16 Oct 2016

Back to Bolivia

After a long hibernation we finally return to our travels. At 15.00 Jenna gives us a lift to the coach station, coach to Heathrow, non stop BA flight to Buenos Aires, taxi straight to the port (via an insurance office to collect our car insurance), ferry to Colonia (Uruguay) where we are collected by Sandra (who has been looking after our vehicle) and by 15.00 (local time) we are packing the cruiser with the kit we have brought with us. The nearby camp site is closed so we stay on Sandra's farm and decide on a short hop the next day to a camp site 68 miles up the road, technically it is closed, but the site and facilities are left open and even has power available for anyone to use.

Next day we start the trek across Argentina to Bolivia via series of truck stops on more or less the same route as we came down. We had considered detouring into the mountains but the forecast was poor, so we stuck to the plan and the good weather, but also to maximise our time in Bolivia as we may not return.

After 5 hard days of driving we re-enter Bolivia only to find that they had not cancelled the permit for the car when we left last December, so in theory the vehicle had over stayed its welcome by 7 months and we were marched off to the headmasters office! Turned out that the supervisor was a very friendly and, dare I say it, intelligent young lady that saw that our passports had been stamped out in December so assumed that the car had gone with us (given that we were now trying to bring it back in). Logic that I doubt many of the border personnel we have come across would be capable of. She typed up a letter saying that we had taken it out of the country on 3rd January, we signed it, she stamped it and all was sorted (all with no money changing hands!)

After another hard day we arrived in Samaipata, where we finally take a day off and visit a waterfall, plus the Archaeological site of El Furte. The following day we re-took the mud road we took on the way down (Dads road), without detours this time but still had 4 sizable rivers to cross, before driving over the pass to Cochabamba, reaching 3,700m, before descending to 2,650m at Cochabamba . Last time we were here we had spent the previous 2 months at between 2,500m and 4,800m so we were used to the altitude, this time except for one night at 1,450m (at Samaipapa) we had not had any exposure to altitude for 9 months, so took a few days to re-acclimatise.

We have returned to Cochabamba for repairs to the cruiser (following the accident with the motorbike in Ecuador). Plus removal of the rear side and rears windows for repair to the rust that has built up around them (otherwise it is rust free), plus a little mechanical TLC. We have now spent the last 7 days, resting, cleaning equipment, plus cleaning, oiling and repairing the bikes and making new friends. Hopefully the repairs will be completed in a couple of days and we will be on our way again.

Thinking that all overlanders we have previously met up with would be long gone, who should we meet up with on the very first night on the road was Hiltrud and Seigfried in their converted East German troop carrier that we have been bumping into ever since Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

One of many truck stops we managed to find a quiet corner in. No charge to camp and some even had hot showers at 50p each
We took an unintentional detour on a dirt road and found this very friendly little restaurant for lunch.

Day 7, 300 miles into Bolivia (over 1500 miles from Colonia) and we can finally start to relax. And after the initial cold winds of Colonia and the heat of the plains in Argentina (up to 40c in places) we find this wonderful little camp site at 1200m and perfect temperature.
Before moving on we walk up to the falls opposite the camp site, through lovely manicured gardens, kept spotlessly clean. They make a small charge for the visit, but well worth it given the amount of time they must put into it, a mini oasis from the rest of untidy and often litter strewn Bolivia.
12 miles up the road we come to El Fuete just outside Samaipata, as ever it is on a hill that you have to walk up to!

Not the most impressive site we have seen, though it was a major cultural, religious and trading centre.

In fact I thought that the walk ways constructed round the site were more impressive than the site itself.
But it was very pleasent walking through the woods

We take what is now 'Dads Road' again to bi pass Santa Cruz

One of 4 river crossings.
But no problem for us if small motorbikes can do it.
We find a quiet shaded spot tucked away off the road for lunch (not that we had any vehicles come past the whole time).

We meet new friends, Monika and Seth at Las Lilas Hostel and walk down a dust cobbled road to find this amazing Pizza Restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

Seth is a Hopi Indian, whose tribal lands are just north of Winslow, Arizona. In fact the archaeological site we camped at just outside Winslow was an abandoned Hopi village. Another definite for a return visit.
Seth was a master of the BBQ and did not take too much persuading to do it again a few days later.
Monika from Poland has become another good friend, she asked us to correct her English, which ended up sometimes tying us all up in knots.

The 4 of us go out for the day in Cochabamba centre

After a huge lunch in the market Seth continued to graze all afternoon on all manner of snacks fruit and ice cream from the market.
Monika follows Seths lead buying Churros from one of the stalls (Seth is already half way through his).
We take the cable car up to Christo de la Concordia the biggest in the world (larger than the one in Rio)
We finally make it to the base of the statue.

With views across Cochabamba
Which spreads all around the statue, in fact the largest section of the city I cannot show as it was directly into the sun.

A quick snack of Arroz con leche (rice pudding) after the climb up to the statue (15p per pot)
Then we visit the main square
With a Police Band playing themes from The Gladiator

After much searching we finally find a bar with proper draught beer and even Chris (who had been complaining about walking round in circles) agreed that it was worthwhile and the beer was possibly better than Doom Bar!