La Paz to Santa Cruz

Monday 26th October 2015

I woke up at 5.15am, packed my bag and said good-bye to Samantha at 5.45am. Who knows when and where we would meet again? Probably in another unexpected place! As we had already met on 4 continents, she said next time we should meet in Africa!! Why not!!! 😀

I jumped in the taxi and off we went. Those guys, they drive so fast. I felt tempted to say “Tranquillo! I am not in a hurry!” but hey, I could feel he knew what he was doing, so it was ok. On the road towards the airport.

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Arriving at the airport.

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Arriving at the counter of BOA, the Bolivian Airlines. Couldn`t help smiling thinking about our group named BOA during the Iquitos jungle trip because Nick had wished so badly that he would see a boa than indeed he did see one at night.

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A woman confirmed to me that domestic flights check-in was not opening more than an hour in advance. I got there at 6.15am for a flight at 8.30am. Ahahaha, silly me. So early. I asked a woman selling coffees if there was good WiFi in the airport. She told me to check out the Deli cafe upstairs. I went there, got some WiFi for an hour and had a nice pancake for brekky.

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View of the airport from upstairs.

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Then I checked in my bag and went to the x-rays. Then I waited to board the plane.

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There were some women offering people to pay for a 15-minute massage. Seems to me that this service could get developed in all airports, what a great idea!

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They announced in Spanish only that the boarding would actually be done from Gate 8 and not Gate 10. Lucky I got that, so I walked to Gate 8. Here was our to-be plane.

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Got in, the flight took off on time. Seen from inside.

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It was a one-hour flight. We saw La Paz from the plane. Good-bye La Paz!!! If I had to choose between Bogota, Lima and you, I would come to spend more time with you!! So pretty, so much to photograph here! Such a crazy photo documentary to do about your people and in particular your women, before they disappear in the past, swallowed by modernity.

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We flew so near to a high top mountain. Not sure which one. I don`t think it was Huayna Potosi, I would have recognised it, I think. Maybe Illimani which is 6,400 meters something high.

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Zoom in on the top. No one climbing that top at that moment that day though. Or already all going down.

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The landscape was very pretty but not as intense as the Lima-Cusco flight though.

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Snack box offered in the plane.

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Inside the box

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We could see some of the Amazonian curly river before arriving.

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I love seeing the shadow of the plane showing on the land below us.

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And off we arrived in Santa Cruz.

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Just landed.

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Traditional Bolivian women disembarking. How long before the way they dress disappears? 10,20,30 years? Hopefully more?

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Waiting for the luggages

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French touch when exiting the luggage claim area.

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The weather was sooo humid and sweaty!!! But not as hot as Iquitos though, and there was a bit of a breeze which made it nice. I got my backpack and exited the luggage claim area and asked inside the airport to a woman at a counter how much I was supposed to pay for a taxi to the Bus Terminal. She said it would be about 60 bolivianos because it was quite far but that I could take the bus instead as it was also taking 30-40 minutes but only 6 bolivianos. Great that there was a bus, it is not always the case. Why not if she told me so. So off I went to take this bus.

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In the bus, my seat neighbour was Spanish from Saragossa. I had a flashback thinking of the guy I had met in El Cocuy National Park who was the only Spanish from Saragossa I had met until now and had been super friendly and helpful waiting for me when I was so slow with my big backpack in altitude walking to La Esperanza. My seat neighbour was travelling with another friend of her and they were both travelling for 3 weeks, had landed in Santiago then flown to Calama, gone to San Pedro de Atacama, then the Salar of Uyuni then La Paz and flown to Santa Cruz to go to the Amborro National Park and some missionnary village. Then they were flying from Santa Cruz to Lima and Lima back to Madrid. In the past, she had done countless little trips to South America though, been in Macchu Picchu, another time spent lots of time in Colombia, another time lots of time in Patagonia. It was nice chatting with her for a bus ride. We passed this Statue of Liberty which seems to be standing on the commercial centre.

