previous next 29 images

Tarija, Bolivia

Normally I call the same taxi driver every time I need to make the trip up to El Alto, but I thought it would be fun and fast to drive my own car up for this little weekend adventure. Bad idea. Due to the Independence Holiday weekend, the main road through town was closed and I struggled to find the old/alternate route up that arrives at the rim near all these antenae. Running late...

Upon arriving in El Alto, there were more road blocks and delays all related to the holiday weekend. The real holiday was not until Monday, so I did not expect this. The roads were so bad that I started to take photos of El Alto… thinking a flight to Tarija may not be possible this weekend...

Actually, we did miss our original flights but somehow Bolivian Airlines had scheduled another plane that day to make-up for a cancellation by TAM. Anyway, after a bit more stress and a transfer in Cochabamba, we arrived at Tarija airport, in southeast Bolivia.

Upon arriving at Hotel Parrales, we headed for their restaurant which wasn't really serving any particular regional specialties. Instead, I got one of my favorite Bolivian dishes: silpancho. Rice, beef, egg, potato and garnishes all piled in one hunger-killing plate. Yum!

I really like these squares with all these trees. I think this was the main square of Tarija (Plaza de Armas) but it sure was quiet on a Saturday afternoon.

I believe the white building there is the departmental government building. Nice plaza, but pretty sleepy, eh?

Heading out of town toward the wine country. The cloud blanket on the mountains ahead starts to come into view. Looks a little dry, but could also be Tuscany or Napa if you squint at it just right :)

I think the locals call it a table cloth.

It might look tranquil but this was one of the windiest places I have ever stood in my life. This is the only opening between the dry lowlands behind me and some clouded foothills on the other side of this wall.

First stop on the wine tour was a shop in a small village which was showcasing lots of small winemakers as well as the local music and custom. Remember that… apparently it's an important part of local culture.

Next was another small wine maker. These guys were trimming the vines back as we stepped into this makeshift museum full of old viticulture stuff. The owner of this place is a bit eccentric.

Look like wine country? Well, we are close to Argentina and one of the biggest wine producing regions of South America. This area around Tarija must make about 90% of the Bolivian wine. Some of the big producers are consistently good, but they were all closed to tours due to the holiday weekend.

So here is the eccentric owner. He tries to be some kind of legend in local wine culture. He invented this gimmick of service wine "by the meter." He fills the meter-long straw from the big jug and then lets you drink.

The wine is a bit thick but not too sweet. Of the three bottles I bought this day, this wine was my favorite when I got back home. Wish I had bought more really… very refreshing.

Tarija has less than 200,000 people and looks a little sleepy, but there are some nice resaurants and places to see. The department of Tarija has both petroleum and natural gas, which feeds the economy despite complaints about high inflation. I heard that health care is completely free in Tarija, though, so there are benefits...

Day two was more about nature. I wanted to check out some of the natural pools and ponds in the surrounding countryside. Tarija is still over a mile high (1850m) but only 21 degree south latitude making it pretty warm year round. People like to visit these cool pools of water on weekends.

The only photo from a 30-second failed attempt to get some triathlon training done with my wetsuit. The idea was that the water in Tarija would be warmer than any open water around La Paz thanks to the lower altitude, but this little pool was still freezing even with my wetsuit!

We passed some little local festival along the way and stopped-in for a minute. I think there was live music and other things going-on, but when we arrived, everyone was just eating.

We tried these crepe-like snacks which were quite good. I like how she flips them with a knife!

This was my favorite thing that I tried in Tarija. It is kinda just grape juice, but it ferments just enough to have some flavor of alcohol but very little, so you can easily drink a huge pitcher in one sitting. It's called Chicha de Uva… highly recommended!

And these little fried crabs were delicious. Not too greasy or salty and small enough that you can just eat the long crunchy body.

Remember that drum that the girl was playing at the first wine tasting spot? This scupture at one of the bigger intersections back in town reminds us of its importance in the local culture.

And across the street is the male version with a different hat and a cool horn to boot. These are some of the most creative scuptures I've seen in a long time!

Thanks to the Monday holiday, there was a parade and street vendors were out selling everything.

I tried the tamarind juice. I like the way they serve street drinks in bags like this. It is common in many countries of the developing world.

And here is the main event! A parade full of government entities and people waving flags. It didn't seem too exciting to me, but I am not a parade person.

Another view of the parade. Yes, the sun was hot, so these people are smart to bring umbrellas, hats, etc. One is using a newspaper whose headline reminds us that Bolivia is celebrating 187 years of independence.

Random street scene along the parade route.