One of the great advantages of having worked for/been overseas with an international organisation is that you end up with friends all around the world. This is how we came to be in Cochabamba the weekend before last and for a few days longer than our usual rest stops, hanging out with David, based there with Jo’s old employer, Tearfund.
We really enjoyed being able to pick David’s brain about all sorts of aspects of life in Bolivia. The inequality between rich and poor there is stark; the justice system seems terrible and state intervention is variable, so it was wonderful to see volunteers from both the UK and Bolivia helping with projects supporting people in the local community.
We were very grateful for David and his wife Jenn’s welcome, and for the opportunity to see another Tearfund pal, Josie, who happened to be in the area.
Tearfund holds a very dear place in our hearts and, although we haven´t previously written about it, one of the objectives on this journey is to raise money to support its work. Please visit our fundraising site, http://www.justgiving.com/ruleofthumb2, and give as you are able… How about 1p a kilometre?!!
On Wednesday we picked up the trail again and subjected ourselves to another mammoth truck ride, this time to Santa Cruz (nine hours without a loo break, followed by 12 more). We also enjoyed three run-ins with customs officers (lights flashed in the eyes, etc.) before our arrival at 3am, whereupon we were encouraged to sleep for a few hours atop a market stand. So we did.
We revived our souls by following up on a link mentioned to us by Margoth and Ramon, the Bolivians we met way back in Gobernador Gregores, Argentina, on Day Six of this adventure. Their home church happened to be but a 10-minute stroll from our drop-off point, and the kind-hearted pastor, Marcos, and his wife (below) duly took in these two weary travellers and nourished us back to full life. They even gave us their bed for us.
Onwards and eastwards we continued, Brazil in our sights. Several times we noticed some interested-looking white folk: matching blue dungarees for the men; head scarves for the women, and all looking rather sombre. Not wishing to be rude and take a photo, Jo decided to draw an impression to show our next driver.
You may be surprised to hear that this technique was actually successful, and we learnt from our final driver of the week, José-Maria, all about Mennonites and their history. We didn’t quite pin down why they all seem to look so sad, though.
Being spontaneous types, we accepted José-Maria’s advice that Santiago de Chiquitos, a little town about 230km from Brazil, would be a lovely place to spend the weekend. Here we were treated to a thermal river (A WHOLE RIVER OF WARM WATER!!!), toucans hanging out in our garden, and a weather front of tropical storms that thankfully didn’t impact our view from the mirador.
Total number of lifts: 70
Week Nine distance travelled: 983 km
Total distance travelled: 9734 km