The 4-hour bus ride back from Toro Toro to Cochabamba was all but comfortable. To top it off, we were left off in the midst of the less-fortunate neighborhoods post-fiesta celebrations. Not ideal.
Luckily, after much searching (most hostels were either closed or fully booked) we arrived at Hostal Jaguar in the smack middle of Cochabamba. This place offers some great highlights like actual warm showers and a quaint courtyard perfect for sipping that free instant coffee in the morning sunlight.
While in a larger city, I think the third largest in Bolivia even (also home of the current president and cocalero Evo Morales) I decided it’s probably a good idea to do some well-needed laundry and cook a hefty hefty breakfast before heading out to see the two things that caught my interest in this city: Big Jesus and the biggest market in Bolivia. It’s pretty funny how I have this fascination for markets. Regardless of what items are being sold and regardless of where in the world they may be. Markets are such lively places where just walking around browsing the inventory lets you all of a sudden come across some local gems. They really lie at the heart of every culture, an element that has transcended time and evolving technological advances. Even in more industrialized countries there is still something special about going to a local farmers’ market instead of the grocery store. In a way, it may even be a reflection of some of our deepest needs as human beings and that is a yearning for connectedness.
On the way to Cristo de la Concordia, aka Big Jesus, which, mind you, I strongly recommend visiting in the morning or afternoon. It gets very hot. Big surprise! There is a teleférico option to get to the top. But I always find it so much more worthwhile to reach a top by walking (and I didn’t want to splurge the extra maybe 10Bs). Be sure to stay on your watch as there have been reported robberies on the trail. Fun fact: This Jesus is the largest in the world at 40.4 meters beating Rio’s Christ the Redeemer by a whooping 2.4 meters!
After enjoying the panoramic views for a bit we head back toward the center with the end goal of getting to the market. The way there is made tricky as we meander the streets completely distracted and surprised by ice cream discotek palaces and 2Bs fresh juice stands. We first go to grab the bus ticket for Sucre that left later that same evening (night buses are the only options here). They all leave between 19:30 and 20:00. Note that no full-cama buses are available. Only semi-cama or regular seats (sales people will most likely still try to convince you otherwise).
The market is conveniently located by the bus terminal so a quick visit in this labyrinth of fruit, car spare parts, peanuts on peanuts on peanuts, toys and medicinal herbs was definitely a go-go. Pro-tip for the fellow peanut fanatic: get the unsalted ones form Sucre. This is the country’s peanut Mecca and as Cochabamba is relatively close to this it, finding them there is not a big mission. Also, low and behold, you will understand how competitive the fruit market gets. All of a sudden I stop myself in my daydreaming as I realize I am surrounded by bananas as far as the eye can see. Granted, they were all different kinds of bananas. But bananas all the same. Indeed, a whole section of this gigantic market was dedicated to bananas. At every turn, every gaze, there it was: the yellowish bendy fruit. Needless to say, I got my vegetarian fix here and stocked up on some food before the night bus: 1 kilo strawberries, 1 papaya and half a kilo of peanuts for the grand total of…. 15 Bs!
“Cool story bro, but how much did it cost?”
Toro Toro- Cochabamba bus: 20Bs
Hostal Jaguar: 70Bs
Laundry (service for 5 kilos): 75Bs
Food and water (breakfast of eggs, cheese and veggies): 20Bs
Big Jesus visit: 0 Bs
Dinner at Chili’s (I don’r recommend it very much): 18 Bs
Cochabamba- Sucre bus: 70-90 Bs (depending if you want semi-cama or not)
Total: 283 Bs