15 – 22 July
On my way further south I decide to drop by in La Paz again for the weekend. When I get in I realize that something is about to happen as roads are being closed and things are being set up on the streets. It appears to be the perfect timing for me to be back since it is “La Paz (birth) day” as I find out. In other words, the entire city is out of control. I meet up with Marcus as well as with Stephanie (from Switzerland) who I know from Lima and Cusco and with Myriam (from Canada) in order to get our Friday night started. There are street parades, concerts, plenty of street-food and drinks (one very popular drink based on milk – hot and boozed – is sold everywhere) a lot of people and even some fireworks. The atmosphere is great and the night a lot of fun.
I pass by the Witches market (again) where one can find anything beyond imagination like coca drinks, dried lama fetuses etc. and spend another night with Marcus, exploring the hip Sopocachi neighbourhood where we find some trendy bars and clubs.
While I am here something interesting happens to me that I have experienced in some other cities where I used to live: I realize that the longer I stay here in La Paz, the longer I actually want to stay and the more I fall in love with this place. I know it is time to move on but I also know that I will be back one day.
The 7-hour busride to Cochabamba, 4th largest city in the country, turns out to be amusing as I get to experience a situation that I just read about in a book a couple of days earlier. The book was a present of my parents before I left and basically is some sort of diary written by someone who is traveling from Colombia all the way down to Chile. The situation is the following: a guy enters the bus and starts talking about all unhealthy food and drinks we consume every day. He explains that, as a result, there are parasites and other really bad things in our bodies that cause serious health issues. His story is backed up with scary photos and dramatic examples and he claims to have the solution for all of us. Finally, he pulls out small bags filled with some powder that, if consumed with water, is supposed to cure us from all our diseases. Generously, he is even willing to give us a special discount, only today of course! What is interesting is that he tries to convince us to consume some powder that contains vitamins and fruit extracts (according to him at least) instead of changing our diet and start eating more fruit and veggies, and less fast food. Anyway, enough people seem to be convinced by his product and take advantage of his “happy hour price” which obviously still is rediculously overpriced.
Cochabamba is a city of eternal spring and almost has some kind of Mediterranean vibe. Next to a vibrant atmosphere and a lovely central plaza the biggest open air market of the entire continent can be found here. It is absolutely massive and extensive in terms of what is on offer. There is probably hardly anything that cannot be found here.
The second major site of Cochabamba is a huge Jesus statue located on a hill overlooking the city. With more than 40 meters it is even taller than the one in Rio de Janeiro and is worth taking the cable car up there.
When I show up at the bus terminal (obviously without conducting any research beforehand) it does not take very long for me to find out that there are no buses to my next destination, a tiny village called Villa Tunari, departing from the terminal. I receive some instructions where to go in order to find a bus that might go there but this place is on the other side of town and it seems like a treasure hunt to actually get there – in other words, I am pretty lost! Anyway, I have no other choice but to grab my “treasure map” and to give it a shot. So I take off, and get stopped by Israel a minute later who must have heard how the lady at the bus ticket counter tried to explain me where to go. Israel, who is from Santa Cruz (Bolivia) and has spent some days off here in Cochabamba, realized that I am heading into the wrong direction right away and decided to help me. Since his bus back to Santa Cruz only leaves hours later he actually gets into a “collectivo” (some kind of mini bus and very common way of transport all over South America) with me, pays for the two of us and takes me all the way to the right spot to wait there for about one hour together with me before my bus leaves. These kind of experiences are exactly why I love traveling so much as it proves how many great people and good souls are out there – no matter in what part of the world.
In Villa Tunari, located on the edge of the tropical rainforest, I find a wonderful hostel called Mirador (viewpoint). Its promising name does not disappoint at all as the views are absolutely amazing. There is a terrace, a swimming pool, ping-pong- and pool tables, a bbq and even an outdoor gym all overlooking the river and the Andes far in the back.
Next to chilling out at this tranquil place, playing pool and ping-pong, swimming in the river (it’s been two-and-a-half months since I last swam in natural waters – in the Pacific in Lobitos in the very North of Peru) and enjoying the tropical temperatures I go and explore nearby Machia Park by means of a walk up to a viewpoint where I do not only find a good view but an entire family of monkeys as well, that are everything but shy. They literally attack some people carrying food even if it is still sealed in plastic. It is crazy and hilarious to watch these animals that are so close and so similar to us humans.