Bolivia is poor. Coming from the relative affluence of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, the poverty is noticeable. It is not extreme, but people make do with little.
The Bolivians are an independent people, bogged down in paperwork. Every official we talked to laughed about the Bolivian need for every form to be filled with something in every box.
We had to backtrack into Brazil to get a health certificate to get Capi into Bolivia. Once into Bolivia, we spent two days in Cochabamba to get the paperwork to get her into Chile. As we needed yet another health certificate from another vet, a payment to the Bolivian government made at a specific bank, the proof of payment, a form listing our current and next address, a rabies certificate, a vaccination certificate and 2 photocopies of everything. During this procedure, and in fact at most border inspection points, nobody has looked at the dog except to confirm that she is a female.
The need for paperwork led to an overnight at the Hotel Boboli located in a no-man’s-land on the Bolivian/Brazilian border. We hadn’t cleared customs and our status in the country was questionable. The hotel, although pleasant, lacked food and the clerk recommended that we get pizza from the pizzeria 6 blocks away. A friend of the clerk was driving that way and offered to drop Bill off on her way past. Bill headed out, dressed in shorts and tee shirt, without his passport or cell phone. An hour and a half later night had fallen and he still hadn’t returned to the hotel. The desk clerk assured Nancy that the neighbourhood was safe, and admitted that the pizza place was in fact 4 kilometers away. At this point Bill walked in carrying two pizzas, one for us and one for the desk clerk.
The neighbourhood was loud. Loudspeakers blasting pop music and political ranting alternated with the charming singing of hymns from the local church, and fire crackers. Fire crackers are let off at the most unexpected times and places. Even at our peaceful riverfront campsite in Brazil, a young couple drove in, lit two loud squibs and drove out. Sometime in the last year Capi has developed a dread of fireworks. One flash bang and she is unable to perform her doggy duties on her evening walk. On two occasions she has run away and we fear we may lose her permanently.
Our next stop in Bolivia was at Agua Calientes. We had been told that it was a good, quiet place to stop and enjoy the hot springs. Although it was early and hot, we pulled in set up camp and relax. The area is beautiful. The springs are located in a shallow river. The river is shaded by trees alive with exotic birds. Bubbles of hot water come up out of the sandy bottom and the waters are said to promote health.
But the campsite is surrounded by piles of burning garbage, and garbage is piled up all over. The area is home to a herd of lame donkeys and their foals, and the donkeys eat and scatter the garbage. Even though there is an entrance fee and a charge for camping, there is but one men’s and one ladies toilet and a charge for using them. As a result, the woods are lovely, dark and deep in toilet paper and bad smells.
A group of local citizens showed up for a picnic, and, in South American fashion, cranked up the tunes. Think of Stompin Tom Connors in Spanish. There was another camping facility down the road, so we went for a walk to check it out. It looked pleasant, but nobody was there but the dogs and the chickens. As we contemplated the locked gate, a group of campers drove up. We told them about the loud music at the other campsite and they commiserated.
The Stompin Tom group went home at sunset but the group we had first met at the gate of the closed campsite cranked up their tunes. We packed up in the dark and moved as far away as possible to where the noise was bearable. Seeing we were gone, they increased the volume. In the morning we awoke to find that our new spot that had looked idyllic in the moonlight was a fly infested garbage heap.
The next night we spent in an idyllic little camping/cabanas spot in a tiny town, without music or fireworks. We slept like babies.
Cochabamba was interesting. We stopped at the Casa Compestre, a 5 star hotel that allows camping in their parking lot. http://www.lacasacampestre.com
We took one look at the beautiful gardens and welcoming appearance of the place and decided to get a room. As Cochabamba is infested with huge packs of homeless dogs, and as the owners of the hotel felt sorry for the dogs and fed them, Capi was welcome. There were already about 30 wild dogs running around. The wood construction was beautiful, waxed to perfection by professional staff. Parts of the hotel were empty and in disrepair and our bathroom had seen better days but that did not affect our enjoyment of what is truly a beautiful place. What did affect us were the fireworks nearby that sounded like gunshots and mortar fire. Loud yelling and martial style music blared out and crowds of people yelled and screamed. The ruckus went on until the wee small hours. It seems that the headquarters for a political candidate was located nearby, and he was hosting a 9 day rally. Experiencing a culture does not necessarily mean liking a culture. Capi hated it. We had to stay 2 nights to get her papers for Chile. The candidate’s rally ended before midnight on the second night, and there were fewer fireworks.
As soon as we had the last signature on the last paper, we high-tailed down the highway, bound for the Chilean border.