When Fabio and I first landed in Bolivia on Friday of last week, we were in the beautiful city of Santa Cruz. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the geography of Bolivia, it’s a land-locked country bordered by Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, AND Chile. That’s a lot of countries!
Our flight took us into Santa Cruz late on Friday evening where Fabio’s uncle, aunt, and cousin picked us up, and on Saturday morning we woke up ready to explore!
The weather in Santa Cruz reminded me a lot of Miami weather- it was pretty hot and humid. A much welcome change from the snow in DC!
After a quick breakfast at the hotel with Fabio’s family, the five of us headed into the city for the day. Our first stop: the zoo!
Fabio’s family had heard wonderful things about the zoo in Santa Cruz, including that it includes mostly plants and animals that are native to South America (sorry, polar bears). Fabio’s aunt and uncle have a little boy named Andrew who is about 6 years old, so we thought it would be a good way to teach him (and me) about the plants and animals that are native to the region.
First up was this friendly sloth who was just hanging out in a random tree. This wasn’t even part of an exhibit or anything- it was just out in the open. Part of me wondered how they keep track of where this little guy goes since he can just move from tree to tree, but I think he must go pretty slowly so the zoo keepers can keep an eye on him 😉
We saw tons of birds at the zoo (tucans, parrots, parakeets, etc.) and it was so cool to think they were out in the wild in this part of the world. Even some of the regular birds that were twittering around (not part of the zoo) were bright yellow and really pretty. They were all much more interesting than the little brown birds and pigeons we have around here!
There also was an island for monkeys which was really cool- we were able to watch this one chow down on a banana and another carried a baby on its back 🙂 So adorable!! I love monkeys.
Another nice thing about the zoo was that you could buy food to feed some of the animals. We got a bag for the omnivores and had a lot of fun feeding these baby deer (?) animals.
Their little tongues were slimy but it was so cute!!
After the zoo we headed to a big lunch which included traditional food from Santa Cruz. We had dishes of spicy chicken, chicken and rice, duck and rice, sweet plantains, fried yuka, eggs, and various homemade hot sauces. Everything was delicious!! I had a little of everything.
After lunch we stopped by to visit one of Fabio’s family friends, and it was really nice to chat for a while and get to know some of his extended family (I think it was his mom’s second cousin or something?) Truth be told I have no idea how they are actually related but she was really nice and hospitable to us, and she had an adorable puppy that I could NOT stop playing with. I mean come on, look at that face!
Later in the evening Fabio, his uncle, and I headed out to watch the parade for Carnaval! We honestly weren’t expecting too much from the parade since we had heard the later one in Cochabamba was much better and we’d be seeing that one later on (yep, it was) but we still had a really fun time watching all of the dancers go by.
There were hundreds of people there, and in addition to the people watching the parade there were tons of people shopping for snacks, throwing water balloons, squirting water guns, and spraying shaving cream on their friends. Pretty much everyone got wet or covered in shaving cream at some point. It was so fun!
The costumes and headdresses of the dancers in the parade were also really incredible!
As the parade passed along, we noticed that each group had a different theme (e.g., water, fire, plants, death, etc.). It was really cool to watch!
This woman came in on a float, and I was told she was more of the “queen” of Carnaval.
Fabio, his uncle, and I eventually left the parade since we had to catch an early morning flight to Cochabamba, which is the city where we stayed for the majority of our trip. The flight was actually only 45 minutes, and as soon as we took off it was time to land again! We arrived a little before 9:00 am (to a really huge greeting squad made up of Fabio’s entire family, I might add), which left us plenty of time to explore the city.
Our first stop was to Fabio’s grandfather’s house! The entire point of our trip was to meet Fabio’s grandfather, so I was really happy that this was the first thing on our list 🙂
It was a beautiful day out (the weather in Cochabamba reminds me of Southern California- mid-seventies and NO humidity!!) so we spent some time talking to him outside. He is so adorable and I was so happy to see that he was in good health. He was really “with it” in conversations and even made a couple jokes to me in English. He’s almost 90 years old so this was really impressive!Afterwords we grabbed something to eat, and then headed up to the Cristo! The Cristo in Cochabamba is actually bigger than the one in Brazil, but it’s not as high up in the mountains.
The views on the way up were absolutely incredible!
Here we are!
The Cristo was huge, and really cool to see in person. You can pretty much see the Cristo from everywhere in the city, so it was nice to get to see it up close on our first day.
(P.S. Look how fast the weather changed from a few photos up. The clouds change really quickly in Cochabamba so you never know what to expect!)
It also really helped to see the city from this view on day one. It helped me put things in perspective in terms of where the house was, where the airport was, where carnaval would be, etc.
And just look at those mountains!
Overall our first couple of days in Bolivia, both in Santa Cruz and in Cochabamba, were absolutely fabulous.
More to come!
Question of the day: Have you ever heard of Carnaval? Would you go?