A bit down on my way up...

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

So Santa Cruz didn't really do it for me. I came here after a 14 hour night bus ride (on a pretty crappy gravel road) from Sucre, longing for some tropical weather and jungle excursions. But unfortunately I hadn't done my homework properly (hmm, kind of reminds me of my high school days). The main reason for coming here, was to check out prices for an overland excursion to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park. A remote and supposedly spectacular park almost on the border with Brazil. Not many people go to Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, as it's both remote and pretty expensive to visit. And then I guess lots of people haven't even heard about the park, or possibly have little interest in visiting. I don't know when I first heard about the place, but (again) I have wanted to visit for years. It's supposed to be another Lost World (similar to Roraima in Venezuela), with jungle, lots of wildlife (including tons of mosquitos), table mountains and awesome waterfalls with gorgeous swimming pools. But when walking around Santa Cruz, checking the different options (go solo, with an agency etc.), they tell me that although it's high season for tourism in Bolivia, it's low season in Noel Kempff Mercado. The reason being that there's practically no water whatsoever, making river travel impossible as well as spectacular waterfalls look like faint somethings... So I end up checking trips to Amboró National Park instead, a park I hadn't heard about, but supposedly pretty nice and much closer to Santa Cruz. But again, none of the tour companies have other tourists who have signed up, making a solo trip pretty expensive. I could of course hang around for a few days to see if I meet some backpackers who want to join me, or head to the town of Samaipata (a bit closer to the park entrance) to see if I can do it solo or with another company. But I decide against it, as Noel Kempff Mercado was the main thing for me. So I end up walking around the city for a couple of days instead, before buying a bus ticket to La Paz. Another long-haul, back up to 4000 meters altitude.

It's funny how you decide if you like a place or not. Some cities (like Buenos Aires) and sites are of course just spectacular, so there's no way you can have a bad feeling leaving the place. But then there's tons of other ordinary places out there. Places you may end up loving, just liking or even maybe hating. For an ordinary place, I guess it often boils down to the people you are with or meet at the particular place. For example, if you are with a group of nice people, or maybe end up meeting a gorgeous girl (or guy, ...take your pick), then you'll surely have a fond memory of your time there, even if the place itself maybe didn't rock your socks off. And for me, Santa Cruz is one of those places that probably won't make my top 100. When I arrived early morning after an "exhausting" bus ride, a cold wind was blowing (all the way from Patagonia or something), making the so-called tropical city (elevation 415m) much colder than Sucre. Then add a grey sky to a tired backpackers mind, and you have the receipt for miserable. Especially since I didn't meet any people during my two days stay, except Robbie from the UK (on his way to Brazil with the infamous death train) who originally planned a six months trip around Asia, but who have now been on the road for more than two years. And finally, I arrived here on a Monday. As you may already know, not the most spectacular day out there. Things could of course have changed my opinion about Santa Cruz if I stayed a few more days. They say warm (around 30 degrees Celcius) and sunny weather is on it's way. The weekend would also get closer, and I might have met some nice locals or backpackers who I could have visited Amboró National Park with. We'll never know, but a few more days here and I might have loved it...

La Paz is next, a city I have visited before. I loved it then (hmm, who did I meet??), so lets see if I'll hate it now. No, not a chance, in my opinion it's one of those chaotic cities (with a spectacular setting) it's very hard to have a bad time (even if the altitude and cold may make you a bit miserable at times).
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