A Captivating Little City

Trip Start Jul 28, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, August 17, 2012

We are anxious to get an early start. With our reserve canisters, we have just enough fuel to make it to Tarija.  We will need to climb to 9,000 feet and want to do it before the day heats up.  It is a spectacular flight as we pass over four high ridges into Tarija.

Given our aborted attempt to reach Tarija the day before, we are somewhat nervous deplaning.  Four federal police show up, plus a number of airport officials, but everyone is as nice as can be and are more curious about the Little Lady.  Two narcotics agents with dogs show up to inspect our luggage and the plane.  They too are very nice and joke with us.

It is only 11 am and we are headed to our hotel for the day.  What a treat.  The boulevard to the hotel is bordered by a riverside park and is crowded with nicely dressed people of all ages.  The cab driver explains that it is a national holiday of celebration.  We are not exactly sure what is being celebrated, but it is a pleasant contrast to the chaos of Yacuiba the day before.

Patrick is fighting some congestion in his chest and opts to rest a bit.  Greg and Cathryn get a map from the desk clerk and go for a walk about.  The picturesque historic plaza is rimmed with restaurants and shops offering Bolivian goods.  At 1:00 they settle into a table with a view of the plaza for lunch. Patronized by apparently successful local people, it is clear that El Gattopardo is one of the better restaurants on the square.  Patrick catches up with them for lunch.  The prices are shocking.  Lunch for all three including wine and beer was a little more than $10.

After lunch we walk up to the cathedral at the top of the hill.  The walk is more interesting than the Cathedral. Patrick returns to the hotel and Greg and Cathryn continue being tourists.  Greg gets a haircut -- $2.

Tarija is perplexing.  The pricing is 3rd world, but the community is not.  This is even more evident when we go to dinner.  We return to the same place we had lunch and are lucky to get a table outside facing the plaza.  It is bursting with energy.  A stage is set up at the far end with pulsating lighting and music of all types. The park is crowded with people swaying to the music.  We love it.

With this backdrop, a vignette of teenage angst unfolds in front of us.  Hopeful boys invade a table of five cute girls, 15ish.   Much posturing and preening goes on and more boys come.   The boys, with great bravado add more chairs and then more tables to the group.  When their order arrives it is hamburgers and milkshakes.  They all have i-phones.  Are we really in Bolivia!?  As we ponder this scenario, suddenly there is a loud popping sound.  Fireworks are exploding over the plaza.  It is magical.

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