Knowing the road is paved and in good condition all the way we decided to do the 515km to Cochabamba in one day, taking an alternative route through La Paz to avoid the chaos on the main road. We arrived late afternoon and were greeted in perfect English by Michael from France who runs the hotel.
It was self catering with a nice big common kitchen area and as we needed to go shopping for breakfast he promptly escorted us to the supermarket and showed us a couple of nice restaurants on the way. He figured he needed a walk anyway. What a nice guy.
Our plan was to stay two nights and then go celebrate New Year in a lodge at one of the national parks in the tropical part of Bolivia, but as everything is fully booked we decide to stay in Cochabamba for New Year.
Also we like the city. It has a nice vibe to it and is in much better condition than what we have experienced so far except for Sucre. Michael explains that Cochabamba is known for having the best climate in the country, so this is where a lot of the rich people live. Especially in the area north of the river. That is within walking distance and sure enough. Across the river the houses are large and properly built, with kept gardens and clean streets. It looks very European. The city itself is full of life and everywhere the sidewalk cafes are full.
The nice climate is due to the fact that the city is located at 2500m altitude between the Altiplano and the lowlands. On the Altiplano it gets quite cold at night and in the lowlands it is tropical and wet. We are after all just 17 degrees south of equator.
So here it never gets really hot or really cold or really wet. Basically it is spring all year round and we enjoy walking around in shorts and t-shirt during the day and in the evening we just put on a long-sleeved t-shirt.
We decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Novecento, a nice Italian restaurant. They advertise a three course menu that looks nice and also we simply like the atmosphere there, so we sign up and reserve a table. The event is listed as starting at 1900 so that is when we show up. As the first ones there, we figure “what the hell” get our table and order our food. At around 2100 when we dig into our desert the place is almost full. We are out of there shortly after 2200 and go back to the hotel to find Michael and some friends in the kitchen cooking.
Bolivians like late dinners. We are promptly invited to join and accept.
As the outdoor barbecue is fired up and midnight approaches, people start dropping by with fireworks, snacks, drinks and I smell a couple of funny cigarettes as well. Michael places a bucket (as in an actual bucket) with Sangria on the table and we can just help ourselves if we so desire. Don´t bother with pouring it, just dip you glass in it until it fills. Chilled and easy-going. I like that.
This is my first new years eve in a warm climate as well, but contrary to Christmas where the snow and cold was just missing, a warm New Years Eve rocks. Standing in the yard in my t-shirt with the BBQ going and watching the fireworks with happy friendly people around me. Yeah, I could get used to that. As neither Lorraine nor I are big party people we head off to bed at little after 0100. Besides we are off towards Santa Cruz the next morning.
As we get up the next morning, I take a look in the garden. Half finished drinks on the table, leftover food and empty bottles everywhere. All that´s missing are guests sleeping under the table.
Lots of traditions are different from country to country, but New Years Eve seems to be universal.