It was like we’d entered a new world. After weeks high in the Andes – from Arequipa, Peru, in late February, we’d spent six weeks in the highlands – we flew to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Surprisingly, it’s Bolivia’s biggest city – who knew? – and is the country’s economic powerhouse. No more of these native women in their funny bowler hats and traditional dresses here. This is a cosmopolitan city with restaurants and bars and foreigners and, oddly, a lot of Mennonites. Mormon missionaries, too. Quite a mixture.
And the climate. Suddenly we’re no longer chillin’ in the Andes; now at just a couple hundred feet above sea level it’s tropical heat. Even rain: on our first night we got a huge rainstorm, the first one we’ve seen in many months. Santa Cruz just couldn’t be more different from the rest of Bolivia.
There’s not a heckuva lot to do here. The main square is a beautiful leafy area that practically begs you to slow down, have a seat, read a little. I spent hours culling and editing our pictures from the Salt Flats. There were some good restaurants, though we had one big disappointment. Lonely Planet talks up this great Indian restaurant in town and we’ve been in Bolivia long enough to get excited about something different. The TripAdvisor reviews were great, but a little confusing; it wasn’t clear just where this restaurant was. On a couple of occasions we walked wide swaths of the city looking for where Google Maps had the restaurant, where Lonely Planet had the restaurant, where TripAdvisor had the restaurant. Ultimately it was not to be. We found where it used to be, but now the space was just ruins. So no Indian food. Sad.
The goal here is mostly just to say goodbye to Bolivia and make our way to Paraguay. Overall, we’ve done a pretty good job of covering southern Peru and western Bolivia, with a couple days in northern Chile thrown in. As you can see on the map here from Lima in the northwest corner we made nine stops in Peru, eight in Bolivia, and three in Chile, a pretty good adventure.
From here there’s a good flight to Asuncion and then our goal is to work our way down towards Iguazu Falls where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet. After that, we’re likely headed into Uruguay on our way to Buenos Aires. The adventure continues!