Tranquilo

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
1
34
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Trip End Aug 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hostal Maya Bolivia

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cochabamba is the city of eternal spring with perfect weather. It is a large but small-feeling college city. Pretty good (but not great) restaurants with many parks and plazas, some maintained but mostly not. It's a nice break between La Paz and Santa Cruz but don’t expect a whole lot of over-excitement (although we did find our share).

Cochabamba day 1

The bus station in La Paz is small but efficient. We were able to easily purchase $6 seats on the 10am El Dorado bus.

The Death Bus:
To our dismay the bus stopped on the outskirts of La Paz for 30 min before getting on our way. Even worse, after 15 minutes the bus stopped again and the three drivers/attendants ran to the back of the bus to work on a clutch that kept sticking. Finally, the bus got into gear but even being way behind schedule kept picking people up every 10 minutes. After another hour of nail biting travel we reached a police checkpoint were the driver was forced to pull over to discuss something with the officers. After 20 minutes of discussion the police came aboard saying they didn’t approve is the bus's condition and had previously told the company to not bring it through again. They told us it was either 1-2 hour wait for a new bus or we could decide to go ahead ourselves. The other passengers yelled and demanded to keep going so the police made bus driver explain why he thought it was safe to go ahead, so we did. This certainly would not have been our vote but the camaraderie insisted that we go with the popular vote and pray the rest of the way. Bee was freaked out. The bus drivers simply picked up a couple more supplies and we were on our way down "one of the world’s most dangerous roads in a half-cocked government non-approved bus (a sign stated that 32 people died on this road last year). The people on the bus were continually atrocious and when the bus tried to stop for lunch/bathroom break the women screamed at them, so there was no stopping. However, once the bus broke down for the fourth time, everyone got off to pee and said thank you before the bus was repaired. It was a ridiculous experience. To continue the craziness, once we reached Cochabamba the bus couldn't go to the terminal for some reason. We were forced to catch an overpriced cab but at least we were off the death bus.

The taxi driver pleasantly ripped us off for 15 Bolivianos when our ride should have been less than 7 Bolivianos but we just wanted to get to our hostel, Hostal Maya (A so so thumbs up in a city that doesn’t have much of a variety of traveler options). The check-in process was hard as the reception girl spoke very fast and was not willing to help us. However we did get a fabulously large room with lots of windows for fresh air. From the hotel it was very easy to get a taxi to El Prado where there are beautiful plazas abound. As we walked the main strip we saw restaurant Suiza and were excited for fondue but it was just a name with no Swiss food – only Boliviano (this turns out to be a common theme in Cochabamba – Don’t read a restaurant by its name). ¡Que lastima! So we headed to a not-so-Asian restaurant, Tunari, for typical Bolivian food before heading back to get a good night sleep.

Cochabamba day 2

A simple breakfast was included in the Hostal Maya $22 price so Bee got the breakfast in bed for sick Raymie. Unfortunately, we keep getting sick from the sick people traveling on the buses. After a light meal we took a walk to a tourist center by the Plaza de Armas we had seen the night before for a much needed a map of the city. The staff at the tourist center was very helpful, even providing a personal phone number in case we wanted some Spanish lessons.

As usual we got our 5 miles in by walking along El Prado and then to the Jesus Cristo de La Concordia on top of the nearby hill. The cable car to the top of the hill costs 8 Bolivianos which is extremely reasonable for a great view of the city and lagoon. Besides the view and the giant Jesus there really isn’t anything else at the top so it makes a quick trip. On the cable car down the hill there was something etched in the glass and what else could it say but Raymi Lider (leader Raymie). Not a coincidence; I'm sure of it. On the walk back towards our hostel we searched searched for a pizzeria for a mile. We finally found Napoli's pizza which turned out to be a treat - much better than the place looked. Teach you not to judge by the covers! The walk down Calle Colombia has some very interesting stores that we made a note to check out later. Nothing like pizza, wine and the watching the Phantom of the Opera to end a great day.

Cochabamba day 3

Today after breakfast we walked in the drizzling rain to the famous Cancha markets. The markets were well set up in groups offering the same items. Everyone even had their own space instead of in La Paz where one store was so on-top of another you didn't know where one stopped and the other began. It is a one stop place for anything from flowers, to shoes, ceramic cats to car parts. Raymie had worn his Inti Raymie soccer jersey (bought in Copacabana) and people kept chanting "San Jose. San Jose." as we walked by. It is actually the San Jose, Bolivia team jersey and good thing people liked that team or there could have been trouble. We keep having cravings for home-like food such as a good, hearty sandwich which is impossible to find in Latin-American. We gave La Bambola a try but yet they failed as well

After naptime and blogging we walked around a new part of town towards the Cine Center. We crossed the river to Boulevard Recoleta which is supposed to be the "trendy, happening place" for young people but it was dead with only a couple people in the restaurants after 8pm.
Lai Lai restaurant caught our eye for Chinese food. The restaurant provided quick service and amazing food. The boulevard (Recoleta) definitely had many bars that looked like something might happen, or is supposed to happen later so we decided to cross the neon lighted skywalk to have coffee at the Havanna Cafe inside the Cine Center. At the cafe before seeing The Green Hornet, we watched Htv (like MTV) with the new Calle 13 video (A great group to lookout for). It was time to go dancing and given that the boulevard had nothing that looked attractive we walked down to a place advertising techno. However, when we got there not only was there no one there at midnight but there was also a high cover to get in. We walked and because all the other places looked horrible we just got in a taxi for the hostel. Tonight was not our night.

