And the travelling starts again on a new continent: Santa Cruz, Bolivia

My travels are starting again after two weeks of being in my hometown over Christmas and New Year. This time I’m heading over the other side of the world from where I have been these last two years. South America: new continent, new countries and new adventures. I’m excited to start my journey here. My plan is to travel for a few months through Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador before setting in Colombia for a number of months to teach English. I will be going with the same program I went to Thailand with. We are going to have an orientation in Bogota and then sent to different towns, where they find me a job.IMG_0002

I left my cold hometown in the afternoon, where my mum and sister took me to the airport. We parked up and then I checked in with the airline. They asked about if I had a return journey (which I didn’t); I fumbled with my phone for a while and told them I would get one. Luckily, he still gave me my boarding ticket. Win! I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t get into Bolivia so I rented a ticket for about £9 online with my name on, just in case I was asked when I arrived.

The three of sat in the Wetherspoons drinking a hot drink before saying our farewells. I was sad to be leaving by also looking forward to this next adventure. I think it’s harder for friends and family as they have the same live, doing mostly the same thing day in and day out. I knew I would be back in seven months as my brother was getting married. Seven months will go in no time.

Once I had given my mum and sister the biggest hug, I went through security but there was no immigration, which obviously is no problem for me but I would’ve thought other might need to be stamp out.

In the airport, I looked around some of the shops and waited for gate number. The first leg of my journey was to Madrid, which would take about two and a half hours. My mum rand me just before I boarded the plane. With my ticket being checked, I found my seat and soon enough we were in the air. It was a basic plane with no refreshments but I just listened to music until we landed in Madrid.IMG_0024

I disembark the plane and followed others until I saw a sign for transfer in area AB. I had to go through security, where I had to take everything out my bag including liquids and electronics. Somehow I was at the front of the queue so it was quick for me to go in the terminal. I waited in a seating area, charging my phone and eating a snack until my gate number was announced. When it was time, I went to the gate but it soon occurred that my plane was going to be delayed an hour. Most of the people around were either Spanish or South American. I just sat and people watched, observing children crawling around, machines bring filled with food as well as noises of travellers talking on the phone.

The hour went quickly enough and about fifteen minutes after we were able to board the plane. I waited for the queue to die down before approaching it. I found my seat, which was a window seat next to a lady. By this time, it was about half midnight and I was feeling exhausted.

The problem with airlines is that they want to give you food within the first hour and this was one of them. I was half asleep when they came round with food. Mine was some sort of rice and vegetables, which didn’t look appetising and fruit. I just ate the fruit before snoozing off asleep. It was an eleven and a half hour flight. I slept most of the journey waking up for about five minutes several times during the night.IMG_0026

When I felt ready to wake up fully, I had a couple of hours left of the flight. For the rest of the journey I ate the breakfast they provided, consisting of a salad roll and fruit, and watched a movie on my computer. The plane did have individual screens but the selection of films were limited.

I landed at around 7 Bolivian time where I grabbed my stuff and disembarked the plane. Now I had to get through immigration, which I was slightly worried about. The area was full of people in different queues, moving slowly. I filled out the forms and waited for my turn. I could see other having problems  but luckily for me, they stamped me in and I was through. I found my bag amongst the transfer pile then continued in the long queue to get through security. Sorted! Next I needed to exchange some money, which was a slight problem as they could only exchange US dollars. Luckily, I had a few dollars on me.

Outside I caught a taxi as I just thought this would be the best way especially as I couldn’t speak Spanish. It was easy enough showing the address on my Phone. I didn’t really know what to expect of the city. There were mostly brick built building, not built up high with a main road. In Bolivia, they drive on the opposite side to England but the driving wasn’t crazy like some other countries I’ve been to. It looked kind of clean but dusty and not well paved street.IMG_0032

At the hostel, I checked in and left my bag in the room as they beds weren’t ready yet. I sat in the courtyard area with a pool table and swimming pool for a bit.

After, I wandered into the town centre to exchange the my British pounds. As I was walking along the straight roads, I had a good feeling about Bolivia. It was simple to walk around as all the roads had street names and were very block-like. The closer I got to the plaza, the busier it got. There were several exchange places around; I had no luck in the first but succeeded in the second. The people were extremely helpful. Next to the Plaza was a square park filled with Christmas lights and local resting on the benches. I went into the church next to the square, where there were people singing. The church was huge and looked beautiful.

Then I found a café close by, where I ordered an Americano and a croissant. I had no idea of the prices here so later found, the price I paid was quite expensive.

I decided to wander the town a bit, where there were mainly shops and restaurants. Then headed back to the hostel, where I walked through a massive street market full of fruit, vegetable, clothes and some electronics. I went to the supermarket to buy food for dinner. I still wasn’t sure about restaurants or the cost, and I know cooking yourself always works out cheaper.

