Para Bailar La (Cocha)Bamba
COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA: November 7-9
Leah: We more or less rolled into (well, huffed up the steep hill with all our crap is more like it) the La Paz bus terminal knowing that we’d be heading next to one of two places, but we hadn’t yet decided if it would be Cochabamaba or Oruro. Therefore, when the first bus company tout we encountered shouted “Cochabamba” along with a ridiculously cheap price, we considered our decision made and hopped on a stuffy and occasionally smelly bus ride to the city 8 hours southeast of La Paz, enjoying a black and white Spanish version of “Rush Hour” along the way (Steve: Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan aren’t nearly as entertaining with bad Spanish overdubs).
We settled into a room at the Hostal Jardin ($10/night), but spent the first 30 minutes slapping, grunting and throwing things into the wall in an attempt to decimate the hordes of hungry mosquitoes buzzing around the room; we’re pretty sure our neighbors thought we were doing something else. Hunger pangs soon had us on the prowl for some sustenance, and we popped into a random restaurant that would become our haunt for the next few days. The husband and wife owner clucked over us like motherly hens, clearly excited that gringos were in the mix and willing to give their food a go.
Speaking of walking, one of the main reasons we were so stoked about Cochabamba centered on the fact that we were within striking distance of Parque Nacional Tunari, where we hoped to enjoy a day hike as a way to rejuvenate and recharge after the chaotic urban frenzy of La Paz. After finally figuring out which bus would take us near the entrance of said national park, we guessed our way along back roads in a residential area that clearly didn’t see a lot of white folks and there wasn’t much in the way of signage to guide us. We had also been warned that it was more or less safe to hike here, although groups were better at warding off thieves and assaults—so we made sure to have hefty sticks and our telescoping camera rod out and swinging just in case.
The rest of our time in Cochabamba was pretty chill and involved more eating (shocker), walking (despite being a tad sore) and watching the local life. We hit up the anthropological museum, complete with mummies still entombed in the woven baskets they were found in, and enjoyed bolsitas of fresh-squeezed orange juice proffered by a corner vendor, her long ebony braids swinging as she pulverized the orange halves. We noticed a hostel bearing my mom’s name, took pictures of Steve’s ginormous hair (we need to name it), indulged in an airy maracuya-flavored pie slice, gaped at the afternoon light in a local church and sought out some sunscreen for our delicate whitey skin.
We checked and it turned out it would be in English with Spanish subtitles and the early matinee would work perfectly with our schedule—we would be able to go straight from the movies to the bus station with plenty of time to spare. After reacquiring our bags from storage at the hostel, we returned the theater to find that we were two of maybe ten people that came to see this movie, FOR $3 EACH I MIGHT ADD (Leah: we also made sure to adhere to the theater's rules that 2 liter bottles of soda and hamburgers were not allowed inside). It may not have been my favorite Bond movie of all time, but it satiated a desire for something back home that I didn’t realize I missed so much. Having enjoyed the movie and elated at how cheap it was we hoisted the packs on our backs and made for the bus station. It was time for these travelers to move on.
HERE FOR COCHABAMBA PICTURES.