When we were invited by the Castellón family of Cochabamba to attend a festival in Independencia as their guests, we didn’t hesitate to accept. Independencia is a small, remote mountain village of just over two thousand people, and the festival sounded like a blast. The whole town and every neighboring community would be turning out for four days of partying. How could we say no?
Completed in 1994 to commemorate the 1988 visit of Pope John Paul II, Cochabamba’s mighty Christ towers over the city from the top of San Pedro hill. With his arms open toward the city, it seems as though Cochabamba is about to get a bear hug from the big guy. Rio’s Jesus measures exactly 33 meters in height: one meter for each year of the savior’s life. Cochabamba’s is 33 meters and 20 centimeters, which locals attribute to the fact that Jesus lived for 33 years and a bit.
Cochabamba lays in the middle of Bolivia, both in terms of latitude and altitude. The biggest city of the country’s extensive valley range, it boasts Bolivia’s best climate and is known as its “breadbasket”. Surrounded by mountains and in easy reach of national parks and the jungle, there are plenty of things to see. All of which makes the lack of tourism in Cochabamba nothing less than astounding.
We learned about the roadblock at 9am, just after arriving at the terminal. Our bus might leave at noon. At 1pm, we were told that 3pm could be the new departure time. At 5pm, we traded in our tickets for a night bus leaving at 9. And around 11pm, we finally got on the road to Cochabamba. A fourteen-hour delay: in terms of Bolivian strikes, we actually got pretty lucky!
Random festivals, cholitas with hats balanced crookedly on their heads, crazy graffiti, mountain views, pigeons and lines of mini-buses and trufis… around every corner in La Paz are another hundred photos waiting to be snapped! Enjoy this final set of random images from Bolivia’s most important city.
How do I know that La Paz is a real city? It’s got a ton of awesome street art! Here are some of the fun stenciling and graffiti I captured during our weeks in La Paz. My favorite is the X-Ray Llama. Have you spotted other cool street art? Post a picture in the comments!
We went up for the Lucha Libre, and returned to experience the gigantic market which takes place every Thursday and Sunday. Anything you can imagine is on sale here. It might be easier to list the things you can’t buy in El Alto’s market: javelins, circus elephants, wine bottles filled with rat heads, and midget fetish porn. That’s it, and actually, I’m not so sure on that last one.
In March of 2011, while we were in Buenos Aires, we read about a mega-landslide in La Paz, which destroyed 400 homes and displaced 5000 people. But we didn’t pay attention to the name of the neighborhood. So when we decided on a whim to explore Pampahasi, found high on the eastern side of La Paz, we were stunned to find a road that simply dropped off into nothingness. Houses ripped into two and a vast cliff of mud and sand dropping precipitously to the field below.
If you’re looking for a quick and incredibly cheap lunch in small, cramped quarters, you can’t go wrong at the the gleaming new Mercado Lanza near the Iglesia de San Francisco. With hundreds of stalls serving food and juices, you’ll definitely find something appetizing. Just don’t be squeamish about sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers.
I don’t know how many pictures I took during our weeks in La Paz… and I don’t want to count, because the total would probably freak me out. Just from our apartment window, I must have snapped over a hundred! But I’ve gone through them all, and picked out some of the great images that didn’t make it into other posts. I think it’s safe to say, La Paz was one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever seen.