Bolivia : From the desert to the lush greens of Santa Cruz

The Lagunas of Bolivia were extremely beautiful, awfully cold and stark place. We left Uyuni driving east and I welcomed the sight of the first tree around the road as a kid would welcome Christmas gift.  Crossing the high mountains ridge changed the landscape. Small streams and valleys with trees, plants and animals started appearing around the road. My favorite lamas and vicunas were replaced with goats and lambs. The weather become warmer and more suitable for humans.

To say that the drive to Potosi was easy and the city itself is beautiful will be a bit exaggerated. We left Uyuni with very little gas in the tank, against all good advices for driving in Bolivia. The road to Potosi is a compliment to the Bolivian road engineers – beautiful, well made and mostly deserted. On the 250 kilometers there are just few small hamlets and no gas stations at all. When the danger of simply running out of gas become real, we stopped in one of the small villages and started asking from house to house. Finally, a good Samaritan sold us 10 litters of something in plastic bottles which he claimed to be “gasolina”.

 

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Ivan, bargaining for gas in the middle of nowhere

 

 

According to Ivan, this was truly some kind of oil derivate, but definitely not what we usually put in our car gas tank. Anyways, Fory didn’t have too much choice and swallowed it.

With its 4000 meters elevation, Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world. It was built in the foot of Cerro de Potosi, called also Cerro Rico or the mountain made of silver. In the 16th and 17th century it’s been one of the biggest cities in the Americas and has produced more than half of all silver mined in the entire world. Unfortunately, there is not too much left today from the old glory.  At Potosi we had one more “hotel room dinner” with crackers, some bread and what was left from our camping trip in Uyuni.

Our next stop was Sucre and it was a completely different story. We booked one of the most amazing AirBnB apartment and I started cooking. The result was a MUSAKA and tomato salad, the first real homemade meal in couple of months.

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The aftermath was my poor Ivan almost sick of overeating. I will take this as a compliment to my cooking skills is unfamiliar settings.

Sucre is charming, cute town, full of life, colonial architecture, flowers, trees, birds and beautiful girls.

Santa Parade in Sucre. Ivan almost joined it

The city was founded by the Spanish in 1538 and like most Spanish colonial cities in South America has central main squire, streets around it like a grid and houses with cute balconies and hidden courtyards. Sucre center is UNESCO heritage site with whitewashed houses and red tiles roofs, white churches, palm and hibiscus trees. The nickname “white city” is very fitting.

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Unfortunately, Ivan couldn’t stay put in one place for whole tree days (and I dreamed for hot springs) so we took a day on precipitous, dirt roads in pursuit of non-existing “aqua termales”.

After few hours driving on a curvy mountain dirt road where you can almost see your stop lights after every turn, we found the place, but it was dry.

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For second time during our trip we missed the amazing hot springs we read about in some blog. Instead, we got a “Check Engine” light. This was the reason we decided to change our plans and visit the bigger city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra instead of Samoipata, as was the original plan.

Santa Cruz is as different from La Paz, as Venus is different from Mars. It has humid tropical climate (finally, I am hot), lush greens, a lot of crawling, flying, buzzing bugs, sloths and monkeys in the garden, birds, and unimaginable amount of new fruits. It is city full of live and I loved it.

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In Santa Cruz, we were not able to find and change the stupid oxygen sensor on the car, but we had a great party with our amazing host Christian, his dog Mancha, three Argentinian pan-American travelers and their three dogs. From them we learned about a beautiful hot spring river, close to Santiago de Chiquitos.

As you can guess, we decided to give one more chance to our pursuit of “agua termales” and then to enter Paraguay from there. It was against all the advices from our host and warnings that the roads are not good.

The next day we finally found the dreamed hot river, it was true.

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It is a whole hot spring river with small fish swimming around you, with lot of birds and parrots flying over in the trees and with crowd of girls from the neighboring village coming around 5 pm for their daily bath.

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We had our peaceful soak in the river before that, but for some reason Ivan was a bit slow on leaving the place.

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To say the road from Robore to Paraguay is bad is understatement. The road simply exists only on the Google maps. Having had Google trying to kill us several times now, we decided not to take more chances and entered Brazil instead of Paraguay.

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