Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Aug 26th, 2002.-- Leaving Bolivia

Credit to District

-- Story by Erin --

Tuesday Aug 20; Chris and I decide to return to Santa Cruz after a morning visit to the El Fuerte museum. We say goodbye to everyone in Samaipata, which we think will be our final goodbye… Arrive SC in the early afternoon and meet Gretchen in town. She escorts us to her lovely home, which looks at first sight like a tropical resort (no joke!) Expat life has its advantages and this is definitely one of them! As we enter their front gate, Leo their big baby Boxer greets us. Later Gretchen gives us the grand tour of the house, shaped like a pyramid, the manicured grounds, the pool, the outside bar/entertainment area, tennis court, and soccer pitch complete with lights! The land outside their gates is undeveloped land which contains wild deer, many pairs of nesting owls, loads of Egrets (those white graceful birds with long legs) and a Tapir (looks like an anteater with the body of a hippo.) What a place! Daniel works for one of the oil companies, Repsol, and Gretchen teaches English. Their warm hospitality included great meals, cable TV (yeah!!!), taking us shopping in town and generally making us feel very much at home.

On Thursday we said one final goodbye to Daniel and Gretchen and headed back into the center of town. We got another late start and decided to spend one last night in the city and shove off to the Mission District early the next morning. We saw Duncan, Claire, Kirsty, Carl, Mhairi and Milli (returned to SC to run some more errands) and Roy (Australian, another volunteer from the park) again in the city and agreed to meet them all for one last dinner together. Try as we might after dinner we couldn’t find a good (and cheap) pub so we ended up calling it a night around midnight. We finally did say one final goodbye to everyone then.

Friday, Aug 23: We stop for gas at one of the dozens of gas stations leading out of Santa Cruz – there are more cars here than at the other gas stations, and soon we discover why: the attendants are all very attractive young ladies, all wearing short-shorts and showing cleavage; imagine Hooters going into the gas business. This was not a one-day promotion, but an ongoing business theme. We head north out of SC and after only 70kms, the asphalt disappears (we were told the 300km ride to Conception was paved). We wind through a few small villages, along the sandy shores of a river, and eventually find the barge/ferries that are used to take vehicles across. What makes these so unusual is not that they have no engine, but that the captain takes off his socks, shoes, and trousers then pushes the boat through the water!

We eventually get back on the asphalt and make our way to San Javier and Conception. The road is lovely and winds north through patches of dense jungle cut open occasionally by cattle ranches with Brahma bulls and water buffalo. It all reminds us of India. This whole area in the north is well known for its beautiful Jesuit missions and is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. San Javier is the oldest and most well-preserved of the missions, although they have all been recently restored. They are known for their beautiful carved wooden columns, roofs and balustrades. The statues inside are also made of wood, and there are little angelic cherubs everywhere carved from wood. The rest of the church is typically painted with curly strokes using orange and brown paint, complementing the earthen tones in the environment around them. The three we saw (including in Conception and San Ignacio as well) all have a huge bell tower adjacent to the church (as opposed to attached to it) made of wood columns and with a big clock. Inside the churches, many of the paintings depict the life of the local Indians in the 1700’s.

Saturday, August 24: 180 kilometers on a good red dirt/clay road from Conception to San Ignacio. We stay in a nice little guesthouse run by a Swiss woman, Christina and her German husband Horst. Included is a good hot shower, typically clean Swiss style atmosphere, delicious dinner, and breakfast in the morning. As there’s no official border post at the border we get our passports stamped out of Bolivia here. They tell us we will get our carnets stamped out in San Vicente, a small pueblo on the way to the border. We’ll see…

Sunday, August 25: On the road by 8am to beat the heat, it is 300 kilometers of red clay to the border of San Matais. About 110 km into the trip, we reach San Vicente, and the office of the Aduana (Customs). The customs officer tells us we need to continue to San Matais (where we planned to exit Bolivia), and that the Aduana there will stamp our carnets out. We asked if they would be operating on Sunday afternoon, and he assured us they would. The route we were on runs west to east, less than a kilometer below the border with Brasil. Because of this, we encounter a military checkpoint every 30-50kms, and we must stop to have our papers checked. This became quite aggravating as the temperature ticked higher and higher and the bikes threatened to over-heat. I think the police were more bored than interested if we had done anything illegal. Around 3pm, we reached San Matais, the 5th dusty town of the day, and eventually found the office of the Aduana. The customs agents there informed us that if we want an exit stamp for our carnets, we should have done that back in San Vicente (190kms back!). We pleaded with him to help, and the young man shrugged his shoulders and told us he couldn’t help us – although we were clearly at the office of the Aduana! We asked where his supervisor was, and he said in town, but couldn’t (wouldn’t?) give us directions to his house or the man’s last name! Hot and exasperated, we changed our remaining Bolivian currency into Brazilian Reals (at a very poor rate), and left Bolivia.


Hooter's at the gas pumps in Santa Cruz

Our little human powered ferry

The bell tower and inner courtyard of the mission church of Conception

The Church of San Ignacio

Inside the church in Conception

Notice the beautiful columns.  Inside and out, they are all made of a single log of wood.

A statue in the central plaza showing the Jesuit's influence in the area

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