Cochabamba Travel Blog› entry 38 of 93 › view all entries
āHow would you describe Cochabamba?ā, I asked Chad.
āLike a very run-down sucreā he replied. Excellent.
He wasnāt wrong. Cochabamba was everything Sucre hadnāt been. It was dirty, chaotic, unfriendly, very poor and didnāt feel anywhere near as safe as weād felt over the past few days. It did boast a statue of Jesus looking over the city that is reputed to be 5cm larger than the one in Rio de Janeiro.
We arrived at around 5.30am, after an overnight bus on cobbled roads (luckily the Stugeron worked well, although we kept waking up feeling like we were about to be flung out of the seat at any moment) and walked the one āChad blockā (at least three) to the hostel.
Weād been spoiled in our hotel in Sucre too and our new home for the next few nights was far more basic. After catching up on a few hours sleep we were up for breakfast in the courtyard and to check out what was on offer in Cochabamba. Almost all of us decided that the only thing to do that day would be to walk out to the statue (safety in numbers of course) and see it up close and personal. It was quite impressive, even from a distance. Having been warned of the dangers of walking up the steps due to a spate of robberies, we took the cable car to the top. Itās even more impressive from up-close, and Iām not religious at all. Furthermore, you can walk up inside him and lookout from little holes all the way up for even mroe impressive views over Cochabamba.
No one could really be bothered to stray too far from the hostel that evening so dinner was around the corner in a small local establishment which was very cheap, with a decent portion of beef with a sizeable portion of what can only be described as snotty rice. That needed at least three beers to wash down.
I was up early the next morning. It was time to spend some of my birthday cash and I was waiting in the courtyard - along with Matt, Jilly, Michelle, Dawn and Tim for (hopefully the better) half of Bolivias four qualified tandem paragliding pilots to collect us. Em had opted for a lie in and some girlie time, checking out some of the local markets around the city - lucky escpape for me!!
When we were met by our instructors, we were treated to some spectacularly aggressive driving in one of the only brand-spanking new Ford Explorer pick-ups (we later thought that at 25 GBP a go, they must live like kings out here) and we were at our landing site in 20 minutes.
The driver took me and Dawn and our two pilots up a pretty treacherous and nerve-racking cliff-side road and climbed a vertical distance of around 600m. The driver was clearly confident having done the journey hundreds of times and even a little nonchalant, leading Dawn to leave nail-marks in the inside shoulders of the seats in front and doing some shallow breathing. We got to the top to find a small patch fof cleared hillside around extending around ten metres from the road at an angle of around 25 degrees. Then came another five metres or so of 45 degree followed by nothing. The views over the valley were great and Jesus was visible, hiding the greater portion of Cochabamba.
We went to a nearby restaurant (something of a back yard) for lunch. A huge tray of cooked meats came out followed by a massive bowl of Pique a lo Macho. We also learned the Bolivian ritual of Chicha drinking. Chicha is a mildly alcoholic (2-3%) drink made from fermented corn, drank from half coconut shells. Despite the appearance of two-week-old milk (minus the lumps of course), it didn't taste too bad. Apparently it's customary to. The rest of our afternoon was spent playing cards with beer in the courtyard. Evening came and we headed out to an Italian restaurant and a few beers, some table football and back to the hotel.