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We had said our goodbyes to Ariacha, our favourite receptionist in Hotel del Sol, Tarija. Her command of the English language had made it so much easier to ask simple questions rather than having to find things out for ourselves. It was even more remarkable to learn that she had taught herself English by watching English language films on TV! Perhaps I should start watching Spanish TV. The next logistical challenge was to meet up with our cars. Ours was parked in John’s usual car park when he stays there, two blocks up from the hotel, while Brendan was in the free hotel car park three blocks away. So having paid our bills, we struggled with our heavy luggage through crowded streets with vendors blocking up the pavement, to our respective cars. We were likely first to be ready so had agreed to drive to Brendan & Co’s car. There we learned that we had all been over charged by one night’s stay so a small ‘accounting party’ went back to the hotel to sort matters out – embarrassed faces money was paid back, then on our way out of town.

We had by now had the hang of Tarija and soon found the same way out that we had used on 20th November, across the CondorPass. That time our car had been limping on with a dodgy clutch, but now, with the repairs carried out, the car was fine.

As we passed the stops from last Sunday, I was beginning to feel quite at home in Bolivia.

We made eight plant stops as we drove on twisty tracks (the main road to Villamontes!) enjoyed spectacular views of the Andes and saw some great plants that provided more ticks on my ‘plants seen in habitat’ list. But sadly I need to keep the details for later as there were more car problems, this time for Brendan’s car. They were late turning up at one of the afternoon stops and we assumed that they had made an ‘in-between’ plant stop. When they did arrive, they had a quick chat with John while Wiebe and I were on the hillside photographing cacti, and then they drove off. We learned that they had suffered a broken rear suspension and were now limping on to the next town, Palos Blancos, to see if they could get things fixed.

When we got there, we drove through the village (three streets) and could not see their car, so assumed that they had moved on. After a long drive and a few more stops we arrived in Villamontes. We had left Tarija at c 2,400 m altitude and had now dropped down to 390 m. above sea level. This is the western end of the Chaco that continues in Brazil and Paraguay. With the drop in altitude there was a sharp increase in temperature, with the car’s outside sensor recording 36C as the sun was setting. It was 32 C the following morning, around breakfast time. We were very glad of the rather noisy air-conditioning. Rather worrying, there was still no sign of Brendan & Co.

After we had finished our Brazilian style Churrasco the other car at last arrived. No idea how we missed them in Palos Blancos, where Lucy and Chris had been standing in obvious places on street corners. They had managed to find a Taller Metalurgica – who had managed to weld a bar to prop up the suspension and fix the rear break pipe. The car crawled a bit but their road to Santa Cruz should be easy on asphalt for most of the way. All’s well that ends well, at least for today!

Details of S2434 to S2441 to follow in due course.

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