Blogs by Linda E Allen
Tarija - Wine Country!
7/29/2009 6:05:00 PM
We received a delicious send-off from our hosts in Potosí. At least ten varieties of pastries and cookies made up the smorgasbord of homemade delicacies to wish us Buen viaje. We left happy and ready for our next adventure.
Yes, we took the 11-hour bus ride from Potosí to Tarija in southern Bolivia. It’s one of the few ways to get from the mountains to the valley. Potosí has no airport. The Potosí bus station was a chaotic maze for us. Thankfully our hosts guided us through the confusion to our bus.
A long-night’s journey into day – the route covered a rugged, lonely road – or maybe it was a trail??? It was probably a good thing it was dark so we couldn’t see what was out there.
We arrived in Tarija about 5 a.m. Our hosts picked us up and settled us into our homes for the week with comfy beds and refreshing showers after our night of intermittent naps.
By the time we reached Tarija, we had been on an altitude roller coaster from El Alto – the upper part of La Paz at 13,600 feet then down to Cochabamba at 8,366 feet and on to Sucre a little higher at about 9,000 feet – then back up to Potosí at 13,420 feet. Tarija sits at a comfortable 6,500 feet for flatlanders like us. By this point in the trip, our bodies had pretty much acclimated to all the travel and diet changes.
Tarija was a much needed relaxing stay. Known as wine country, it sits in a green valley framed by the Andes Mountains and clear blue skies. Again, the climate - or maybe the wine – influenced the mellow personalities of the Tarijeños. Known for its “wines with altitude,” we had the opportunity to tour some artisan wineries and taste the rich grape flavor of the wines. Several bottles made it back to the US unopened and ready to share with friends.
We were treated to a spa night at the local 5-star hotel and a fun Sunday afternoon cookout at my hosts’ home. An evening at a peña introduced us to the local culture of the region, which is more Argentine than Bolivian due to its location near the border. Songs, native dancing, colorful costumes, local cuisine, wine and singali (a clear alcoholic drink whose color belies its affect) made it a night to remember.
We enjoyed several evenings of strolling around the plaza and dining at local eateries with our hosts. The weather was mild and comfortable, just like the personality of the city.
While we were pampered and spoiled, other residents of Tarija were not so fortunate. I visited a squatters’ village where people coming in from the country to the city settle on whatever land is available. No water, no power, living in shacks and shanties, the people were probably worse off than in their previous life in the country. It seems a hopeless situation that we saw in several of the large cities. Most don’t have the resources to deal with the huge influx of newcomers and their needs.
I also visited a Habitat for Humanity community outside of Tarija. Nine completed houses await families to occupy them, but there is not water to service the community.
One afternoon, our host, Antonio, took us to the quiet village of San Lorenzo where we enjoyed a walking tour through the cobblestone streets. On a side street off the main plaza, we visited the home of Coronel Eustaquio Mendez, a hero of the independence movement. His home is now a museum that displays battle memorabilia and items from his life and career. Outside in the courtyard, a huge carved wooden mural depicts his role in the battle for independence. After the museum, Antonio bought a bag of ice cream treats, which we shared with children playing along the plaza.
Our final morning in Tarija was crowded with interviews and a visit to the city council meeting where the mayor presented us with gifts from the city. We recognized the mayor as the owner and singer at the peña.
From Tarija, the rest of our itinerary was downhill to the Amazon region of Bolivia in Santa Cruz.
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More Blogs by Linda E Allen
Rotary GSE to Bolivia - Thursday, August 20, 2009
Santa Cruz - a Tropical Paradise! - Monday, August 03, 2009
Tarija - Wine Country! - Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Convento de Santa Teresa - Sunday, July 05, 2009
From the Mountain, to the Mines, to the Mint - Friday, July 03, 2009
Potosí - City of Silver - Friday, June 26, 2009
Sucre - Must See - Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sucre - Bolivia's Historic Capital - Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Cochabamba - Part 2 - Tuesday, June 02, 2009
On to Cochabamba - Monday, June 01, 2009
Eclectic La Paz - Sunday, May 31, 2009
La Paz - The City that Scrapes the Sky - Thursday, May 28, 2009
Belated Bolivia Blog - Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Countdown to Bolivia! - Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Home Away from Home - Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The Work will Find You - Sunday, March 01, 2009
About Konani - 2009 - Friday, February 20, 2009
Bolivia - Election Day 2009 - Wednesday, February 18, 2009