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The bus driver waved to me and told me there was my stop so off I went and got into a taxi this time. 10 minutes later I was at the Bus Terminal.

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There I asked where to buy the ticket to Paraguay. A woman told me to go left to the end. I went there and a guy said “Paraguay?” I said “Yes!” and he explained me that there were 4 companies going but working together so whatever counter I would buy the ticket, it would be the same bus and same price. Then he took me to his office, we sat down and I explained that where I wanted to go was Iguazu. We looked first at this map showing two routes to Sao Paulo.

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Then we looked at the big map of South America together. Zooming on the part I was interested in.

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Mauricio had been working for 18 years in this industry and knew his topic really well! Mauricio explained to me the three different options by bus. I loved that moment. You are there in a place, in a foreign country, looking at a map with a local telling you all about the possibilities of your next journey. You are at that moment where you can choose. You are not only dreaming in front of a map, you are about to do it. And that`s the most exciting about it. Sure, I could have spent hours reading the Lonely Planet before to arrive in Santa Cruz to figure it out (or trying!!). But waiting to be there to finalise that was so much more fun. So at first, the only option I had read about was to take a 24-hour bus from Santa Cruz to Asuncion in Paraguay, then sleep there a night probably and then take a 5-hour bus from Asuncion to Ciudad del Este and from there cross the border to Iguazu in Argentina. I had read that the road was really bad and the bus too but when I had asked for the plane ticket, I had been told it was 322 USD from Santa Cruz to Asuncion for about an hour flight, and no, sorry, I don`t pay that price for such a short flight unless I have to! So I was up for the long adventurous bus ride.

But then Mauricio pointed to me a second option, much better. To go through Campo Grande in Brazil! Now, the thing is I was finding that pretty nuts and funny to cross an entire country, Paraguay, just to go see a waterfall. Doesn`t that it a bit nuts? I like nuts. Nuts is what makes our life more fun, more interesting, more spicy. I love to go for nuts. But well, crossing via Brazil actually made also more sense because I could see first Iguazu on the Brazilian side and then cross to Argentina to see the Argentinian side after. As my aim afterwards is to head South to Patagonia, it did make more sense. Otherwise it would be going through Paraguay, to Iguazu, Argentina, then go up to Iguazu, Brazil then go down again.

The third option was to go to Formosa and from there to Resistencia and then Iguazu. But that sounded less interesting.

And for the ones looking for practical details, I usually don`t really write those in my blog, but as I couldn`t find this information anywhere on internet or in guides, here are the details:

Option 1
Bus 01 – Santa Cruz to Campo Grande
Santa Cruz 8.30pm to Campo Grande arrive the next day at 2pm. 550 BOL. 16-hour bus.
Supposed to be hot inside, not a freezing bus, according to him.
Crossing of the border at Corumba around 7am after 9-hour in Bolivian bus.
Change of bus at the border for a Brazilian bus similar to this bus from 7am to 2pm.
Bus 02 – Campo Grande to Iguazu
Campo Grande bus at 10am, 2pm or 6pm with the company of his friend called PLUMA.
The bus takes 14 hours to get to Iguazu. It costs about 40 USD (280 BOL as currently 1 USD = 7 BOL)
There are other companies to get there, so there can be other timetables.
Ideally you wanna take an evening bus so you get to Iguazu in the morning, not at midnight.

Option 2
Bus 01 – Santa Cruz to Asuncion
Santa Cruz 7pm to Asuncion. Takes 24 hours. Costs 520 BOL but 450 BOL on Friday and Sunday (promotion to
encourage students to go there). Road is bad, and bus is bad. Mauricio explained to me that it wouldn`t make sense to put a good bus on a bad road as the good bus would get damaged really quickly by the bad road. So until the road is good, they prefer to put the old buses on it. It does makes sense!
Note: You could stop in Conception, bus would take 19h but then from Conception you still need to go through Asuncion to get to Ciudad del Este he said. It can hep break the journey more easily in two buses though. And maybe there are buses going from Conception to Ciudad del Este without going through Asuncion.
Bus 02 – Asuncion to Ciudad del Este (border)
anytime starting at 8am, forgot what time the last bus was. Takes about 5 hours.
Border reputed to be a bit dangerous but who knows.
Bus 03 – Ciudad del Este to Iguazu (or taxi)
About an hour

