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Coming to Cochabamba

Written on: Sunday December 30th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Cochabamba, Bolivia

Author: Kevin

Hola!

After a few days of not doing anything much more strenuous then watching TV and walking around the Sagarnaga area of La Paz, we finally decided to head out to Cochabamba located 10 hours south east of La Paz. Through emails we heard from our friends Nina and Matt that they were there for the next couple of months volunteering at an orphanage. Knowing that this would probably be our last time seeing them till our trip came to an end, we decided to travel there to ring in the New Year with them.

We checked out of our room and walked over to the bus station with our bags. It was only 6 blocks away but uphill, so by the time we made it, we were both huffing and puffing away under the weight of our bags and the altitude. We usually take a taxi to and from the bus stations for safety reasons. We are moving targets with them on. All it would take would be for someone to knock us over and we would be like turtles on our backs. By the time we would get up again they would be long gone with our daypacks and money belts. The last time my bag was weighed it came in at 14KG and Kevin?s was 7KG. It may sound like I?m carrying everything but that?s not true. Kevin has managed to find a way to distribute some of his stuff across his daypack and guitar bag, while I put everything in one bag only, except for my camera and books which goes into my daypack. Also, when we packed for this trip, I made a decision to bring hiking shoes, sandals, as well as hiking boots, which adds considerable weight. Kevin only has a pair of flip flops and hiking boots which he wears most of the time. I?m fine with the weight as it is for now, we don?t wear our bags often other than going from location to location. If we have an overnight trip, we usually stuff our daypacks with the basics we need for those days and leave the extra stuff locked up in our big bags. Most hostels provide a secure baggage storage room for clients to leave their bags for a few days.

Our bus ride, like the previous ones in Bolivia, was uneventful. We arrived in Cochabamba in the early evening. The sun had just set and as we walked out of the bus station to hail a cab to our hostel we were met with a scene of 6-laned traffic backed up in both directions, with taxis stopping anywhere in the streets to pick up anyone, hundreds of people standing around, selling fruits and vegetables, knick knacks, fireworks, fake wads of American Dollars or Euros, hardware products, tools, etc. At first we weren?t sure what was going on but then we realised that bus station was across the street from South America?s largest open-air market called La Cancha. Since it was almost New Year?s everyone was arriving to celebrate in town or shopping around for last minute supplies. We finally caught a taxi in the hubbub of it all and headed off to our hostel. It wasn?t as nice as the Lonely Planet had led us to believe but at 12.50 a night it was a good price. We dropped our bags and headed out to find a restaurant to eat. Our hostel owner was very nice and had given us a city map with the dangerous sections to avoid, the location of most of the restaurants and some recommendations on where was best to eat. It turns out the area around the bus station and the market is to be avoided at night by us gringos. Quite a few robberies had been reported in the past few months. I?m glad we didn?t stay at some of the other hotels that were listed in our book; they were just a couple of streets up from the market.

After a quick meal of hamburgers in a McDonald?s knockoff, we returned back to the hostel around 9 PM and quickly fell asleep to the sound of people in the courtyard playing backgammon. The next morning we had a date with the internet to see if we could reach Nina and Matt and make plans for that evening to celebrate the New Year.