For the rest of the afternoon, I slept for a bit then chilled talking to some people.

I cooked some food in the kitchen and started talking to two guys from Austria and a guy from Germany, hearing about their lives. One of them was drinking Mata, which is a traditional South American drink. It looks like herbs in a special mental cup with a straw like spoon. It is most common to pour hot water in and sip through the straw. Once the water is finished, it is then passed on to the next person. The benefit of drinking this is really high, making you have more energy and helping your digestion. It tasted nice but a little bitter.IMG_0079

Another guy had coco leaves, where you chew piles of the leaves in the side of ones mouth for about half an hour then spit it out. The juices go inside your body which also has health benefits. It also make the mouth go slightly numb. It is a very popular thing to do with the locals but is illegal in some other countries.

In the evening, we chilled chatting and drinking beers. Two girls from Bolivia joined us as the other Austrians knew them. They were both really chatty and spoke good English. At times they were speaking Spanish, which was good for me to start learning some as I knew it would be important.

We had Latin American music playing the whole evening. A group of Brazilian were also around talking  to us. Time seemed to fly as the hostel owner was telling us to be quiet, where we moved to a different area. I ended up going to bed at 3 without really realising.

The next day, I woke up to have the complimentary breakfast, which was boiled eggs, rolls, cheese, fruit and tea. I wasn’t sure what to do as there wasn’t too much to do around. I tried to book a tour to the mountains the previous day but failed as they didn’t reply. In the morning, I just ambled around the city centre then bought some fruit at the market. It was a slightly scary experience for me as I didn’t speak Spanish so ended with a kilo of apricots and a large slice of watermelon. I really do need to improve my language skills.

When I got back to the hostel I played pool with one of the Austrian guys, which was hilarious as neither of us were playing properly, and also the table seemed huge.

The two Austrians had made a traditional dish of goulash and bread balls from their country as there friend was visiting them from Cochabamba. They offered some to me so I ate the parts that didn’t have meet. Six of us at together including one of the girls from Bolivia. While talking, she showed me beautiful places on the outskirts of the city, which later she offered to give me a lift. At first, I thought she was coming with me but on the way I found that she was going to drop me off.

She drove on the main road until we were further out and the on smaller, bumpy roads, stopping on the way for ask for direction. She dropped me off at a place called Guembe, which is kind of a hotel resort with pools. There were layers of swimming pool, a waterfall, gardens and a animal area with a butterfly and bird sanctuary, monkeys and tortoises. I wandered the enormous complex then relaxed by the pool in the sun. It was really beautiful but expensive (180 bolivianos/ £25). After, I got a taxi back to the hostel.

At the start of the evening, I ate some food and chilled whilst listening to other playing the guitar. We had planned to hit the town. Once the girls arrived, we chatted and drank some beer. When it reached about midnight,  normal time to go out in South America, we caught a taxi to a club. Unfortunately, it was closed so we tried another, again it was closed so we got another taxi further into the centre. There was a group of about 15 of us by this time. We entered a club with Latin music but it was jam-packed where we literally couldn’t move. We ordered a drink but then decided to go somewhere quieter. I like the place and would have been happy to stay but also didn’t want to split from the group. In the end, we went to a bar and took over the downstairs area, which had a mixture of music. We danced and drank the night away (literally). As we exited the bar, it was light; the sun was up. This shocked me as I didn’t realised it was this late (or early). We got a taxi back, dropping one of the Bolivian girls at her house. When we arrived back at the hostel, one of the guys from German realised he had lost his phone. He went to search for it while I headed to bed.

I had planned to get up for breakfast but my alarm didn’t go off. When I eventually woke up, it was midday and time for me to purchase an overnight bus ticket. I staggered to get a minivan to the bus terminal, which was simple. I was slightly overwhelmed by all the agencies in the terminal and ended up getting a ticket from a guy shouting ‘Sucre’. It cost me 100 Bolivianos/ £12 for a semi cama bed. Basically, one can choose a cama bed or semi cama bed for the journey. I had heard extremely bad things about the journey from Santa Cruz to Sucre being long, windy and very bumpy.IMG_0086

I went straight back to the hostel, where I had a nap. After, I had a shower, sorted my things out, cooked some food and ate. By the time I had done everything, it was time to leave. I carried my bag on my back to catch a minivan to the bus station again. I arrived early so just sat outside waiting for time to pass by. Then I went back to the agencies, who took my bags and placed them underneath the bus. I had to purchase a tax ticket, costing about 3 bolivianos, which one has to do every bus terminal.

I went through the gate and found my bus. I made sure it was the correct bus to Sucre before climbing aboard and finding my seat. The bus on the outside didn’t look too great but on the inside, it has comfy seat which reclined plus a pull down board for one’s legs. The journey was going to take about 12 hours.

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