Cochabamba day 4

Even though we didn't have a late night we stayed in bed late cause we could! We walked three miles to Laguna Arenal expecting more than garbage and men peeing next to the mirky lagoon. Unfortunately what is what it turned out to be. I'm not sure what we were expecting exactly because that's Bolivia - nonetheless it's something to see I guess.
Disgusted with not finding a beautiful nature-ful  lagoon to enjoy, we comforted ourselves with empanadas and Pisco at the Buenos Aires Resto-Pub. This is a really nice and peaceful shade-covered spot on La Prada but there were lots of kids looking for food. It's so sad that there are so many kids that seem hungry and homeless. We gave one kid part of our empanadas and another kid olives and cheese.
Later on we headed to the local Mexican restaurant, Chipotle, for some half decent tacos and a huge plate of crazy nachos. See picture below. It wasn't your average Chipotle chain bit they had Tecate in a can which made us happy for Mexico.
This must have been our night because everything came up Raymie and Bee. First with the Mexican food, then with having beers at the Black Mount Pub downstairs from a casino featuring a video bar with the locals. This is a great spot to listen to authentic Rock n Roll with interesting locals – a total dive Landmark Lanes kind of place. It only got better with El Salar Pub (great hidden gem) playing old-school techno accompanied with Tom Collins cocktails before heading to Gossip martini bar to (pssst, pssst) about everything before calling it a night.

Cochabamba day 5

We missed breakfast (Raymie's favorite part of the day to miss) but we made out for lunch at Colonial Jardin on El Prado. It was a set menu lunch but the appetizer and the soup were already so much that we took home the main course of Picante Mixto (5lbs of spicy meat, rice and potatoes) and gave our to-go flan to a homeless woman. It was a recovery day of blogging, napping and movies. How do these people take so much food for lunch???

Cochabamba day 6 - Valentines Day

The bus terminal in Cochabamba is very different than the other Bolivian cities. It resembles an aircraft hanger with its high echoing metal roofs. Inside there are maybe 50 companies selling domestic bus tickets leaving at all times of the day. We chose Dunabio 2 and we hoped for the best. We had a nice lunch at the Brazilian cafe and did some trip planning/apartment searching for Santa Cruz. We didn't want to return to the hostel just yet so we crossed the river to the north side of town. We finally found a real supermarket so we could get our supplies. We tried to go to the natural history museum but it didn't look open so back to the Havanna Cafe at the Cine Center for wifi and beers. Why was nothing open on Valentines Day? It was early but it was still 7pm. Finally the restaurants opened at 7:30pm and the Perla Negra bar was a sure go! Of course we went for pirate drinks. When we ordered we didn't realize that they only served the drinks in shot glasses but we weren't going to Arrrg-ue with them.
The next obvious stop - the Na Cúnna Irish pub next door for pizza and green beer. How can they have green Paceña beer on the menu and we not order it? Raymie being mischievous wanted to teach the Boliviano bartenders how to make/drink Irish Car Bombs (Bombas de Carros Irlandes). Naturally, the staff was bombing away with us. We had such a good time but it was too dangerous to stay there so we grabbed a taxi to take us to a club to go dancing. The taxi driver, Raul, took us to two different clubs but Raymie couldn't get in wearing shorts (we had yet to stop back to change before the nighttime festivities) so we asked for a ride to the hostel to change into some appropriate clothes and we were off! Raul was so nice and spoke clear Spanish that we asked him to wait for an hour until the club closed but then we realized he should come in with us; so he did. We bought a bottle of vodka and had so a ridiculous amount of fun trying to dance salsa and making new friends but the club closed so early it was off to the next place, Orange Ice. This place was not so much fun but it was a crazy Monday night of clubs and dancing with Raul. Later that night, Raymie got to go joyriding while Bee rested. It turned out to be a great Valentine’s day.

Cochabamba day 7

What happened last night? We woke up to 2 half bottles of vodka from the clubs and a broken glass. Craving a burger we went to Burger King and it was so expensive but necessary at the same time. Raymie found his true calling as "El Rey de Loco". (see picture) it was time to check-out of the hostel but we decided to pay them to stay in our room until it was the time for the bus to leave at 9pm. We just relaxed, regrouped and took a trip for supplies at our favorite neighborhood convenience store since we drank all the liquids in room before heading to the bus terminal. Our 9:30pm bus was late but that was to be expected. At 10pm we were finally off to Santa Cruz.
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