I awoke early in La Paz and decided to try and not wake the French girls in my room, failing miserably, and headed up to the restaurant of the hostel. Say what you want about the party hostel that is Loki La Paz, but they do a decent breakfast. I resisted the urge for a full English and had an interesting toaster, packed up my things and I think this is where I started to lose everything and headed to the bus station.
The bus stations are more confusing in Bolivia as I had to get my bag weighed and also buy a ticket which covers the cost of using the terminal. I failed to do the latter but luckily Simone came aboard the bus for me to Pat the 2.50bs tax. With the help of some different French girls, there are a lot of French people in Bolivia, I got on the bus sin baño (no toilet) and headed to Cochabamba. I was told the bus was due to arrive at 6pm but that was not to be. It took some time to leave La Paz but after that there is a good road until the rest stop at Caracollo. After that it’s not so fast and they are building a new road through the mountains. I was actually really lucky as the rain hit La Paz, in dry season, and they had snow so the city came to a halt as did the Uyuni tours. It mean that my progress was very slow but I was treated to a beautiful mountain drive at over 4000 metres. Seriously I’m still impressed that they can build roads at this height. Due to the weather the terminal was crazy and we were kicked out of the bus around 8:30pm. The French girls and I banded together, battled through the queued busses into the terminal, through the crowds and jumped in a taxi to the hostel.
I was late to meet Paula, one of Pippa’s friends who I had met the week before at her leaving party. When I mentioned that I was visiting Cochabamba she said she would show me around but I didn’t realise the extend to how amazing she would be. Paula and her friend Sandra collected me from my hostel and ate some local food. It was battered chicken, rice, salsa, friend potatoes and it was huge. After we walked to a bar and met Paula’s other friends before heading to a club in a taxi. Four of us in the back and three in the front. It’s not uncommon to see two people in the front seat and I can’t remember the last time I wore a seatbelt in a car or any form of transport. You have to just trust on Bolivia! I made it back to the hostel around 3am but most people seem to work on Saturday mornings so I had nothing to complain about.
I hung around the hostel in the morning and had some interesting political conversations with a Chinese girl who lives in Australia. This is one reason I love travelling is meeting people from around the world and finding out we are all basically the same. But it’s good to find out others opinions. Afterwards I met up with Paula again one her shift had ended and she took me out for Pique Macho. Im not sure if I mentioned that Cochabamba is the food capital of Bolivia and if you like meat then you are in for a treat. Pique Macho and is delicious, the plate is intended to be for two and featured sausage, chips, chicken, calamari, beef and some vegetables. Legend has that it was invented when some drunks entered a cafe at closing time and demanded food. The owner stuck for ideas just threw together everything she had. It was actually too much for us to eat and Paula asked to take the remaining away which we gave to a mother and her children. I think it’s important to remember that there are some really poor people here and it’s a side of Bolivia I’m not sharing so much in this blog.
Watching over Cochabamba is the statue of Cristo de la Concordia. I’m sure I’ve read that is is bigger than the statue in Rio but don’t quote me on that. To get to the top you can climb a tonne of steps, but I’ve read and Paula told me it can be dangerous, or you can take a teleférico. This is much older than the brand new cable cars in La Paz but through it’s slow creaking I think it has much more charm. Sadly it was a pretty grey day which is unusual for Cochabamba which at a mere 2500 metres has a much warmer climate than La Paz. But there is nothing you can do about the clouds and I’m sure the city is much more beautiful in the sunlight. Actually I know it is. Stay tuned.
This statue trumps the one in Rio again because you can climb up inside. And that is exactly what I did.
I went back to the hostel to rest and booked a flight back to London, I won’t call it home just yet as I’m not sure that it will continue to be, and a flight back to La Paz giving me a deadline to see everything in this part of Bolivia.
Later that evening I met with Paula and her friend Paula, finally not a new name to remember, and we had more meat for dinner. I’m not sure exactly what we ordered but it consisted of two giant sausages, a huge steak and chips. I couldn’t finish the dish and we were sharing. Bolivia has been hit by the craft ale big too and here I was able to sample some more ales. After we tried to go to a club that had karaoke but as no one was there we bypassed and went to another huge club with a big outdoor party playing all the raggaton hits. As I’ve said before Bolivians Like to drink and this is great. When we arrived everyone seemed fairly sober but this changed as the night went on and a big drink here is Fernet and coke, same as Argentina. I can’t stand the stuff so stuck to beer and had a really fun night dancing away. I’m starting to learn the lyrics to the songs even if I don’t understand them.
