After waiting for the laundromat to open, we received and counted our clothes, packed our bags, and made our way to the La Paz bus terminal. We parted ways with Christian as he was going to do some hiking in Saltera for a few days, before heading straight to Sucre. Since hiking wasn’t high on our list of priorities at that time, we decided to go to Cochabamba, a city located about 9 hours (depending on road and bus conditions) southeast of La Paz, known for its moderate climate and delicious food.
When we arrived in Cochabamba, we were picked up at the terminal by our host, Ronald, a computer / network repair consultant working out of London. We were starving so he drove us to pick up dinner at a local restaurant and we took it back to his home. We had a filling plate of chicken silpancho (very thin breaded meat patty) with rice, fried eggs and French fries. In honor of our visit, Ronald decided to open a bottle of Bolivian red wine, and we were warmly welcomed to “Cocha”.
The next day we ran a few errands with Ronald and then he drove us to the top of a hill to see the Christo de la Concordia, which is the largest statue of Jesus in the world. From this view, we could see the entire city sprawled out in all directions below us. After snapping some photos, we grabbed a late lunch at a traditional restaurant. We started with chicha morada (juice made from red corn), bread, and a salad of greens, tomatoes, red onion, and feta cheese. Then came the main course, a shared plate of pique macho (one massive portion of steak, chorizo, chicken, hotdog, tripe, feta cheese, peppers, onions, green olives, and french fries topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise). It is also typical to eat this type of food with beer so we ordered a large bottle for the table. The table next to us had a server pour a bit of beer in a glass and then add oil, vinegar, picante, salt and pepper, before pouring it on to the pique macho. Unfortunately, when we asked our server to do the same, he told us the man who prepares the mixture already went home.
Once we arrived back at Ronald’s place, Ryan only had a few minutes to change before he was picked up by Ronald’s friend to go play soccer. Ronald has a wedding to attend that night, and although we were invited out by Ryan’s friends from soccer, we decided to have a relaxing night watching Oz in 3D. Over the next few days we were able to catch up on our blog posts, play and watch soccer, eat amazing local cuisine, cook with Ronald’s family, meet his friends over drinks, and learn to play racquetball. The fast paced game is very popular in Bolivia, and after our first time playing it, we fell in love with the physically demanding game. Lisa learned that if she leaped like a ballet dancer, she could nearly hit the ball off three walls, and Ryan found out that it’s a point if the ball hits one’s opponent, and hilarious if one’s opponent’s balls get hit.
One afternoon we went to the grocery store to pick up all the necessary ingredients for cooking Thai green curry. We couldn’t find everything, for example fish sauce, lemongrass, or coriander, but we made it work anyway. Since Ronald didn’t have a stove at the time, his parents let us use their kitchen. In London, Ronald’s dad worked in Italian restaurants so he was very interested in what we were cooking and how. We had a long conversation while we were preparing lunch and learned all about their past (Ronald was an “oops” baby). Lisa asked Ronald’s mother to cook the rice because she was wary of it turning out mushy. We used homegrown peppers in leu of jalapeños and we may have underestimated their power. The dish turned quite spicy, making for some hilarious jokes over lunch. Ronald’s father told me it was a delicious dish, but that he would never forget us!
The next day was Father’s Day in Latin America and his parents invited us over for lunch again as Ronald’s father was making his famous lasagna. It was an amazing opportunity to meet his brothers and their families. They were very welcoming and practiced their English with us, while telling us stories about their loved ones. We again enjoyed Bolivian red wine and homemade bread with our huge portions of lasagna, which their father said wasn’t up to standard due the lack of parmesan and cheddar cheese in Bolivia (it was great regardless). Lunch finished with a slice of Neapolitan cake (or two for Ryan), before Ronald stole us back from his family, and we returned to his house so he could work.