The animal refuge in Samaipata is a great place to do that. You get accommodation, and 2 meals a day. No need to pay or plan a head, they usually lack workers.
3. Potosì - Don`t know yet if you want to go for the mine tour? put you self in a room with no air, loads of dust, and watch the movie ''The Devil`s Miner'' - decide for yourself.

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