The next morning I was woken early by the annoying US engineers who seemed to have overtaken the hostel and really can’t handle their drink. I decided to take Paula up on her suggestion and tour the city. I snapped a few shots from the balcony in the hostel and these would turn out to be my last. As soon as I left the hostel my lens stopped focussing and would only take pictures in manual. I don’t use manual and I soon discovered that I had an auto focus only lens. You can see the shots at the bottom of this section.
I desperately googled and sulked for a good 30mins knowing I wanted to go to Torotoro which is known for its beauty. I was already annoyed as my washing came back missing a pair of pants and I couldn’t 100% remember if they were there or if I’d left them behind and so started a week or more of losing items and things breaking. But after realising there was nothing I could do and reception told me there was a camera repair shop I decided to stop being a grump and actually I was in a good mood. I remembered the woman from yesterday and her children and realised that it’s just a camera and I can get it fixed. I think this is the biggest change in me. Those of you who know me well will know I’m kinda a glass half empty kinda guy. But no longer. The people here have inspired me to change my attitude and I will no longer feel helpless about anything. I’ll take the proactive approve, be kind, happy and fight for everything I believe in. Wow that turned a little heavy.
I had a little walk around town and you can see the photos later. But before that I will talk about the BBQ. I met with Paula and we had some fried chicken, it’s the kinda thing I would do myself before a bbq so great minds. And then went shopping. This is the meat you can buy and there is a lot of it here. We met up with Sandra and had some alcoholic ice cream before meeting the others and being driven to Pairumani parque.
When we arrived Sandra took me on a walk to the waterfalls. You can see the photos are not quite so good but I shouldn’t complain as my iPhone has a decent camera still.
When we arrived at the falls there was a little alcove, I’m not sure that’s the right word, you can stand on with a drop either side. So I did this to prove that I’m not scared of heights. I was still scared but less scared than in the past.
After we returned the others had kinda done all the cooking so I got to eat more meat. They had also brought some chicha which is a home brewed drink. I could tell that because it was in a reused Pepsi bottle. It’s the drink of choice here and works perfectly well. I had one cup and it was horrible. I was enticed into trying another and the second glass was better but after two nights of drinking I couldn’t face a third so called it quits.
We packed up and headed back to the city and to the Parque de la Familia which seems to have a show each night of fountains dancing to music. I should add the the next day was Día del Amor y Amistad, which loosely translates as friendship day. I think it’s something we should celebrate in the UK as it’s really nice and as it was on a Monday everyone was celebrating this weekend.
I also had my photo taken with this mask on. I’m still not sure why I said yes.
The next day I took my camera to the repair shop and with my bad Spanish arranged to collect it the next day. Resigned to spending two more days in the city I decided to make the most of things and explore and update my blog admin. Although the WiFi at the hostel was really slow. This gave me a lot of free time so I wondered around the city as Paula had suggested. I also met a really nice British couple Alice and Christie who it turns out know my cousin Anna. I kept running into them and we ate dinner in the hostel.
I also made fronds with Leah, from North Carolina who had an in-depth knowledge of Bolivian politics, its what she’s doing her masters in after all, as well as the world in general. We had a lot of in-depth chats and I really enjoyed finding out more about the world.
The next day Alice and Christie took me to the camera shop and I was told there was no way to fix it as the lens was broken. I was left a little confused as I was told there was nowhere in the city to get a new lens. I accompanied them to a museum which was closed and then after spotting a restaurant with WIFI I grabbed lunch and messaged all my Bolivian friends for help. I was sent to a few shops but whilst I found new cameras I couldn’t find a lens. Brad was also amazing and looked at the possibility of shipping a lens out to me. I resigned myself waiting until I got back to La Paz as there is a Nikon shop there. Brad would also have to ship the lens to La Paz.
So I decided to go to Torotoro the next day, two days late and this ladies and gentlemen proves there is no such thing as luck. In the hostel I met two people who were headed to Torotoro the next day and we decided to go together, but this will be the next post. But I’m not going to leave this with a sad ending. On the way back from Torotoro I received a message from Vary which was a pin in a google map. It was deep into the south market zone which is not supposed to be safe but k was told there were cameras there. I meant didn’t go but it was close to the bai station and I needed to buy a ticket. So there I went and showed the shop keeper my camera and he sold me a lens from a new camera. It looked as legit as I can tell and works really well. And below are the test photos I took and you can see how beautiful the city is. I really liked Cochabamba and it was an interesting and personally defining week.