Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

Maybe it’s just luck or randomness or maybe it’s a result of my getting more and more comfortable travelling but it seems to me each country I visit is more open and more friendly towards me than all the ones I visited before on this trip.


On my second day in Bolivia I took a bus out of the city a ways to see if I could spot the sloths that live high in the rainforest around Santa Cruz, I never spotted any sloths but I hitched a ride back to town with a local guy who, despite us not sharing a common language, INSISTED we were going to communicate.

With some help from Google Translate we spent 45 minutes getting to know each other. He told me there have been 200 coup attempts in Bolivia over the years and he doesn’t ever remember a proper government but he is proud of many things here. He promised me Bolivians would be the most friendly people I would meet. He brought up the financial situation in Argentina and expressed his hopes that the people there will be ok.

Typical Bolivian street, the building on the corner dates to the 1750’s

To hear a man from Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, express such heartfelt concern for the situation for Argentinians, who have a much, much larger economy and on average 4x the personal purchasing power, was extremely touching. When I hopped out he held my hand and wished me the best and told me I would be safe here, even at night.

The central square in the middle of the city

I have had similar experiences with multiple other people I have met so far in Santa Cruz, friendly locals talking to me in the central square, two super friendly guys at the coffee place I’ve been going to. I’m loving being here, seriously. The city is warm and calm and easy and has very few tourists and I’ve pretty much done nothing here, just wander around, popping in and out of local markets, confusing the ladies at the market food stalls with my Spanish, it’s just great. I get laughed at a lot which has always been a sign of being in a good place.

Amazing papaya and she had real lemons, uncommon in South America

The town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra has been here for over 500 years ago but until recently Santa Cruz was a provincial town in central Bolivia, far from more well known cities in the Andes like the more well known capital cities, Sucre and La Paz. About 25 years ago the incredibly rough roads around Santa Cruz were widened and paved and trips that used to take days of hard travel were now less than 10 hours on smooth roads. This simple change suddenly meant Santa Cruz was at a perfect location, just the right distance from everywhere to everywhere else. Within two decades the population quadrupled and now Santa Cruz is the largest metro area in Bolivia, about 2.5 million people.

I have no goals here, nothing to get down or to do or experience. I need to do laundry, change money, buy new socks, etc, it’s a full plate for me.

I never saw any sloths but I found this birdie!

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