Welcome to Bolivia
Day 89: Santa Cruz, Bolivia
As soon as you cross the border from Brazil, you immediately see the differences. Gone are the supermarkets, the nice roads, the diversity of the people, ideas of what constitutes “clean.“ While we were in line for the train tickets, a man in plain clothes who was apparently employed by the rail company was directing people in a real line to take turns for the ticket counter. In Bolivia, lines are foreign things–people of all ages pass to the front of the line and push their way in front just because they don`t feel like waiting in the long line. Thankfully for us, since we were on a tight time schedule, this man was keeping everyone literally “in line.“ Another scruffier looking guy comes inside the station and, chatting with the line-keeper, pulls a half eaten donut shaped piece of bread out of his pants pocket and gives it to the line-keeper guy, who takes it, and even more surprising, actually eats it! What is this land? This is the real South America. Things are back to strange; there are no rules, just grey areas. It`s like Central America, minus Costa Rica which is all refined and paved and clean like Brazil. Bolivia is noticeably different and it feels like coming home after all the time we spent in the poorer parts of CA. Although admittedly, it was a bit tough to get back out of the western habits from the last 2 countries and back into the uncomfortable, staring, strangeness of a place like Bolivia.
Getting out of the train station of Santa Cruz, which is absolute nonstop madness, we walked around for a couple hours trying to find a cheap enough palce to stay. Frustrated with inflated prices, we settled on a place just to stop having to look and ended up paying an outrageous $8 for a room. We should`ve only paid half that but no one could tell us where any hostels were and we seemed to be on the wrong side of the city to find any. We were starving from having been on the train since yesterday afternoon. Found a great place called Piccolo`s, known for its fabulous ice cream, but they have great food too. Of course, we had to see if it lived up to its ice cream reputation. Let`s just say it did, definitely!
Nonetheless happy to have our packs off, we walked around the city and found the awesome square in front of an old brick church. We hadn`t been sitting there very long when 2 guys were walking past us and just as Lin was about to comment on the one guy`s awesome plaid pants, they asked us for the time in spanish. We ended up chatting for a bit and found out a few minutes later, as we mangled some spanish at them, that they spoke perfect english! As we were talking, that German guy from the Bonito cave tour and his English friend saw us in the square too and came over to say hi. After a long round of introductions, we decided to go grab a few beers at a little pub since none of us had any plans for the afternoon.
We had 3-4 rounds, a nice start to the afternoon, before the German and Brit had to leave. Soon enough we needed to go too and get some errands done but, having enjoyed talking to our two new (Peruvian) amigos so much we decided to meet up later for dinner. At dinner, the Peruvians brought along a couple of Danish girls who were staying at the same hostel. They were nice too and we had a nice dinner with lots of new amigos. It`s always nice make new friends and run into familiar faces. Overall a fun day and night!