This past weekend I travelled to Sorata, a small town that has often been compared to the Garden of Eden by the Spanish when teaching religion to the indigenous people. A four-hour bus ride from La Paz, Sorata provided a weekend full of the things I love most about Bolivia, as follow:
1. The bus ride
There are few, if any, tourist buses that service Sorata from La Paz. As a result, the most common form of transport to Sorata is the local transit, namely mini buses. These are van-like vehicles with “space” for about 16. To clarify, this number is somewhat analogous to saying my dad’s double cab truck “seats” 6. Usually (and my trip was no exception) there is at least one baby seated on a lap, countless bags of various shapes and sizes, and even on my return trip, a dog. I absolutely love it. I have met new facebook friends, finished knitting a hat, and undoubtedly picked up some Spanish on similar, but shorter, rides into nearby towns and the city center. I should probably also note that the four-hour ride cost me about two American dollars. If only I could get to Raleigh for $2…
2. The planning mishap
I had been planning on staying in a hostel in Sorata called the Residencial Sorata, a historic hostel located on the main square. My bus arrived shortly after dark, and, while I was able to find the hostel quite easily, I also found that it was full. The three other hostels recommended by the owner proved to be full as well. At this point, I was becoming bit frazzled and you can probably imagine what happens to my limited Spanish when I get a bit disheveled. However, two women at one of the hostels kindly arranged a room for me in Hotel Toro Bravo, and the kind owner, Fernando came and picked me up. I now am quite certain he thinks I am crazy, but that’s another story… I quite enjoyed the accommodation, a popular choice among Bolivians, as I believe I was the only foreigner.
3. The adventure
I set out Saturday morning for a day-hike to the San Pedro Caves. Did I make it to the caves? – No. Did I go in the right direction? –Debatable. Did I have a beautiful adventure? – Of course.
4. The friend
Sunday morning I went for a walk, found a nice corner with a beautiful view, and sat down with my embroidery. I had been there for perhaps about an hour when a woman named Lucy approached me to ask me what I was doing. A forty-five(ish) minute conversation followed during which I learned about her, her family, and her life while she asked me about my family, my trip, and what I thought about Bolivia. Upon hearing that I particularly liked Sorata and didn’t want to leave, she asked me when I would be coming back. Hearing that I was paying 70 Bs (about $10) for accommodation, she was appalled, informed me that that was entirely too much, and that I had better call her next time I plan on coming. At this point she said she must go and asked if I would be staying at my corner for a bit longer. About half an hour later, her daughter, Sarita, came outside and invited me into the house. Lucy pulled a chair into the shade, set up an umbrella and asked me to sit. Meanwhile, she went inside but soon returned with a bowl, knife, and assortment of fruits. She asked me if I liked fruit salad. So there we sat for another hour or so, talking about my school and Sorata and laughing at my Spanish abilities (or rather, lack thereof). When it came time for me to leave, she showed me her guest room and urged me again to call her not if, but when, I return. She added that Sarita stays in an apartment in La Paz during the school year and that if I should find myself in La Paz, I should also call her. I departed with kisses and hugs and “See you soon”s. It felt as if I were leaving my own grandmother’s house. I had known Lucy for about two hours.
I have fallen in love with this place.