Santa Cruz, Bolivia
14.11.2016 - 15.11.2016
This is our last full day in Bolivia and I thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect on some of my impressions of this South American country.
Diversity. Bolivia is a country with large cities, small towns and beautiful scenery. I loved the town squares in the centre of every community, but was saddened by the abject poverty evident in every town. The salt flats, lagoons and mountains we saw were memorable for their unique beauty.
Litter. Garbage. Plastic. Unfortunately this beautiful country is marred by the trash humans leave behind. From the streets of every city we visited to the remote salt flats, people have left behind evidence of their visit.
People. The population of Bolivia is as diverse as its geography. The small children are adorable, the teenagers would fit into any country with their trendy clothes and mobile phones, and the adults range from business people to those who still wear traditional clothing.
Graffiti. I'm not sure why, but Bolivians have defaced buildings, monuments and sidewalks with pictures and comments.
Service. We were repeatedly reminded by our guide that Bolivia is a developing country and the people are still learning how to make the experience for tourists better. One example is when a meal is finished, the server brings one bill on a small plate. The patrons then pass the plate and the bill, look at the bill, tally up their total, add the amount of Bolivianos they spent and then pass the bill to the next person. The exact change is expected and if a customer does not have the right bills, the server may have to go to another business to get change. Don also observed that many people seemed to frown, smiles are rare.
Crime. Every city we visited protects their homes and businesses with bars and locks protecting doors and windows. One of our fellow travelers shared an experience from when he was in La Paz. He was sitting on a city bus and another visitor to the city was leaning out the window to take a photo. Someone on the street reached up, grabbed her phone, and took off down the sidewalk. The people on the bus were stunned, but nothing happened to the thief.
Food. Until we reached Santa Cruz, we did not see one fast food restaurant. We were told that McDonald's tried to enter Bolivia, but was unsuccessful. Santa Cruz does have a few Subway shops and we also saw Burger King. The food in the restaurants takes awhile, but apparently everything is freshly prepared, the food is not frozen and then reheated like many places in Canada. In Sucre we walked through a park and saw exhibits set up fo children. There were a variety of foods offered for sale, homemade cakes was one of the principle treats for the children.
Chaos. Traffic in the major cities of Bolivia is chaotic. Most intersections are uncontrolled and drivers appear to randomly decide when to proceed through the middle. Pedestrians need to watch carefully before proceeding to cross the street. Many cars seem unsafe and sport many dents and scrapes. Another person in our group shared her story of travel to La Paz. Their bus was hit by another car, but rather than police reports and a new bus, the passengers simply waited while the bus driver patched the broken window with tape and then sat back as the bus continued.
Despite some of the negative observations above, I enjoyed our visit to Bolivia, especially our three day experience to the salt flats and the other wilderness areas.
We are catching an overnight train Brazil later this afternoon. We then head for the Brazilian jungle, so I'm not sure when we'll have wifi again. Our guide has warned us that crossing the border may be interesting, so here's hoping the journey to Brazil in uneventful.