After leaving Samaipata and returning to Santa Cruz, Aaron and I officially made our goodbyes. He was headed for Salar de Uyuni before heading back north to Ecuador, and I was swept away by my friend, Gillian. A Santa Cruz (and obviously Bolivian) native, we met during High School while she was an exchange student to Colby. We knew each other through tennis and an art class. When she found out that I was in Bolivia she asked me to visit and I was happy to comply. Gillian is still the same friendly and full-of-life girl I remember from seven years ago. After some reminiscing, it was difficult to imagine that it has actually been that long since we have seen each other last.
Adults now (at least in Gillian´s case), she had work during the day so we limited our adventures to the evenings. Though no complaints on my end when considering the typically 90 degree F weather. I was a bit unprepared for the extent of lethargy I experienced from the heat. Her family kindly put me up for the week, fed me nice meals, and let me have my freedom in the house. I spent most of the days lying about while working on her computer, watching movies, or reading my books. It was fantastic having a reliable computer where I could skype with video! It was also quite enjoyable to have such relaxation with access to a computer, as many of you know my Internet access has occasionally been a bit limited.
Gillian showed me around Santa Cruz, the largest and fastest growing city in Bolivia. We went up into the clock tower of the Basilica Menor San Lorenzo Mártir overlooking the main plaza; we walked around the main plaza and along the main avenue; we went to the movies, Jack and Jill; and we wandered through a public contemporary art museum. Gillian also showed me some of the night life of Santa Cruz: her favorite clubs and after hours eateries, while introducing me to her friends. With two of her friends, we even went on a weekend get-away back to Samaipata. We stayed at Samay Wasi Resort in a quaint little cabin. It had four beds, a kitchenette, table, and sitting area. It was perfect. We went back to Amboró National Park, to a different entrance point, to see the giant ferns again. Then we cooked a nice supper and I baked cookies! That night we walked up a hill to El Pueblito, a little resort with excellent views over Samaipata and the night sky. Then after some card playing we laid on the lawn by our cabin to star gaze. The next day we went to breakfast at the organic garden place that makes homemade herbal tea concoctions and delicious black bread. Then we headed back for Santa Cruz and stopped at Laguna Volcan on the way back. This is a very large crater of an extinct volcano. The view is from a cleft in the crater wall and it was stunning. It reminded me of the luscious, green Great Valley from The Land Before Time. I expected to see Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike, fleeing into the valley from the terrors of Sharptooth. To the front of the crater is a fairly new golf resort, picturesquely built around a small lake. There was a wedding celebration while we were there and everyone was dressed in white, sitting around a mirage pool or walking along the perfectly groomed and green lawns. It was quite a site.
After spending a week in Gillian´s life, I decided I should continue on before I overstayed my welcome. One piece of advice for all those eager travelers out there, never underestimate the power of making international friends. On numerous occasions I have benefited from knowing people abroad. After rumors of a potential transportation strike, I hurried back to La Paz. I returned just to grab my friend and head north to a place called Sorata and see some familiar faces at the Wild Rover. I have had fun since returning to the WR, but I am quite ready to move along. As with hostel life, there are a few familiar faces (mostly those amongst the managerial and residential variety) but the majority are new faces. Still a great crowd of people, but now I am in the role of the stranger. However, once a staff never fully a guest… Tomorrow I will set off and say my final goodbyes. Time continues and I need to continue with it.