The overnight bus arrived at Cochabamba at around half four in the morning. Fortunately we flagged a cab to our chosen hostel quite quickly from the surprisingly busy and notoriously dodgy bus station in Cochabamba. After lots of knocking on the door we were able to check in and get our heads down for a few hours of sleep, the Bolivian buses weren’t quite up to the standard of Argentina but they weren’t awful. We later headed out onto the streets of Cochabamba, a large bustling city with lots going on especially eating options. We went out, shorts and t-shirt weather again, for a meal along a busy strip of restaurants choosing the most authentic and local looking one we could find. There were plenty of beggars and tat sellers so maybe sitting out on the street wasn’t the best option but it is always the preferred option when the weather is nice. Lots of people were walking around with what looked like workmen’s metal lunchboxes, we soon discovered that they were full of shoe shine gear and there was a bustling economy on roadside shoe shining. Unfortunately a lot of these shoe shiners were young children, but it was an honest profession at least and one that people seemed to use and have respect for. We then discovered our favourite new hangout of Dumbo’s, a chain store ice cream parlour where we ordered half the menu including French toast smothered in butter and honey, chocolate cake and lots of ice cream.
|Tourist having his shoes polished by children|
|Kate enjoying her desert in Dumbo's|
On the 9th we woke up to a march outside. Kate and Gaëlle checked it out and it turned out to be a demonstration for victims of child abuse. It was Gaëlle’s birthday and there was a giant statue of Christ overlooking the city we decided to visit for a good viewpoint. Taking a taxi we headed up and indeed there was a great vista of Cochabamba albeit slightly overcast at the time. Following this we headed back into town and the girls had arranged to get some pampering done in the form of the usual lady stuff, nails painted and the rest before our meal out that evening.
|The marching band alarm clock|
|Having our photo taken at the viewpoint|
|The view of Cochabamba from the viewpoint|
On our prior adventures we had seen a very traditional looking barbers and I was long overdue a scrub up. I therefore opted for a good old fashioned shave where I would be at the mercy of the short and good humoured Bolivian barber with his perfect moustache and cut throat razor. The tools he used were sterilised in front of us using a gas flame from a small bottle which was extremely novel. The girls and the barber were having great fun taking photos, he would primarily use the electric razor to get rid of most of my beard then swivel me round in the chair for the photo opportunity. The girls left for their appointment and he gave my barnet a good trim, snipping away in a seemingly erratic fashion that one would expect from Edward Scissor Hands but I was happy with the results. Thinking he was finished I began to get up but it was then that the cut throat razor came out. I was apprehensive but he was a true professional and very delicate with the razor. It felt very gentlemanly leaning back in the chair and having the best of attention and he lathered and went over my face twice with the blade. He finished by spraying me with Bolivian whiskey which gave a satisfying sting and the whole process lasted for a good hour at least, it cost fifty Bolivianos (about four pound fifty) but he got a good tip.
|A novel public phone on the plaza|
|Scrubbing up with the barber|
|Having a photo with Kate before the girls went for their own scrub up|
I waited a little longer for Kate and Gaëlle to finish their pampering and they both looked absolutely gorgeous by the time they had finished. The restaurant we went to was called Buffalo, a Brazilian style buffet restaurant that was unfortunately positioned in a mall but the restaurant was done well. The format was such that you helped yourself to a salad buffet and the waiters would come over with various meats (the restaurant advertised it as eighteen different types) fresh from the charcoal barbeque. You would then be offered tongues to hold your portion of meat as they cut it off the spit. We ate and ate until our hearts were content, accepting the offers of beef, pork, llama and chicken. There was also a good range of deserts should you have any room left at all. A drink in the bar afterwards and we were ready to hit the town. We found a bar called ‘Chop’ which is also the same word you use for draft beer, they were some people dancing but it wasn’t very busy and felt a bit sleazy as a result with the few men that were in there being very interested in Kate and Gaëlle! We passed the time by playing more dice games before getting a taxi home as town was quiet and we had had a good day.
|Gaelle being served by a young Michael Jackson|
|Kate looking as happy as ever|
|Enjoying my first beer with my new, smooth face|
|Gaelle in the Chopp bar|
The next day we further celebrated Gaëlle’s birthday by having lots of sweets that we had bought along with the birthday cake we couldn’t eat from the day before. We also enjoyed the traditional South American food of empanadas along with the delicious freshly squeezed orange juice that you can buy from carts all around the city for next to nothing. Later in the day we wandered round the outdoor market and had our last meal out in Cochabamba as we would be heading to La Paz the next day. On the way home we saw the dirty feet of a man who was asleep on a street corner with only an old sack to cover him, he could have been dead and it easily put any problems we may have had into perspective.
|Gaelle's birthday breakfast buffet|
Next we headed to La Paz, the famed sky high ‘de facto’ or administrative capital of Bolivia sitting in the mountains at over 3,500m above sea level.