Cochabamba like the rest of Bolivia was a series of highs and not so highs, but all in all a great place for us to relax before heading into Torotoro National Park. Known as the culture capital of Bolivia there are a host of great restaurants and bars, and loads of beautiful street art makes wandering the streets an aesthetic experience.
Cochabamba was the 1st city we decided to try Airbnb during our South American adventures, and boy are we glad we took that option! We ended up in a really modern 2 bedroom apartment with a great host and perfectly equipped kitchen. Because our host was away working for the majority of our stay we made the most of being at home, doing normal non traveller things and cooking meals! Steve even joined a local gym for the week. Travelling for an extended period sounds a lot more glamorous than it is, after a couple of months you really start to miss the simple pleasures of home so when you get the chance to be normal and escape cheap hotels and backpacker joints you grab it with both hands! For me, having an oven to make a Lasagne and an apple crumble was a very exciting part of being in Cochabamba.
We stayed in the north near the Uni Franz which is the fancier part of town, there are lots of nice places to eat and green parks to relax. We found a sushi bar called Koi, so as a treat we splashed out! Turns out they make delicious fresh sushi and for 24 mixed pieces we paid 130 bob ($26 AUD), so while it’s not a budget option in Bolivia it’s certainly nice for a change! We also decided to try popular family restaurant “Globos” more because of the huge dessert menu than because of its reputation… But boy.. Their ice-cream sundaes are unbelievable, and as a kid it’s paradise with a 4 storey playground and sugar practically coating the walls.
There are a few touristic options when visiting Cochabamba, during the day you can take the teleferico up to the giant Christo Blanco (said to be the 2nd biggest in the world, even bigger than the more famous Jesus in Rio) but note that it closes at 6pm. In the evening you can also go and see the dancing fountains in the family park for only 10bob, or just wander the town and find a nice pub for a cold beer. We wandered down España away from the 14 de Septiembre Plaza, and into a dimly lit rock bar playing classic 80’s and 90’s music videos from some of the greats including The Doors, ACDC and Meatloaf. Brilliant.
We also enjoyed just sitting in the main Plaza, while we were there a couple of buskers were playing fabulous old school jazz on a guitar and saxophone and the fountain in the middle was lit up so very pretty.
The centre of town is unpretentious and relaxed with loads of great street art to appreciate and green plazas and parks to enjoy. There is actually a street art tour you can take on bikes here, it has great reviews on Tripadvisor, it’s 2 hours and costs 70 bob for international tourists. You need to pre organise it through their Facebook page (Bike Art Cocha) but sadly we didn’t give it enough time so we missed out.
The local market market in Cochabamba is somewhat famous, we don’t mind a good market but to us this one wasn’t anything special, just crowded and smelly. The only thing that really impressed us here were the stealthy ninja skills of the local pick pocketing crew. We didn’t even notice they’d taken anything until the empty wallet flopped down in front of my feet! We think there may have been about 5 of them working in a team because the distractions included someone dropping something, a light tap on the shoulder and another couple of guys pushing past us all at the same time.
Props for returning the wallet complete with cards though team.
On Sunday I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the puppy market near the stadium (Estadio Félix Capriles). There were so many ridiculously gorgeous baby animals and everyone was carrying a little dog in their arms. It was an overload of cute. Unfortunately the number of stray dogs in Bolivia is heartbreaking and we couldn’t help feeling like these dogs were only being taken home and loved until they got big and chewing the shoes isn’t cute anymore. Still, it made me feel all gooey holding so many fluffy puppies!
We enjoyed Cochabamba life, not doing all the touristy things but just lapping up the vibe. If you’re planning to check out Torotoro national park it’s a good place to spend a night either side and leave your bags, especially if you are staying with Gustavo at his Airbnb. The colectivo to the park can take ages to fill up and it’s a very bumpy 4 hour ride so it’s definitely nice to have a place to chill out after, as opposed to jumping straight on another Bolivian night bus.