Week 71 - Cochabamba & Samaipata
We said goodbye to our lovely Air BnB hosts, Hernan and his wife, plus a quick cuddle with their dog Wanda who we’d seen daily during our stay, and then it was back on the road.
We headed out of La Paz on the main road as to avoid the crazy, steep smaller roads up into El Alto. The one thing that was different to our entry to La Paz was that this time it wasn’t Sunday morning, it was a weekday morning, so there was much more traffic, although nothing compared to Lima! Luckily the weather was a lot better with blue skies, so it was much warmer much to our relief. The sea of Collective buses in El Alto was crazy, there were so many but we navigated our way through slowly and safely.
The road out of La Paz south was not overly exciting and we reached the junction to head East. We decided that we’d call it a day as making it all the way to Cochabamba in one day wasn’t overly necessary, however in hindsight maybe we’d have been better off. We stopped at a small hospedaje which was cheap but didn’t have much to it. They did have secure parking and clean rooms so we were happy, but no shower and the one toilet was a bit rank. Oh well. There were road works outside and we soon realised a little later that the big machine made the whole place shake and once it started it kept going for hours. The windows were rattling and it didn’t help us sleep. The roadworks finished late and started super early. Apparently there was an earthquake around 4am but we didn’t know as we’d got so used to the shaking from the roadworks and they started so early, we didn’t feel it.
We got up early as we couldn’t sleep much anyway and got on the road to Cochabamba. There were loads of roadworks and asphalt mixed with dirt road, so lots of dust but it wasn’t too bad and the scenery started to get a bit more interesting. We eventually found our hostel which was about 4km away from the centre, however it was cheap, had secure parking, we got our own huge room and private bathroom complete with 24/7 hot water and a bath! Woohoo! We actually enjoyed the walk into the city and got to see more than if we’d just jumped in a taxi. Cochabamba has some beautiful plaza’s with water features, trees, flowers and locals just relaxing. It also has some good places to eat and much to our delight, some of the best pizza’s we’d had on the trip at a place called Da Vinci’s. Also the prices were good, so we really enjoyed it on more than one occasion during our three night stay. They even had a call bell for the waiters which was a nice quirk we hadn’t come across before.
During our time in the city I also decided to get my hair cut, which was now only a twice yearly occurrence. I have to say, this time the hairdresser did a really good job and it was less than £10! She even spent ages getting it straight and making it look perfect, even if it only did last a day.
One of the most striking features of Cochabamba is the huge Jesus statue up on the hill in the middle of the city. It really is huge! We decided not to take the bikes although when we got to the cable car it was closed so we ended up having to take a taxi up. It was a little bit hairy as the taxi driver bombed it up the winding road and flung the creaking car around the bends, but we made it. We also decided it’d be better to walk back down! It was a quiet place with a bit of info about the statue and a great view over the city and surrounding mountains. It was worth the effort to go up due to the view. We wandered back down the hill, which I’m very glad we didn’t walk up because it was steep with lots of steps, but going down wasn’t too bad. We got into the centre and went for some ice-cream. Mmmmmmm! There was some kind of festival going on at the local school later that evening near the hostel so we went out for a wander to see what was going on. We couldn’t really work it out but the streets were buzzing with tonnes of kids and their parents all having fun.
The next morning we headed towards Samaipata. We were planning to stay in Aiquile however we got there early enough that we decided to keep going. Even though it was a cute town with a beautiful plaza, we didn’t feel the need to stop, so we kept on. The road from there to Samaipata was really beautiful, the sun was shining and the roads were dirt….bliss! We also found a huge pipe which was big enough to ride through and Kelvin couldn’t resist! We ended up at a hostel on the hill above Samaipata called Hostal Serena, owned by Bert (from Holland) and his wife. It was a stunning place and although it was too expensive for our budget, we were able to camp for a reasonable price in the garden, which came complete with a lovely hot shower, flushing toilet, breakfast, use of a wonderful living room and 4 adorable kittens and their mum! We trundled down later to the beautiful square then went to ‘La Boheme’ bar for some awesome burgers and a cocktail, where we were served by a really lovely German guy
On our second night in Samaipata a really nice couple called Tony and Daniele from Santa Cruz showed up. We got chatting to them over breakfast the next morning and Tony in particular spoke great English. We weren’t sure about extending visa’s in Bolivia however because they didn’t know, they even rang the Bolivian immigration office to ask for us. How nice is that! In the evening, after a day of playing with the kittens and resetting my troublesome valves yet again, we all headed to La Boheme again. We spent the whole evening there with Tony and Daniele, and then they went and paid for everything without us knowing. It was so unbelievably generous, although we felt so bad because we’d drunk a few 241 cocktails and wouldn’t have if we’d known they were going to pay for us! Anyway, it was so kind and then the next morning they plied us with food gifts of Dulce de Leche, some cheesy crackers and cheese sticks because they knew we were going camping and wanted us to have some nice food. We couldn’t believe it, their hospitality was so lovely and they were so generous. We said goodbye and we headed off on the dirt road towards the Ruta Del Che, which was one of the best few days riding we’d had in a while and the weather was perfect!