I've been travelling by road for the past three days. I left Lima Thursday evening, arrived in Arequipa at noon the next day and from there caught a direct bus to the border town of Desaguadero going through Puno. I arrived around 22h and the border had closed at 19h, so after walking around town and watching the nocturnal end of carnival celebrations, I slept the night and crossed the border at its opening on Saturday. After a quick bus into sprawling La Paz, I taxied to the terminal and immediately took the first bus out to Cochabamba and then managed to hop on to the next bus Santa Cruz just as it was exiting its dock late in the evening. I've now spent the day in hot and humid tropical Santa Cruz and in an hour will catch my 18-20h bus into the Chaco region of western Paraguay where I'll hopefully get to meet with an old Italian friend from Spain.
I apologise for the bad pictures, my camera coordination seems to have suffered a bit in transit. Santa Cruz is an odd town, clearly split along socioeconomic and racial lines. Once known for being a cocaine trade hub, it now operates on its oil and natural gas extractions. Its capitalist fervour has led to strong opposition to president Evo Morales' policies and even spawned its own separatist movements. I split my day roughly three ways between wandering through the colonnaded historical centre, the chaotic charming mess of the La Ramada Sunday market in the city's southwest and walking along long straight roads in the upper-class Equipetrol neighbourhood.
Omnipresent flashy 4x4's remind you this is old-money ranching and mining land. There is also an absurd concentration of European-like large coffee, ice-cream and cake shops around the central square. Cruçeños are an interesting mix of people, showing from what I can tell varying degrees of lower-land Guarani, altiplano Aymara and colonial Anglo-Saxon European blood. Their mix of Chilean and Andean intonation mixed with Argentinean conjugation (vos) makes for a strange way of speaking. I abstained from indulging too much in the absurd quantities of fried sausages, fish, guts, and pork and beef meat being served everywhere street-side, but I did have two very refreshing drinks: peach-pit essence with iced sugar water and coconut chicha! I was also impressed by the plentiful red-ripe and cheap papayas, as well as the numerous overflowing grape and peach stands. My bus leaves in 20 minutes and they've just started playing Se eu te pego in the internet parlour, write you soon.