Santa Cruz

We flew from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz, it took about half an hour (plus check-in an hour before) compared to 8+ hours by bus.
We’d booked a private room at Jodanga Hostel, a backpackers place. The room was nice, in an annex opposite the main building. It lacked the en suite bathroom we’d requested but there were shared facilities with the other three rooms in a the courtyard which seemed fine. All went well till 5 am next morning when we discovered one of the rooms was a dorm sleeping at least 6 people who all returned at once apparently after a long night out!
The hostel was also a really long and uninspiring walk from the town centre.
We’d been hoping to stay the next couple of nights with a Servas host but our contact with him was pretty flaky so we decided to move. Out of the frying pan……..!
Hotel Viru Viru looks pretty smart, nice reception, helpful Canadian receptionist, close to the main square. We booked in – the room would be ready later. The Lonely Planet guidebook was all positive. The reality was a sad, small, dingy room, clean but ancient. The novelty shower, nice and hot, drenched the whole bathroom, toilet seat included. We kept the toilet paper in the wardrobe!
We stuck it out for 3 nights – the helpful Canadian, whose name we never knew, made all the difference.
Santa Cruz is a big, modern, commercial city but, of course, has the traditional main square dominated by the Cathedral, government offices and, in this case, the Irish pub! A great benefit for us was the sub-tropical climate at just 417 metres.
There is lots of expensive residential development going on just outside town, mostly private gated estates for an affluent population.
We didn’t find so much to do here. There were some interesting street corners and a nearby bakery where we sampled savoury delicacies specific to Santa Cruz.
The highlight was a day out at Biocentro Guembe. Privately owned, it seems to have been set up to counteract the effect of the surrounding development on the rich wildlife of the area. There are bird and butterfly domes, an orchid sanctuary, turtles, beehives, an organic garden and two types of monkeys living on an island on a lake. The wildlife is all indigenous to the area and many birds and animals have been rescued locally. We saw a handsome toucan who was temporarily housed in the quarantine area before being released into the bird dome. An education area gives great deal of information on animals and evolution.
There is also a hotel, restaurants and a range of swimming pools to add to the attraction – all in the best possible taste!

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