The Joys of Travelling (Not Only Sarcasm)
Trip Start Apr 08, 2012
28Trip End Sep 25, 2012
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Where I stayed
Unfortunately because not many people travel this road there are very few bus companies and the main one was on strike which is apparently more common in Bolivia than seeing a Mennonite.
So instead of waiting out something as fickle as a strike I decided to catch the bus to Villa Tunari to see if I could volunteer at the other park there.
I could have, but not doing what I would have preferred. I would rather use that time in the other park so I caught a bus back to Santa Cruz to try to find another way to go north.
Unfortunately because I picked the bus up in the middle of its route at an odd time, I was never given a bus ticket or a ticket for my bag which was put under the bus.
On every previous bus ride, the driver has assiduously checked each tag to make sure you are getting your bag and not someone else's.
Well on this occasion, arriving at 4.30 in the morning in Santa Cruz, I guess the boy that was dealing out the bags was past caring because he gave mine to someone who got off at a stop before mine.
After yelling at him and calling him a few choice names (which he never understood anyway) I had a taxi drive me to that stop to try to find the man with my bag.
But - as would have been obvious in a less stressful state - this was pointless.
The man and my bag were long gone.
Everyone keeps telling me "well at least it wasn't your backpack with your camera and computer."
And yes, at least that. But I still miss my clothes.
And I hate shopping at the best of times.
I have also found that shopping in Bolivia is impossible. The stores in Santa Cruz were either top designer brands with prices that rival those in any first world country or market stalls with weird sizes and weirder styles.
So my new batch of clothing ranges from a couple of cheaper shirts from one of these designer stores to men's shorts from a market because all the women's were freakishly short.
I haven't had much better luck in Cochabamba. Department stores don't seem to be a thing here and that's really all I want.
So far I've stocked up on warmer clothes because my next stop is Uyuni in southern Bolivia.
Bolivia has one of the widest ranges of climate and terrain of any country. The north eastern is the Amazon Basin with dense jungle and it gradually becomes more mountainous on the edges of the Andes.
The south western half of the country is the in the Andes and reaches breath-snatching elevations of more than 5000 m (15 000 ft).
The tiny town of Uyuni relies on the tourism the Salar de Uyuni brings.
The Salar is the largest salt flat in the world at 10 582 square km (4 086 square miles) - slightly larger than the size of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks together.
Tomorrow I leave for Uyuni where I'll find a 3 day tour and return with masses of photographs.
Back to the Mennonites. While Bolivia is a popular place for backpackers, being white is really obvious, especially walking down a street.
But no one is as obvious as the German Mennonites. I first saw a family when I went to the immigration office for my entry stamp and I was confused as to who they were until I remembered several people telling me of them in Paraguay (though I never saw them there).
They dress beyond conservatively and always look very somber.
I don't know the history of this particular denomination but these conservative groups tend to live in really random, very third world places where they could never hope to blend in.
Not that they care about fitting in. They live in tight knit groups and seem to keep completely to themselves.
Another common sight everywhere in Bolivia is the traditional clothing of the women of indigenous descent that includes bright colours and Spanish-style skirts. It first reminded me of what I've heard of the Herero women in Namibia that wear dresses reminiscent of Victorian days.
Both originally came from European settlers long ago but have remained as a part of each culture and have even become somewhat of an identity.
I was feeling a little off earlier and I only realised just now that it's probably because of the sudden change in elevation.
The highest point I've been at so far was in Santa Cruz at less than 1500 feet. In Cochabamba I am at more than 9000 feet.
I've bought aspirin in preparation of climbing to more than 12 000, just under the height of Teewinot Mountain.
I've read a story of someone who went off on a walk by himself in the Salar and became so disoriented and dehydrated that he started crawling around, trying to find his way back to the group.
He ended up being just a couple hundred of metres away but all the same, I'll be drinking a lot of water.
Before I finish, I recommend that everyone watch the Top Gear Bolivia Special. They had a problem with elevation as well and they also did the Death Road near La Paz which are also in my plans.