28.05.2011 - 01.05.2011 20 °C
We spent only a couple of days in Paraguay before catching a flight from Asuncion to Cochabamba, Bolivia. I wish we had more time in Paraguay, but we made the most of it by couchsurfing in Asuncion with Javi- a laid back Paraguayan with a wonderful garden house in central Asuncion. I think couchsurfing was fitting for Paraguay because there are no real tourist attractions in the country, and especially in Asuncion. Our favorite site in the city is a statue of a disposed dictator (Stoessner) that was crushed, then encased in concrete with only parts of his head and hands now visible. Its fitting to the turbulant history of the country.
Upon entry to Bolivia I had to wait in the penalty box while all the other passengers proceeded with a simple stamp in the passport. After immigration officials finished admitting everyone, I had to prove that I had enough money to stay here, show an *invitation* from a hotel, swear that I didnt have relatives here, and then swear that I wouldnt try to stay in the country illeagally and search for work, show proof of a yellow fever immunization, provide 2 passport sized photos, then pay $135 USD. Can anybody fill me in on the steps to get a German passport? The good news is that this is the last visa I need in S America.
We spent a day and a half in Cochabamba (2500m) acclimatizing, then moved on to La Paz, which is one of the highest cities in the world. We were both short of breath, but this is a pretty mild symptom of such a high altitude. Its already the highest Mirja has ever been. Despite the difficulties and cost of getting into the country, I am very happy to be here. Its a world away from Argentina and Chile. The people are dirt poor and the beggars and babies laying on the street are noticable, but with a little precaution, it doesnt feel really dangerous. Its also good to take advatage of the low low prices and eat really nice food. In La Paz we had Indian and Mexican food on the same day. I think buying food and preparing it yourself is more expensive than eating out. After dinner we chanced upon some kind of local festival. May 1-3rd is a holiday here, so it must have been kicking off the holidays with a kind of parade with locals wearing brightly colored traditional costumes with much dancing and merry making. This was a lucky discovery since we noticed that we were the only white people in sight.
Our main destination in Bolivia is Rurrenabaque, which is a little amazon jungle town 400km northeast of La Paz. Even though its only 400km (270 miles), the bus ride can take 24 hours on dirt and mud roads, so we opted for the 45 min flight. We are both happy to be in one place for the next week. From here we will do a pampas tour and a jungle tour. This is one of the most bio-diverse regions in S America. The pampas is an open area of grasslands and rivers teeming with wildlife like pink dolphins and anacondas. The jungle is part of the amazon basin. Not far away are 6000m high snowy peaks. Again, we find ourselves in a completely different world from Cochabamba and La Paz. Those are both big cities at altitide with all the problems of 3rd world cities. Rurre is a very small town, mostly serving tourists, but its also at low down in the jungle, so humidity and bugs play a big role. Yesterday we were wearing all our clothes and struggling to breath in the thin mountain air, today we are buying mosquito repellent and making sure there are no holes in the mosquito netting.