Cochabamba is at a mere 2550 metres and has a wonderful climate – very Mediterranean, although we were assured it also rains a lot at certain times of year. It suited us very well – it was lovely not to need to wear a coat all the time!
Here we learned about the “enlace” system which apparently all our European credit cards need to function. We started to worry when after trying about 10 ATMs we’d failed to draw any cash. Advice on line from a friendly person we’d booked a hotel through was to go into the bank, ask to see the head cashier and request to draw effectivos! It worked – thanks Vivian – and so we were able to pay the cash deposit for our Amazon adventure next month.
Later we discovered that Cochabamba is in two sections around 2 squares. The Plaza 14 Septiembre is in the older, historical area with the Cathedral and a lot of well preserved colonial buildings. The Plaza Colon is in a newer, upmarket area of modern high rise buildings including restaurants, shops and up market hotels. The ATM’s in this area were happy to give us cash and thanked us for using “enlace”
So panic over we became regular tourists. We had coffee in the Cafe Paris, visited the excellent museum of archaeology, palaeontology and ethnography, looked in the cathedral.
We visited the Convento De Santa Teresa which until the 1960s was home to a cloistered order of Carmelite Nuns. The rules were strict, outside contact was prevented by a revolving door through which all external transactions were completed. Family visits were conducted through a screen. Not only this but a hierarchical regime, based on the amount of ‘dowry’ brought into the convent kept the nuns with no dowry in servitude to those from affluent families and sharing living quarters. Even the single cells were austere with penitential items such as whips in evidence.
The Vatican declared the regime inhumane in the 1960s and the nuns moved to more comfortable accommodation nearby and resumed contact with the outside world. There are still 7 nuns remaining. The old convent building seems to be crumbling away through lack of maintenance – we were denied access to various parts due to dilapidation.
Through Servas we met up with a local resident, Gustavo and his family. We had two restaurant meals together and Gustavo gave us a good tour all round the different parts of the city. We are very lucky to get the ‘inside view’ on places from local residents.
On his recommendation we took the cable car up to see the Cristo de Concordia statue high above the city. It’s the largest in the world, standing even higher than the Cristo Redento in Rio de Janeiro. Didn’t realise there was competition. Not sure where the Angel of the North comes.
Gustavo also recommended the Palacio Portales, an extravagant home completed in the 1920s for Simon Patino who had made his fortune from tin mining. When we arrived the building was closed for a ‘Congreso’ but the gardens were impressive enough!

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