The flight is long, perhaps too long. I am exhausted by the time we touch down in Santa Cruz.
Going through security is a journey in itself. I could have travelled to France from London in the time it takes me to get to my aunts on the other side. The airport is chaos; bags everywhere, people trying to join the queue from every angle. But the people are polite when they argue and agree to disagree on the subject of where the queue is.
The first thing that I notice about Santa Cruz is the heat. You cannot not notice it. It is unbearable and it forces me to take a nap as soon as I get to my aunt´s. It is so warm here I tan within a matter of days. People here walk around with hats permanently stuck to their heads, and umbrellas are used for anything but rain. I am told that before I arrived it rained for 14 continuous hours but there is no sign of rain while I am there.
Calls are made from internet cafes here because of the price of calls at home, so my first trips out are to the internet café; a tiny room with phone booths and computers whose keyboards have no letters on so it takes you ages to type if you are me and cannot touch type.
There is not a lot to Santa Cruz in the form of touristy things to see, so I travel for two and a half hours out of the city to some ruins in Samaipata. The road there is all dust and clay and anything but straight. When I get there though, the journey proves to have been worth it as the ruins are incredible and I take pictures as if the place were to be pulled down. It is a shortish walk around the ruins and the views are stunning.
The second thing I notice about Santa Cruz are the stray and wild dogs everywhere. I am a little weary of them at first but by the third day I am used to them and accept them as a part of Bolivia. I feel bad for the dogs and have to force myself not to feed them.
The markets here go on endlessly and are packed with shoppers. In the market we go to you can buy anything from knives; which are laid down on the table for anyone to pick up, to food, clothes and toys. I am a little uneasy when I see a cholita selling dogs as she picks them up carelessly as if they meant and were worth nothing. The attitude to animals here is different, dogs are meant for the outside and are fed scraps.
Some typical Bolivian food on sale at a food market in Santa Cruz
There is some really bad housing here where some of the indigenous people live but there are also some mansions that look like they belong to Brad and Angelina near the river.
Examples of indigenous housing in Santa Cruz
Las Casas en las colinas del Urubú: The houses in Urubú, a residential area where houses cost at least 2 million dollars each
Santa Cruz is like that; everything at odds, people argue but politely and the maids once treated terribly are seen as friends almost, though they would never eat with the family even now.
As I get ready to leave for La Paz I sense that there must be more to the city than appears.