Retreat in the Mountains

Trip Start Dec 06, 2010
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Refugio Bramadero

Flag of Bolivia  , Chuquisaca,
Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thirty km outside of Sucre, in the mountains that surround the city, is a tranquil piece of property with a delightful Inn, far away from the wild, energy of carnaval. We decided to stay here for a few days in order to do a little hiking and to look for new birds.

The owners, Mabel and Raul Carvagal, who also own the Salmandra Restaurant in Sucre, bought the property 20 years ago with the intent to regenerate the vegetation on the mountainside and make the place into an ecologically protected area. They planted pine and eucalyptus tree which attracted many species of birds as well as other small mountain animals.

We were offered one of several cabins which surround the main house and were pleased that our cabin had two washrooms and a fireplace with a box full of wood to burn. Lots of blankets on the beds and a warm, cozy feel made us think that we were at the cottage.

The owners invited us into the main house for a tasty steak lunch, preceded by a quinoa soup beside a big wood fire, and made us feel very welcome. The $30/day that we paid for this Inn was well worth it. We were treated to 3 full meals a day plus 'tea' at 4 p.m. and the gourmet meals and desserts, prepared by Mabel, were delicious.

The weather was not the best, wet and cold but the wood fires certainly helped dry us out a bit. The Inn was situated in a good spot to do some hiking. We walked through pine forests and rocky mountain ridges, saw dinosaur tracks, a camp for young people, an Inca road, as well as the pretty little Capilla de Chataquila, a chapel which is 3,650m (about 12,000 ft) above sea level.

I read somewhere that the Incas in the area were very reluctant to give up their beliefs when the Spanish arrived, so a compromise was made. A large rock by the side of the present road was worshiped by the Incas as a symbol of Pachamama. The Spaniards moved the rock a short distance and built a small church with the altar on top of the rock. They convinced the Incas that the Virgin Mary was an appropriate substitute for Pachamama and everyone was happy. Now there is a small open sanctuary next to the church with a painted Madonna and child on a rock slab. The sanctuary has all the essential five elements of life, according to Inca lore. It is cooled by the wind, warmed by the sun, has flowers from the earth, water in the vases and fire from candles that locals have put there. The locals built a little shrine on the original rock and offer small stones to the Pachamama.

Raul, the owner of Bramadero is an interesting 80 year old with a lot of interests, one of them being astronomy. His Inn is decorated with drawings on large slabs of rock of the constellations and he has several high powered telescopes that guests can use. It was too bad for us that it was cloudy the whole time that we were there. We were looking forward to seeing the stars. Apparently 3000 - 4000 stars can be seen from his yard when the skies are clear. Bramadero uses no electricity so that the stars can be seen more clearly. Just candles and fires. When we were there a generator was used for a few hours in the evening.

On Wednesday, another dismal, wet day, Raul put chains on his tires in anticipation of the muddy road back to Sucre. We climbed into his vehicle and within 1/2 hour his van broke down (no oil pressure). He tried to fix things and then a chain on his tires broke. He fixed this, called someone else with a four wheel drive to come from Sucre to pick us all up. The mud was awful. Driving on it was like driving on an ice and snow covered road, lots of sliding all around. New waterfalls crossed the road and we saw where there had been landslides. Our 1 hour trip going to Bramadero ended up being a 3 1/2 hour trip home. Thank heavens, the drivers here care about their vehicles and being safe. They do not drive like race car drivers, like in some other countries we have been in.

We enjoyed our time at Bramadero (especially the food) and would recommend this little retreat to anyone who wants a little R and R in a lovely setting. The hosts were wonderful and made us feel right at home.

The next few days in Sucre were pretty quiet. We went to see the movie called The Devil's Miner at the Joyride Restaurant. It's a powerful true story about a 14 year old boy who worships the devil for protection while working in a Bolivian silver mine in Potosi to make money to support his family. We think that this moving movie should be seen by everyone.  

We are making plans for our final trip to a library in Villa Serrano, followed by our trip back to Peru and then home again. It won't be long until we are back home.
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