Sunday, October 30, 2011


After spending time in the workshop in Cochabamba., and overnighting at the airport, it was time to leave. Anok & Bram's problems were resolved, but the mechanic had no clues about ours. Oh well, such is life. Time to head on through yet more mountains to Santa Cruz. At only 50% power they certainly feel massive. We do a detour to the Inca ruins at Incallajta. Our Lonely Planet says they are Bolivia's Machu Picchu - hardly!
Anok is feeling unwell so they stay beside a river to camp, and we head on. It is time to get a few miles under our belts as we are nearing the end of our trip and Uruguay is still a long way away. At this point the road worsens considerably and we really wish we had chosen the alternative route. The mountains are massive and we can't wait for low altitudes. Mind you the scenery is amazing, with huge drop offs at the side of the road - not a guard rail in sight. There are loads of grotty villages clinging to the hillsides. Their gardens look pretty amazing though, clinging to the hillsides, most with sprinklers going.
We finally reach the touristy town of Samaipata where we stop for lunch. There isn't much to keep us there, so we continue our drive, finally reaching Santa Cruz in grey rainy weather, after 2 days hard driving. We use the airport for camping, but on busing into the city we discover that there are wide streets and plenty of places to park. After spending a few hours dodging rain (unsuccessfully) we decide enough is enough, and we continue towards the border.
So far in Bolivia we have managed to purchase  diesel at the local price of 3.72 Bob (approx 50c per litre), but know that we can be charged a lot more as foreigners. As we near the border all the stations want to charge us 8.9 Bob, so we reluctantly put some in - just in case!
We finally reach Villamontes and turn off towards the border at Ibibobo. If we hadn't been reliably informed that this is the way to go, we would have turned back. After about 10km we are detoured off the tarsealed road (it is actually blocked off with dirt & logs at 500m intervals - for no apparent reason) and have to drive on a sandy rutted track. Ages later ( we actually camped on the tarsealed road) we reach Ibibob, which is an army post. After checking through we have to stop to see the police, and finally immigration to get our passports stamped. Then another long drive to the border. There are drums across the road and the office is deserted. After waiting 30mins we think maybe we will move the drums to drive through, only to see a ute coming from Bolivia towing a car. Both the Bolivian & the Paraguyan guys are in the vehicle. They wander over to the office to relieve us of our Bolivian vehicle import licence and issue us with a Paraguyan one. We still haven't legally entered Paraguay yet. It is over 200kms to Mariscal Estgarribia before we can get our passports stamped. This would be our longest distance border crossing yet. Needless to say we couldn't do it all in 1 day, because once we got onto the Gran Chaco road (the main road through this part of the country) the tarseal deterioated into what we call "The Dancing Highway" because of the massive potholes we have to dodge. GR2 has to dance for miles and miles very slowly at 20km per hr.
It was a relief to finally get to our first destination here - the Mennonite settlements at Filadefia & Loma Plata. These are slap bang in the centre of the Gran Chaco - an inhospitable wilderness - flat as a tack, with lots of prickly, scruffy bush. A fine place to start a new life. They have managed to set up farms, and we are pleased to see their impressive supermarket stocked with lots of dairy products and German breads and sausages. We even spent time at their very informative museo. Couldn't read the signs, but the helpful guy there explained the full Menno story. It must have been a shock to move from Canada here. They aptly named it " The Green Hell".
Anyway time to move on along the Dancing Highway and turn east towards Concepion, crossing massive areas of swampy land - the Wet Chaco. There were patches of good road (very few), patches of roadworks where we were detoured onto a track, and patches with many more potholes. We finally arrived at Concepion- a scruffy town on the Rio Paraguay, then headed further east, and then south towards Ascunion. Miracously the road was great. No more potholes. We passed lots of flat fertile farm land before again crossing swamps. I guess this area was like the Pantanal many years ago.
At Ascunsion we drove straight to the Botanical Gardens as we had heard that we could camp there. A perfect place to stay and explore the city. One day was enough. What more can I say! Another scruffy, tired city, past it's heyday. Time to move on......
Adios....only one more blog to come on this trip

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