Sights galore

5 October 2005
8:05 PM

We returned today from our five day trip to Santa Cruz and the Jesuit missions in Eastern Bolivia. Our visit was filled with all sorts of unusual images and experiences. In the next few days, I’ll share a few pictures and stories. My hope is that they’ll provide some good snapshots of the trip and they’ll be easier to digest than a single, massive narrative of every sight we saw.

Green foliage

And without further ado…we flew to the Santa Cruz airport last Saturday and boarded our tour bus. Once we left the city limits and entered the countryside, the real sights began. Santa Cruz is a semi-tropical area, so there was bright green, almost jungle-like foliage all around. In a five-second interval, I saw a cow, sheep, pig, duck, and rooster walking on the side of the road. There weren’t any fences; whether intentional or not, these were free range animals. The roadside ditches also help smoldering heaps of rubbish—waste management.

About an hour into our bus ride, we approached a railroad bridge, the 1800m Rio Grande. The bridge is unique because it only has room for traffic in one direction. In other respects, the bridge is rather like most bridges. For example, in the fact that traffic wants to cross the bridge in two directions. The solution to this problem is to change the direction of traffic every half hour or so.

When we arrived, traffic wasn’t going our way, so we waited. As we waited, a dozen children and women approached our bus, holding their wares up high for us to see. It was quite a sight: there were little kids with sandpails filled with sodas, people with baskets of bisquits, and even a woman with a dried filet of fish. Being approached by ware vendors young and old was a continual and often saddening theme of the trip.


I’ll end with a sight from the Italian restaurant where we ate lunch twice (it’s run by an Italian American and his Bolivian wife). At the restaurant there was a pair of toucans. Though I have been to several zoos, I have never been so close to a toucan. The blue eyes, blue feet, and colored beak looked like they belong in a Technicolor cartoon instead of the real world. The beak looks like someone just glued it to the bird’s face.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the real core of our trip: the restored Jesuit mission churches.