A setback in Santa Cruz

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, February 5, 2006

Oh dear, Clumsy Ike strikes again!

Back home Iīd been the laughing stock of the my fellow drivers for doing damage to our little Honda three times (twice in one day!) while manoeuvering in or out of parking spots/garages/gates. But here in Santa Cruz, Boliviaīs biggest city, I have proven that you donīt even have to be behind the wheel to put a dent in a car! It would have been funny if only the financial consequences werenīt so serious.

So here is the whole sorry story. We arrived in Santa Cruz at about 9am on Saturday 4 February after a marathon 36-hour journey from Uyuni by train, then bus, then another bus. Needless to say we were totally exhausted, especially because the train from Uyuni (which finally left at 4.30am on Friday morning after a three-hour delay) was impossibly uncomfortable.

At the bus terminal we hopped into a taxi to take us to the hostel of our choosing. The cab driver pulled up outside the place, which was on a busy road, and we hopped out: Rich climbed out on the pavement side, and I on the traffic side. I squeezed out carefully, convinced that I was leaving a decent gap (about 30cm) between my open door and a stationery 4x4 on my right (the traffic wasnīt moving)...

...Mmmm, I hadnīt accounted for the fact that the 4x4 had a prominent, protruding trimming on the door, or that the driver would swerve left as he pulled off. So, lo and behold, when the traffic started moving, my open door got caught on the door trimming of the 4x4....scrrrrunch! I saw the whole thing happen in slow motion in front of me as I desperately tried to ram my door shut to avoid the inevitable. Rich and the cab driver saw it too - they screamed and shouted at me to close my door, but it was too late.

A well-dressed Cruceņo leapt out of the 4x4 and started ranting madly at me... not surprisingly, as his left passenger door now sported a damaged trimming and a dent. The taxi driver just shook his head, told us that we should sort out the matter between the three of us, and drove off - his taxi was already so beaten up that he didnīt mind his passenger door being a little bent.

The driver of the 4x4 insisted that we accompany him to a panelbeater immediately. Needless to say we were very worried about being led into a trap and being taken for all the money we had. We stood on the pavement arguing with him for a while (we wanted to go to the police first, but he insisted that we would end up paying double if we did so)... then I burst out in tears!

As always, poor old Rich had to pick up the pieces. I waited at the hostel (which was full anyway) while he accompanied the driver to the panelbeater. The sweet reception man tried to console me by saying he thought the repair wouldnīt cost more than US$40 or so. After composing myself, I set off in search of accommodation (quite a mission, everything seemed to be full for some reason). A couple of hours later, Rich and I met up. He hadnīt been robbed or beaten up, thank God, but ended up paying quite a whack.

The damage? US$120, which is quite a bit of cash when youīre reaching the end of a nine-month round-the-world trip. We need this expense like a hole in the head, but hey, thereīs not much this Clumsy Ike can do but learn from her mistakes!

Well, more about Santa Cruz. Itīs situated in the eastern lowlands, so a pretty hot and muggy climate. This is Boliviaīs largest city, as I said, and its most affluent. The centre is quite attractive with architecture typical of South American towns - low-rise colonial buildings with columnaded porticoes around a leafy plaza. However, the number of air-conditioned shopping malls, luxury vehicles and upmarket cafes hint at a demograpic different from the rest of Bolivia. People seem wealthier and are more European in looks; there are very few Indians on the streets.

Needless to say I spent the rest of Saturday sulking and depressed after my 'accident'. We took much-needed showers, caught up on lost sleep and watched cable TV. At about 2.30pm on Sunday, after a slow start and some more time at an internet cafe, we took a 'collectivo' taxi to the mountain town of Samaipata, about 100km (two hoursī drive) away. The plan was to return to Santa Cruz on Tuesday to take the train to the Brazilian border. More about Samaipata in the next entry...
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