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South America - Bolivia and Peru Trip in December 2003


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The day after we arrived in Santa Cruz we took a drive toward the town of Samaipata located about 2 hours
 southwest of Santa Cruz.  Not far out of Santa Cruz we stopped at this small suburb and roadside market.

Bolivia's unit of currency is the boliviano.
We found that our bolivianos stretch a long way: A quaint hostel room with private bathroom, $35;
a four-course lunch for one at our hotel, $2.50; a three-course dinner for one, $6 to $8 US.

Refined cocaine is highly illegal in Bolivia but the coca leaf (sold by the kilogram above) is chewed daily by many Bolivians
and is even venerated by the indigenous peoples.  Mama Coca is revered as the daughter of Pachamama, the earth
mother, and coca is considered a gift to the people used to drive evil forces from their homes and fields.
The Indian locals make sacrifices of coca leaves when planting or mining to ensure a good harvest or lucky strike.
 The yatiri (traditional healers) use them in their healing rituals, and in some remote areas the leaves are often used in place
of money.  Today, nearly all campesinos and cholos, men and women alike, take advantage of its benefits.  The Indians
chew about 30 to 35 leaves at a time, and once chewed into a pulpy mess  they swallow the bitter-tasting juice
which causes a numbing sensation to the mouth and throat. Used therapeutically, coca serves as an appetite
suppressant and a central nervous system stimulant.  It is often used to lessen the effects of altitude,  eliminate the
need for a lunch break or just chewed as a social pastime.  Among Bolivian miners, the 'coca break' is an institution.

The markets are an ideal place to observe the rhythms of local life.  Here the townspeople sell all manner of  practical items from
fresh fruits and vegetables, health care products, cassette tapes, electronics, household products and even washtubs and sinks.

Our first obstacle we greet on the road to Samiapata is this long delay at the toll booth.
It's hard to know exactly what is wrong but there seems to be some kind of problem on the road ahead.

Here, it is common to see the backs of trucks packed with local people traveling to their chosen destinations

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