Option 3
Bus 01 – Santa Cruz to Formosa in Argentina. Border crossing is at Tartagal.
This bus leaves at 8.30pm. Costs 580 BOL. The road is good. It takes 22 hours.
3.a Bus 02 – Formosa to Resistencia 2 hours. Bus 03 – Resistencia to Iguazu. 8 hours.
3.b Bus 02 – Formosa to Asuncion 2hours. Bus 03 Asuncion to Ciudad del Este 5 hours then to Iguazu see above.

So I went to withdraw some more cash outside the bus terminal, came back and booked my ticket for the evening for the 8.30pm bus off to Campo Grande. Then while sitting there in his office, which was quiet, I took out my Kindle and checked out a hostel in Santa Cruz in the LP to go chill out there all afternoon. The LP recommended the Jodanga, and more important, the Jodanga…had a pool !!! Nice!! 😀

I got a taxi which took me to the hostel and asked if I could pay something but stay just for the day, whatever their price was. They actually did have a “stay for the day” concept, so they probably get other travellers coming there to chill out while in transit. I put my big pack in the storage room, got my stuff and went for a shower. It was the first time in a month that I enjoyed having a cold shower and didn`t want to turn on the hot water!!! Then I asked where to go for food and the guy at the reception gave me a map and explained, right, right, left, right. Mmmm…Would I manage ahahahah. Well, it was quite well explained so I did get to that main road. But there I only saw fast food. It was so hot though. I went for the Burger King…(Special thought for Patrick who said he hopes he never goes to Burger King in his life ahah – note: there was no Mac Donald`s!).

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Now, the funny thing is that I had not been reminded of Halloween a single time until now!!! I had totally forgotten about it. But Burger King being American, of course, it was an occasion for them to celebrate and get people to come in on the 31st October.

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After that, I went back to the hostel, got into a swimming suit and spent a looong time in the pool. The water was so nice, so warm, but just a little bit cold enough that you would enjoy it. It was really awesome after a month spent in the cold! I chatted at the pool with 2 British girls, one from London and one from Nottingham who were on a 10-week trip and about half-way through their trip through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil.

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After that, shower and then preparing blog articles for a bit, enjoying the WiFi, the nice heat even if a bit sweaty and humid, so tropical, while looking at the pool to my right and listening to a great playlist the hostel had put together.

I also thought, how do I dress for the bus? When you go for a 16-hour bus, you better prepare a bit! Need water, some snacks unless you can buy at the border crossing. Need to think of eating before the night bus, otherwise you are gonna starve. But also, how do you dress? What is the temperature in Campo Grande? I looked at the weather forecast and it told me between 26 and 31 degrees, rainy. Would be so hot that a Goretex jacket would be useless. Wish I had kept my poncho from Iquitos! I could probably buy one when I would get there though. Sounded like the bus ride would be hot, according to what Mauricio had told me, so need to put the hiking shoes, rather the rain sandals. I still packed a few layers in the bag in case it may get cold inside the bus. You never know.

I also checked some hostels on Tripadvisor, in case I would be too tired to jump into the 6pm 14-hour bus to Iguazu and would prefer to get a good night sleep in between. I could not remember if my LP in the Kindle had addresses for Campo Grande. Wrote down an address in case.

Then before I knew it, it was already 6pm.  I had to be at the bus station at 7.30pm. I didn`t want to rush so went for dinner first. Couldn`t bother walking too far so went this time to…Subway. Yeah. Awesome. On the walk back to the hostel, the full moon was shining in the sky. Already another full moon! Time flies!

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In the evening, off to the bus terminal for a night bus to Campo Grande in Brazil! Getting closer to Iguazul falls!