Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Santa Cruz


18/06 - 21/06
Our 16hr bus ride began like every other except for the fact that it was a dirt road and that our window would not stay closed. On the first part of the trip, it was very beautiful as we got a road side view of the majestic Patanal. 

The red dust from the road covered the first metre of road side plants as well as our bags and faces.

The wetlands made for good spotting of caimans along the way.

We even got to increase our bird spotting count! Number 52!

As the sun set and the temperature dropped,  more and more locals boarded the bus. In the middle of the night, we awoke to find a group of oddly dressed European-looking people boarding the bus. It was as if we had awoken to a different time and space. The men were all tall, blonde, lean and wore old-fashioned Armish-like dungarees, white shirts, black shoes and navy 'poorboy' caps. The women all wore long skirts, shawls and bonnets and all had babies in arms, even the very young looking women. We had been told by Manuel that there was a colony of German descendants living near Santa Cruz, apart from the rest of society. We guessed that these people might be the ones he was telling us about. We later did some research and found out that these people are a group of Mennonites who had been given permission by the Bolivian government to settle in this country. We also found out that there are about 70 000 of them living in Bolivia.

We finally arrived at the Santa Cruz bus terminal at 6am to a freezing cold that we had not yet experienced in South America. We quickly opened our dusty bags and added a much needed, few layers to our outfits. Markus' friend, Geraldo, picked us up from the bus station and helped us find suitable accommodation in the city centre.

After we had showered and gotten most of the dust off, we were feeling fragile and in need of a treat...

...a bottle of cheap supermarket bought wine to the rescue!
This bottle was supposedly made in the best wine region of Bolivia - Tarija. We would not have time to visit this region so this was the closest we were going to get.

After a great night's sleep on a platform that thankfully wasn't moving, we decided to venture out and see what sights Santa Cruz had to offer.

Something fascinating to note about Santa Cruz, is that the whole city is built in streets of concentric circles around the centre.  Our first stop was the Plaza 24 de Septiembre,  which happens to be the epicentre of the city.  Here we found lots of families enjoying the weekend sunshine in the park.

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag?

Clearly something important was going on as there were tv cameras interviewing civilians. Unfortunately, we knew no Spanish so couldn't find out what the hot topic of conversation was.

The Cathedral is one of the main tourist attractions in Santa Cruz

Shoe-shiners making a living

We entered the Cathedral to witness the beauty of its interior.

This Cathedral is celebrating its 100th year anniversary!

This was one of the original bells used in the bell tower of the Cathedral.

Visitors to the Cathedral can pay B$3 to climb the 170 odd stairs to the top of the bell tower.

Views from the 2nd storey's look-out points

Unfortunately, we didn't get the memo that the bell tower was a couples hot-spot. We had to witness numerous public displays of affection in 'not so dark' corners.

Apparently, couples also complete the ritual of placing a lock with their initials on the wire, to ensure that their love lasts forever.

Finally, after wading through all the couples, we reached the top of the bell tower where we could see the inner workings of the clock and bell mechanisms.

The clock from the inside

At the bottom visitors could purchase some of these ornate and intricate Catholic pieces.

From there we went in search of the street market that we had heard about the day before. What makes this market unique is that it is where 6 streets meet.

The Market is in the intersection of the streets, Isabel La Catolica, Suarez De Figueroa and Vallegrande.

Spot Joy...there she is!

We recognised most of the fruit in the market, perhaps one or two that we are going to have to try out.

A 'Clicks' at the market place.
We tried a type of strawberry juice with what we guessed was sugar water in it...everything is sweeter in South America.

We had read in our Lonely Planet book that one of the 'must try' Bolivian foods is the Saltena which is a 'pastry shell stuffed with vegetable and meat goodness'  - we were in!

We sat down at a road side cafe and sampled our first delicious capsule of heaven. They have a crumbly textured pastry and are filled with a watery meat stew consistency. Needless to say we were hooked and they have become a staple in our Bolivian diet ever since.

As there was not much to see or do in Santa Cruz, we planned to leave that afternoon on a 14hr bus ride to Sucre.  We spent the morning blogging,  saving photos and catching up on some admin. We had met a lovely Taiwanese girl, Annabelle,  in our dorm who was also on her way back to Sucre and we decided to travel together. Before we left we headed to the food market where we sampled her Sopa de Mani (peanut soup) and shared a massive strawberry milkshake together. It was then off to the bus terminal where Annabelle showed off her negotiation skills and got us cheap tickets to Sucre.


  1. Very interesting, looks like hard work to me but you seem to be enjoying your trip so far. Im surprised you never came across Kunhardt in the bell tower. Things are very quiet here since you left. Stay safe. Bill

  2. Haha! Yip, we are having tons of fun! Don't worry, we are being very safe and even taking the more expensive tourist buses in the more dangerous areas. And about Kunhardt, don't think we would ever find Guy in a situation where he could get locked down! Missing ya ol' farts =)