Day 27: San Ignacio over Concepcion to Santa Cruz – the Jesuit Mission Circuit, The Gasoline Dilemma and Highway to Heaven

I was getting up early in the morning, enjoying my breakfast and was looking forward to hit the road again. Joakko and his friends told me that the road between San Ignacio and Santa Cruz is a completely newly paved heaven for motorbikes. And how right they were! The asphalt was perfectly in shape and one curve followed the next in change with hilly ups and downs. Luckily the did this… otherwise I would have another 400 km stretch of arena in front of me… what a horrible thought which I suppressed immediately again.

Since the windshield got removed I suddenly was driving a naked bike and I highly enjoyed the wind during todays drive – Freedom! Freedom! What an amazing drive, what an amazing road and landscape! I was so happy again to be alive… enjoying every single moment.

However, before hitting the road again I had to fill up my bike with gasoline and found a petrol station at the exit of town where already 20 motorbikes and cars were queuing up. As an international vehicle holder you need to pay double the price of the gasoline and as a gringo with a new BMW it is almost impossible to get the local price of the holy liquid. I was really practicing my patience… As there was just one car still in front of me, I knew it would be my turn. I was enjoying the moment too easy when the 4×4 car opened the back of his car. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the whole  trunk packed with large gasoline containers, arghhhhhhh. Ok…ok… be PATIENT, LOL. Thereafter, it was indeed my turn. Operation camouflage shall begin. This time I learned from the past and covered my face with my sunglasses and my motorbike scarf, making it impossible to see my white skin and blue eyes. I just gave the guy a sign to fill up the tank (it is basically waving the hand from one side of the throat to the other) and did not say a single word and VOILA… Gasoline for the local price, YEAH! I was beating the system! However, this apparently only worked where petrol stations were extremely busy. At less crowded ones people would still be checking my “plaqua”, the registration plate and I had to pay the double. Upsettingly, they always ask for my passport in order to document all the details. It is just such a torture to deal with this issue and is everytime challenging my peace of mind. Another time they would only give me petrol filled up in a plastic bag and would not fill up my tank. Unbelievable…

During the day I was crossing the so called Las Misiones Jesuiticas region which is home of Bolivias’s richest cultural and historic accomplishments.  The Jesuit Missions are the last preserved missions in the Southern Cone being declared a “World Cultural Heritage Site” by UNESCO in 1991. The beautiful churches are located directly at the local plazas, which are an oasis for relaxing and reading a book under the shade of the many palm trees. Besides this, there is really nothing else worth exploring – the houses and streets are nothing special in my humble opinion. Of course, there are some more museums to check out in case of being more interested in the history. I had not much time left and was satisfied with exploring just the churches and the squares.

In the town of Concepcion, I decided to make a break and had a phenomenal lunch in a historical restaurant which had a hidden garden in the back with a couple of tables and chairs. I highly enjoyed my break before heading further down the road to my final destination of the day: Santa Cruz.

The second half of the ride was unfortunately not so pleasant anymore and I had to deal with a lot of traffic and strange small towns where lots of street vendors were coming together to sell fruits and other agricultural products.

In the evening I arrived in the hotel, which Hernan recommended me to check in. Previously, I was canceling the hostel I was booking before. Hernan mentioned that the area is not really safe and I followed his suggestion gladly. The hotel was located 5 minutes away from the main square of town and had a garage in the backyard. Security is the most important fact when choosing a place to stay, especially in larger towns like Santa Cruz where criminality is a daily issue people have to learn to live with.

My friend Fabi who was growing up in Santa Cruz was enthusiastically giving me recommendations where to go, what to eat and what to consider in town which I highly appreciated. This evening however, I only enjoyed a hot shower (which was in reality only warm) and had an early evening again. The long day was demanding its tribute again…

San Ignacio to Santa Cruz