Waiting in Yacuiba

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, August 3, 2007

We awoke from our broken sleep on the overnight bus to a stark and fascinating landscape. Our guidebook described the Chaco as an impenetrable, thorny wilderness and they werenīt wrong. Of special note were the borracho trees with trunks shaped like bottles, and flowers which appeared like fluffy cotton on the spikey branches. Our dusty, bumpy road ran alongside a tantalising close-to-finished new paved one.

Arriving at Ibibobo, Bolivia we filled in forms to enter the country and received a reasonable deal off a local money-changer. I entered the customs office to find Ed and the official yelling at each other. I calmed Ed down very quickly, because these people can make your life EXTREMELY difficult and I didnīt fancy being sent back to Paraguay after our mammoth journey. As it turned out, the chubby official was on a bit of a power trip and did nice little tricks like sending me out the office whenever I walked in and telling me to wait outside.

He had flown off the handle because Ed tried to enter Bolivia with an Australian passport but his Paraguayan exit was in the British one. Sweet-talking him, he calmed down and seemed impressed that we could explain the situation in Spanish. By the end of our short but sweet relationship he was wishing us a fantastic journey and telling us it was no problem to have an extension on our Bolivia time if needs-be. Officials, huh?

A short journey later and we reached Villamontes where we made a snap-decision to get off the bus rather than carry-on to Santa Cruz and then La Paz by bus. We had heard there was a flight from a nearby city three days later and resting up and taking the easy option of a flight sounded great.

The amount of love hotels on the road into Villamontes confirmed it as a prosperous destination. We loved being in a town without tourist attractions where we could just spend time resting, eating, writing this web log and practicing some Spanish. A local parilla (grill place) provided great food, and our hosts at the Hotel Rojas were consistently accomodating and helpful. The only downside of the town was the extreme cold (calling for thermal underwear), a shock to the system after 30 degrees plus in Paraguay.

The next day was a celebration day for Bolivia, where the president Evo Morales called for unity and one Bolivia among the many debating factions. Yacuiba was full of parades by the army, military colleges, school children and others - all accompanied by brass bands with varying degrees of skill. The young children were very cute in the marches. Some wandered by staring around and chewing gum and others giggled at the crowd while they marched by unevenly.

Had a chat to the hotel owner about the local situation and he mentioned that the area nearby has a huge gas field and potential for work, yet people are leaving Bolivia and not returning. He believes that a lack of education is the problem and spoke of extremely poor people living solely on bread, water and sugar. He said if they come into money, they buy a pig and eat well for a time but when it ends it is back to bread and water. Nothing sustainable...

We got the bad news this day that our flight to La Paz was cancelled because TAM (military airline) didnīt have a plane available! Youīd think they might have known when we booked the ticket a day or two earlier?

Our only option is another bus marathon...
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