05 May 2010

Leaving Paraguay, Entering Bolivia

Filadelfia and Loma Plata were the last pieces of Paraguay for me before Bolivia, and were truly a surreal experience to have in South America. After leaving the small town of Puerto Casado, a place with only sporadic running water (6-8am, 5:30-9pm), we arrived in a bustling city filled with blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans. To make it even crazier, we ran into the only person we knew in the town, 2 minutes after getting off the bus in Loma Plata. This man became our tour guide for the city, and we enjoyed a few terere sessions with him.

The most interesting part about these areas is the social commune the members have formed. They are Mennonites displaced from various regions (primarily Canada for Loma Plata and Russia for Filadelfia). When they arrived in Paraguay, the government gave them a section of essentially desert that appeared unfarmable. In the tradition of hard work, they built their community up, realizing that working together was the only way to survive. They have now a central "collective", with 10% of each person's salary going towards everything that is required; roads, health care, schools, etc. These two communities, especially Loma Plata, are easily the most built up part of Paraguay we experienced.

Anyways, after some small adventures primarily involving terere or the GIANT supermarket, we got on a bus and crossed into Bolivia. The borders were incredibly efficient, even in Bolivia where I needed to file for and purchase a Visa, but were what you would expect after traveling on a dirt road for 6 hours, with another 8 to go. This crossing, perhaps between the two poorest countries in South America, is marked by open air migration offices and dilapidated buildings.

Santa Cruz was the first city in Bolivia for us, and it also happens to be the richest. Vegan restaurants satisfied my travel buddy, and we used the cities opulence as a chance to do laundry, Internet, and recharge. We showed up on a holiday weekend (we still don't know what for, but it involves early morning fireworks), so everything was closed. Most of our time was spent in the plaza, reading and challenging the locals to chess. Samaipata was next, and is where I currently am.

The region of Samaipata is known for its opportunities for jungle trekking and waterfalls. We did a little of everything, with various adventures followed always by a siesta. The first was El Fuerte, a pre-Incan (they believe) establishment on a hill overlooking the valley. The Incans were simply the last indigenous people in the region, and gained fame because they "greeted" the Spanish upon arrival; there were many peoples before the Incans with comparable wealth and this Fort is proof positive of that.

The next adventure, yesterday's adventure, was a series of waterfalls. It is sad, what happens when you travel; I have grown callous towards new places. I mean seriously, I couldn't even swim at this waterfall. It still, however, was beautiful and was enjoyed in the presence of an English couple, a Swiss, an Israeli couple, and us two Statesman. This same group enjoyed drinks later, with the addition of a few more nations.

Today I head to Sucre, but don't know how long I will spend there. I am running out of time. I have the rest of Bolivia, Peru (though I have narrowed it down to simply the Cuzco region), Northern Chile, and Santiago in one month!! I have had too much fun for too much time at each new place I visit.

Somethings Interesting

--Supposedly there is a lost city, similar to Machu Pichu, believed to be somewhere in Bolivia. It is overgrown and unviewable by air, leaving it still undiscovered (thus the lost city title).

--They have estimated that there are more uncontacted tribes in the Amazon Basin than everywhere else in the world put together. It was news to me that uncontacted tribes still exist.

--I am growing tired. Every day is a something completely new, and that is amazing. I miss, however, regularity. If this trip were longer, and I wish it was, I would settle down in a city for at least a month, if for no other reason than to have a few days which were the same. Most likely, Puerto Varas, Chile, or anywhere in Paraguay.

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