Bolivia, the End: Cochabamba and Santa Cruz

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We were coming to the end of our Bolivia adventure, with only 5 more days left in the country.  Back in Cochabamba, we had only 24 hours before a flight to Santa Cruz, 24 hours in which we had to get two things done: La Cancha and silpancho.

Artisan wares

I’ll start with La Cancha, the largest open market in Bolivia.  La Cancha truly lives up to its name, “the field” in English, stretching over 15 blocks of downtown Cochabamba.  Anything you could possibly wish to buy, you can find it at La Cancha: kitchenware, appliances, electronics, music and DVD’s, computer games and software, textiles, clothing, shoes, jewelry, bags, groceries — the list is endless.  You can easily get lost in the aisles upon aisles with rows upon rows of vendors housed in tight little cubbies, their wares stretching all the way to the roof above.  In the streets that interweave through the market are indigenous women selling fresh squeezed fruit juice, fresh-cut pineapple slices, pastries and other treats.  We were there to peruse the aisles of artisan vendors selling leather and alpaca goods, hoping to spend some of our remaining Bolivianos on gifts and souvenirs.

La Cancha

The second thing we had to do in Cochabamba was take me to get my first real, Bolivian silpancho at the El Palacio de Silpancho, a Cochabamba tradition.  While we had been in Cochabamba earlier in the trip, somehow this tradition was overlooked for me and Oscar — we found out later that everyone else had already gone to El Palacio de Silpancho before Oscar and I had arrived in Bolivia, and no one realized us two hadn’t gone until we were in La Paz.  We could have gotten silpancho elsewhere in Bolivia, or elsewhere in Cochabamba, but apparently the place that serves the best silpancho by far is Cochabamba’s El Palacio de Silpancho, which makes sense considering the name of the restaurant means the Silpancho Palace.  Silpancho is a traditional Bolivian dish from Cochabamba consisting of a huge pile of rice topped with sliced boiled or fried potatoes covered completely by a massive piece of very thinly sliced, fried beef, topped with two fried eggs and garnished with a pile of tomato and onion salsa.  Sounds huge, and it is, and every bite is oh so delicious, the you-are-so-full-toward-the-end-but-its-just-too-good-to-stop-eating-until-every-bit-is-gone kind of delicious.

Silpancho — there’s rice and potatoes under that giant piece of meat

The next morning we flew out to Santa Cruz de la Sierra.  While we mostly lazed around for a few days until beginning our journeys back to the US, we did get out to walk around the city square one night.  In stark contrast to the rest of Bolivian terrain and culture, Santa Cruz is like the Caribbean, exuding an island attitude and atmosphere, only without the beach.  Located in the tropical lowlands, it is warm, green, and fertile, and far less conservative than the highlands of Bolivia.  Here there are palm tress, and here it’s nothing out of the ordinary for girls to wear shorts (I got whistled at in Tarata for wearing shorts, and they weren’t even that short!).  The city is organized by rings extending out from the city’s center plaza.  The buildings get older as you get closer to the center; buildings over a certain age between the center and one of the city rings cannot be demolished and renovations cannot effect the outside facade.  As you go closer to the city center, Santa Cruz’s colonial past is palpable simply from the Spanish colonial architecture of the buildings that now house clothing stores, cell phone shops, pharmacies, and restaurants.

Enjoying the warm night, Santa Cruz city square

The city square buzzes with people at night.  The old colonial buildings surrounding the square have been turned into hotels and restaurants, with rooftop patios where diners can enjoy the view of the night revelers in the square and the impressive cathedral.  There was a marching band playing in the center while we were there, old men playing chess on the tables around the square, and around the back of the cathedral, artists were selling their prints and paintings.  We enjoyed a beer at one of these rooftop restaurants, a nice, relaxing end to a wonderful, whirlwind month.

One Response to “Bolivia, the End: Cochabamba and Santa Cruz”
  1. Enrique Alcoreza Trigo says:

    felicidades por tus “lindos” comentarios y fotografias, ojala vuelvas a visitarnos, un beso de
    Enrique y Blanca
    (practica tu espanol)

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