Bolivia’s Main Meal of the Day: Lunch, or Almuerzo

Soup is an essential part of Bolivia’s ‘almuerzo’.

Every day – roughly between twelve and two thirty – part of Bolivia closes down. It’s lunchtime. For everyone. Within minutes local restaurants are packed and waiters are serving customers as fast as possible. We daily join the crowds to have a taste of Bolivia’s simplest yet most plentiful meal: almuerzo. It is the perfect way to get a feel for Bolivia’s traditional food. Note that the food discussed in this blog post is focused on the highland (altiplano). Continue reading

El Cafetal’s Coffee Plantation

Young Coffee Plants (©Coen Wubbels)

Bolivia is one of the world’s producers of Arabica coffee. While the Yungas (north of La Paz) is Bolivia’s traditional and principal coffee growing region, the country’s largest exporter is situated in the department of Santa Cruz – in Buena Vista, to be exact. A friend suggested to check out Hacienda El Cafetal, to visit the coffee plantation and factory and, of course, to taste some high-quality, organic coffee. Continue reading

Fresh Mint Tea with Mint Leaves from the Garden

For the past couple of weeks we stayed with friends in Cochabamba (Bolivia), who have a beautiful garden. Gardening is something I miss in our life on the road and I loved getting my hands in that soil again. Most of all, I have always appreciated vegetable gardens. I used to have my own and took great pleasure in harvesting my vegetables, fruits and herbs. Continue reading

Making the World a Better Place – An Animal Rescue Center

Just outside Guayaramerím, in northeast Bolivia, we stumbled upon Ituaba Eco Hotel, a hotel-cum-animal refuge center-cum-recreation park. During our visit the animal refuge center was home to two blue-and-gold and two scarlet macaws, two toucans, two ocelots (medium-sized wild cats), wild boars, a young tapir and a couple of emus. Continue reading

Camping in an Ocean of White

Salar de Uyuni, in southwest Bolivia, is a vast ocean of white of 130 by 90 kilometers surrounded by the Andes Mountains – it is said to be the largest salt flat in the world containing some 10 billion tons of salt. At the entrance are series of salt pyramids that have been scraped together from the surface and are ready to be transported to the nearby village of Colchani.

Wherever we look we see white. It looks like a world of fresh snow which has not yet been disturbed by footsteps. Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Soak in Hot Springs

Hot springs in South America: Thermal Bath in Southwest Bolivia (©photocoen)After 2,5 year of Amazon tropics Coen and I are happy to have returned to the colder and drier climate of the Andes Mountains. During these past 10 years I have never written, “Boy are we glad to be back in the tropics so we can wear shorts and bathing suits again,” yet I have expressed that, “It feels great to wear socks and sweaters again and to sleep under our down blanket.”

We’re cold-weather people. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 11): Opening Your Restaurant When it Isn’t Open Yet

To have internet access we depend on WIFI spots.

This is day 11 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are staying in Santa Cruz and need WIFI.

We need to get work done on the Land Cruiser, but since our workshop does not have time until tomorrow we decide to have an “online workday”, as we call it. All we need is WIFI.

Right, where can we find that? Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 9): Opening the Women’s Bathroom

This is day 9 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are camping in Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia.

The dogs are pretty much on their own, as are the cats, as is the macaw, as is the caretaker Domingo. We are all doing our own thing in the garden at our own pace, with us mostly sitting behind our laptops as it is an “off-line working day”, as we call it.

When we arrived last night, Domingo informed us that the Private Pilot Club does have toilets but no shower. This didn’t pose a problem as we have a shower bag. It isn’t the grandest shower in the world, but it does what it has to do. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 8): Offering a Place to Camp

This is day 8 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger. We need a place to stay in Santa Cruz.

With 1,5 million inhabitants Santa Cruz, in eastern Bolivia, is the second largest city in the country. Generally we prepare our visits to such large places, at least in terms of a place to sleep. For some reason we haven’t done that this time, but we do have a GPS waypoint from our previous stay in Santa Cruz 2.5 years ago and hope we can stay there once more.

The GPS waypoint is next to the airport: Asociación de Pilotes Civiles, the sign says. Like the last time, the place looks incredibly inviting: lots of shade and space. To our question whether we can stay here we get two answers: Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 7): Serving an Egg!

One of the restaurants in Bolivia where we had lunch

This is day 7 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger”. We have stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant in eastern Bolivia.

The owner asks what I’d like to have. I can choose between costilla frita and milanesa. I ask if I can have the milanesa without the milanesa, if she understands what I mean. We arrived in Bolivia only a couple of days ago and after two years of speaking Portuguese, English, French and Dutch I have to dig deep to find any Spanish word at all, and am not sure if my question makes sense. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (Day 6): Pointing Out a Short-Cut

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there ~George Harrison

This is day 6 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger. Our journey through Bolivia’s Jesuit history is pleasantly interrupted by seeing some wonders of nature.

In the Jesuit Mission of Santa Ana we take a look at the map and conclude we will have to return to the mission of San Rafael in order to be able to reach San Miguel. While we are discussing this, Flora, the caretaker of Santa Ana’s Jesuit Mission, chimes in and says there is another road which, in fact, is a short cut. Continue reading

An Act of Kindness (day 5): Offering Cold Drinking Water

The only Jesuit Mission built of stone: San José de los Chiquitos

This is day 5 in the 30-day series “An Act of Kindness by a Stranger“. We are in San José de los Chiquitos, one of the former Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia.

Outside it is bloody, bloody hot with temperatures high in the thirties and everything dripping with humidity. We feel like we’re slowly being cooked in a pressure cooker. We’re thirsty. The car with our bottles of drinking water is on the other side of the plaza but having to walk over there feels as exhausting as having to run a marathon. We’d rather stay in the former Jesuit church, pleasantly cool thanks to its thick walls.

Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Listen to Silence

Silence in Deserto do Diablo in Northwest Argentina (©photocoen)“The sound of silence”
~Paul Simon

My parents had an album of Simon & Garfunkel. I loved listening to it and when I started learning English in highschool, one particular song triggered me: The Sound of Silence. I loved the melody and although I didn’t understand much of the lyrics, the words ‘sounds of silence’ made me wonder: did silence have a sound? It started listening to my surroundings and I concluded that the world was hardly ever silent. Continue reading