Day 78: Heading Down

Tue. 30th October 2012

Governor's residence in Santa CruzIt is definitely a day of mixed feelings. After nearly 4 weeks of living at over 2,000m altitude, we are finally heading down to sensible elevations again. Whilst we had got used to the altitude, there was always a lingering feeling of ‘its just not natural’. On the downside, this marks the end of the Bolivian portion of our trip (though not quite our last day in Bolivia) and the day we say goodbye and thanks to Neil (guide), to Mandy & Paris & Nora who joined us for this Bolivia portion; and to Andy and Tomas who had been with us since Lima and we had really got to know well. Farewell and thank you all, we wish you safe travelling and good fortune.

Altitude Tracker

Outside Sucre airportWe said our goodbyes at Sucre airport, where the remaining 10 (out of the 16 that started in Lima a month ago) boarded a flight to Santa Cruz. The plane was barely up before the cabin staff were round, almost throwing out snack boxes (carton of juice and a slice of cake) and then gathering back the empties and the plane started descending. We hadn’t appreciated that we would be landing and changing planes at Cochabamba. The total flight was barely 20 minutes – my paragliding flight lasted just about as long!

After a short wait at Cochabamba, we were back on a (different) plane (with the same flight number) for the flight to Santa Cruz that was barely twice as long as the first flight. One of the frustrations of air travel is that it is easy to spend longer hanging around in airports than actually in the air.

Santa Cruz CathedralWe had been told that Zaida, our new guide, would be landing in Santa Cruz about 5 minutes after us. It wasn’t quite that, but we weren’t waiting long in the arrivals hall before this bundle of energy came bouncing out of baggage claim with our three new travelling companions in tow behind her. Zaida soon had us bundled in a minibus into Santa Cruz and then checked into our hotel.

Even as we got off the plane, we could feel the change in temperature and humidity (both higher than we have become used to) and then as we climbed the stairs of the hotel to our room (the lift was roto/broken) we noticed the change in altitude as our legs got tired before we started running out of breath. We have a little less than 24 hours in Santa Cruz before we take the night train to the Brazilian border tomorrow, so our priority was to do a little bit of sight seeing.

Looking down on the main square in Santa CruzOur hotel was only a couple of blocks from the main square but even so, it was a bit of an adventure to get there as just crossing the roads was like taking part in a video game. Cars would come at you from all directions – giving no indication as to whether they were going to turn or go straight on; giving way to other cars, let alone pedestrians was an entirely alien concept; and  the traffic lights seemed to be either red or green with no time for pedestrians to cross the road. Still, we did manage to get to the main square which was quite pretty (but not very green) and then up the bell tower of the cathedral where we got a little more of a view across the square and town.

Clock mechanism in Santa Cruz CathedralSanta Cruz has a very different feel to it (as well as a different climate) from the other Bolivian cities we have been in – less touristy, more commercial with more shops selling TVs and other consumer goods than we have seen elsewhere. Whilst the streets are laid out in a grid pattern, we seemed to have trouble navigating them – certainly it took us longer to find the supermarket than it ever should have.

This is our last full day in Bolivia. We have enjoyed it immensely though, if pushed, we would both probably say that we preferred Peru (where we spent more time). Tomorrow, we head to Brazil for the final leg of our G Adventures trip. From the outline itinerary that Zaida presented, it will continue to be full on and no doubt the two weeks will pass quickly. We had better start to get accommodation and transport organised for when we are independent travellers again – it will be on us before we know it.

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