Cochabamba, a city of 700,000, southeast of La Paz, has a lot of character. It humbly shares many beautiful plazas, quaint cafes, a huge bustling market, lush surrounding mountains, a warm climate, abundant & delicious street food and a looming statue of Christ (bigger than Rio de Janeiro’s) watching over the city. However, it’s not too backpacker friendly as far as accommodations go and has a reputation for crime. We did have one pickpocketing incident in the market, but luckily all that was lost was cash and nobody was hurt. (Note to fellow travelers: Go! But be very, very careful with your things in the market south of the bus station.) Overall, we absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone traveling in Bolivia (hence the silly nickname).
We were lucky enough to catch an all day Carnaval parade the Saturday after Ash Wednesday (apparently the celebrations last longer here than in New Orleans or other parts of the world), similar to the famous Bolivian folk celebration they host in Oruro. Marching bands enthusiastically whaled on horns and beat drums as dancers, dressed in colorful, shiny costumes, shoes covered with bells, shook their hips and spun around, joyously making their way down the crowded, people-lined street. Chris and I sat on the pavement, somehow scoring front row seats, and awed at the beautiful display (some pictures below- I’ll post a link to a video soon!)
Cochabamba is full of artisans, playing flutes and fire dancing in the plazas or playing live rock music in the clubs. After a show one night, we befriended the band (Borne- on facebook) and had a great night learning Bolivian dice games in a classic rock themed bar. Someone said it a while ago, but now I believe it to be true that metal heads are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Carnval Parade Musicians
Market food! All for around $2
Dancing with bells on their shoes
Chris and I with the Cristo