Big Spender

Fri, 11 Apr 2008 10:39:11 +0000

Swing and a Miss Index Back in Sao Paulo

It's a very strange feeling to have been spending weeks doing things like half-kill myself walking to a bus station to avoid a 10 boliviano taxi fare, and then spend 2000 bolivianos on a single plane journey. And many people reading this blog will be keen to point out that the former is completely insane. I acknowledge the truth of this. But nevertheless it's part and parcel of the third world travel experience. Experiencing what life is like at ground level means, at least sometimes, spending money like it really is spent at ground level. But of course, in order to get there in the first place, you have to spend like a rich foreigner.

The mission for today was entirely to get out of La Paz. Sorry, no touristing today. I ordered my customary fruit salad and yoghurt for breakfast. This one took 45 minutes to arrive. Yeah, it's just a hostel, but still. The Cuzco Loki served free breakfast from 6AM to 1PM. In La Paz it's 8AM to 10AM. And the La Paz hostel is pretty crappy and run-down. It's amazing how different the two are.

At 9 I was down at the travel agent to figure out my plane ticket back to Brazil. I was hoping to fly to Rio instead of Sao Paulo, but that was all booked out. But they did manage to book a plane ticket to Sao Paulo, although it's a pretty inconvenient itinerary. First a flight to Santa Cruz at 7 in the evening, followed by a flight from Santa Cruz to Sao Paulo, stopping at Campo Grande, at the horrifying time of 5 in the morning. And all up that cost me about EUR 250. I guess that's OK, but set against what I've been spending on travel recently, It makes me choke a bit.

So I wasted the day catching up on the news and relaxing. It certainly was nice having my own room for a change. I stretched out my occupation of that to the checkout time of 1PM. Lunch was at a burger joint and ice cream parlour in the main street, an odd combination apparently unique to La Paz. I had a chicken burger completo, which turned out to include fried egg and bacon and be toweringly tall. First time I've had to give up and eat a hamburger with a knife and fork.

Once again my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I ordered a rather rich brownie for desert, despite being already full enough. Delicious, but a bit much.

So eventually I made my way to the airport. Once again I stumped up the 50 bolivianos for a taxi. It's a complicated travel day, and that makes it a good idea to spend money to minimise the stress factor. But it's still hard for me to spend 50 bolivianos when I could spend about five on a bus. Oh well.

It was a ludicrously short flight to Santa Cruz. I know that we're not supposed to take such short flights because they generate so much carbon emissions, but I have to wonder how that compares with a bus bumping its way over bad roads for ten hours. I must admit, watching the land zoom by underneath us made me kinda glad to have stumped up the cash.

We landed at 8, so that gave me seven hours before I had to be back at the airport. That's about the most inconvenient timing possible. I had decided to splurge even more cash on a hotel room for the evening, in the hope of getting at least some sleep. It turns out there's no airport hotel in Santa Cruz as promised by the travel agent, so I had to spend another 50 bolivianos for a taxi into town. You're killing me here people! I was a little bit frantic as I tried to check in and organise a taxi for 3:30 in the morning with the guy at the desk, because I really wanted to get a reasonable amount of sleep for my money. But after a glorious shower, and with the air conditioning on full blash, I got to bed at half past nine, not a bad effort. Five hours sleep should be good enough for the day.

I panicked slightly when I got up and no-one was at the front desk as promised. It was pissing down with rain but I went out into the street to see if I could see a taxi. No go. But after ringing the front doorbell a few times, someone finally emerged, yawning but keen to help. So everything went according to plan, and I ended up at the airport not too early and not too late. As usual, I'm astonished that this complicated plan actually worked.

After paying my 25 US$ airport fee (ouch!), buying some random deep-fried things and a bunch of bolivian chocolate to use up my remaining bolivianos, I successfully boarded the plane. So here I am, watching the twisting rivers of the Pantanal slide by in the early morning light. The plane's mostly empty, and we just got a sandwich, so for my money I'm actually having a pretty comfortable time.

I'll be in Canada in a week, so perhaps I should get used to civilised, expensive living. But I certainly am going to miss freshly squeezed grapefruit juice on a street corner for a couple of coins.

Swing and a Miss Index Back in Sao Paulo