Cochabamba Travel Blog

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“How would you describe Cochabamba?”, I asked Chad.

“Like a very run-down sucre” he replied. Excellent.

He wasn’t wrong. Cochabamba was everything Sucre hadn’t been. It was dirty, chaotic, unfriendly, very poor and didn’t feel anywhere near as safe as we’d 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 ‘Chad block’ (at least three) to the hostel.

Even at this early hour, Cochabamba was a hive of activity and we weren’t spared the local begging.

We’d 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. It’s even more impressive from up-close, and I’m 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.

Matt and Michelle were first up and an hour later had landed, with huge grins. Tim and Jilly went next and landed safely, similarly happy. Then it was my turn, partnered by Dawn.

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.

Dawn was first, running as best she could off the edge. The problem was that my pilot didn’t think she was putting enough effort in and decided to run down and drag her along. This caught her off-balance and she feel to one knee, before regaining her balance and footing just in time for take off. Not the most graceful of take-offs, but she was away. Me next. I can’t remember running for more than eight steps and as the gradient increased I was running in mid-air, like Wile E. Coyote before he realises he’s ran out of cliff. I sat down and began admiring amazing views. The feeling of serenity as you’re floating around the valley was amazing. My pilot had other plans and after five minutes of enjoying the ride he took me again through some rehearsed instructions. On his command I was twisted almost off the edge of the seat and we were banking heavily left, then the other way and his party piece, some corkscrewing.
Great fun. We lined up for the landing area but he’d overcooked it and after narrowly missing a tree we came to a very abrupt landing in the next field.

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.

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photo by: jendara