Friday, June 26, 2015

6/26/15: Oruro

Going with the renewal of travel spirit of this week, I decided to take Friday off and use the weekend to travel to a city near Cochabamba, Oruro! I had expected the bus ride to take about 3-4 hours, so I woke up at a normal time, packed, and took a trufi to the bus station. I had stopped by yesterday to make sure that I could get a bus ticket to Oruro, but realized that there were probably going to be so many buses that I didn't have anything to worry about. When I arrived, I went to the nearest employee yelling "ORURO!!" and got a ticket for about $3.50. The bus ride was not very fun, the scenery outside was not very eye-catching, and it took close to 5 hours to get to Oruro. Oh well.

I struggled to find the hostel I had found online because I knew I could walk there (even with my backpack, it was only about 4 blocks from the bus station). It was close but Oruro has almost no road names posted and Bolivia has the worst cellular data I've ever seen, but luckily a map was loaded on my Hostelworld app! It saved me, and I figured out how to get to the hostel. I have a private room and bathroom because the shared room's toilet is clogged (LOL). It costs about $1.50 extra but I guess I can handle that.

I ventured out into Oruro, but not after I remembered that Oruro is at higher altitude than Cochabamba, to the point that I was feeling a dull headache. It's not fun to feel that, especially when you have to keep walking. I did because I expected today to be the only day that I would explore the city (tomorrow I plan to go to Sajama National Park, spend the night in Sajama, return to Oruro on Sunday, and take a bus back to Cochabamba in the afternoon from Oruro - though I might need an extra day, who knows?).

The city is actually quite nice. Someone told me Cochabamba is more modern, but I disagree. There are nice buildings, and even though the Oruro is a little dusty and has a lot of trash lining the streets, I think it's quite nice overall!

I also walked into a Bolivian artisan store right next to the main plaza, which had some cute stuff! I don’t think I can fit any more souvenirs or anything into my bag, so I didn’t buy any of it.

The main plaza itself is very pretty. It reminds me of Central Park in New York in a way because it’s so lush and green, surrounded by a bunch of buildings and city life. I love that contrast, and this square in Oruro captures that vibe the best, by far – at least in Bolivia.

Along the way, I went through the Oruro market – there’s an outdoor component like La Cancha from Cochabamba, but there’s also an indoor component like many other cities I’ve visited. The interesting thing about the indoor component is that it’s mainly filled with non-perishable goods, like clothes and stationary whereas other city markets have mainly been food.

Oruro, like La Paz, is located in a bowl-like center, with mountainous views all around it. As a result, it has several miradors, or lookout points, around the city. The one I went to was special in particular because it’s also the site of the Oruro Carnival, which is a famous and very elaborate carnival the city holds every year in mid-August. I would have waited to visit until then, but obviously I will be in Chile/almost home by then. Nevertheless, remnants of it are all around the area. There is an awesome plaque stating that the carnival has been recognized by UNESCO, signs about it, paintings/street art, and people playing drums in the area. I’m sure the carnival is AWESOME. If I ever come back to Bolivia, I hope to come see it!

The lookout point is quite nice as well. It has a significant set of stairs before you can get to it, but there is a large white cross, lots of art, and a statue at the top! The views are quite nice, too. 

Next to it are a church and a statue honoring mine workers that added to the scenery. 

Since it was starting to get darker, I started to make my way back to the hostel. I walked through another square next to the “lawyer block”. It’s not actually called the “lawyer block”, but I’m pretty sure all the lawyers in the city conspired to have offices in that area or something. Down one street, you can see nothing but lawyer offices – it was kind of weird! The square was buzzing with life and had some noteworthy statues as well.

For dinner, I walked into a little restaurant along the way and chose something that had a yummy-looking picture next to the name. It cost me about $2.50 – but the portion was huge and it even came with a milkshake! The main course was a typical Bolivian meal called “pique”, made with French fries on the bottom and topped with beef, sausage, and egg. They had a little “salad bar” – lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc. that you could put on your pique. It was a lot of food, but it was quite good! It helped my headache subside just a little bit.

Now, according to the information I’ve gathered on the internet, I should be able to catch breakfast at 8:30 and leave Oruro by 9:15 to arrive in Patacamaya, and then take the only bus that goes from there to Sajama, where I can go into the national park. I might arrive there after 3 or even 4 pm, so depending on how it goes I might spend tomorrow and Sunday in Sajama, then get back to Oruro and subsequently Cochabamba on Monday. We’ll see, hopefully it all goes smoothly though!

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