April 30 - May 4, 2017
Tarija was our official rest city. It's not a very touristy city, although it does have a nice downtown area and is the wine capital of Bolivia. At just 1,850 meters high, breathing is not an issue at all. The weather is usually good. Parts felt a lot like Southern California.
I got off to a bit of a rough start by falling down the stairs while exiting the bus. In the end the damage was just a cut on my left elbow, and a minor sprain in my right. After we took care of the cut, we seriously started doing nothing. That was pretty easy because on the Sunday we arrived almost everything was closed, and Monday was May Day, which also left everything closed. There were no protests or anything, it was just a very quiet day. When the city came back alive on Tuesday, it felt like a different place.
Our hostel (Kultur Berlin) had a very nice courtyard, and we spent a lot of time just sitting there reading. In between we wandered around town a bit, ate mystery meat (probably cow udder) on a stick, ate mystery meat (probably lamb intestine) in a bowl, and ate some $8 filet mignon which was amazing. We visited the Casa de Oro, which is kind of like Hearst Castle but with style (and not quite as extravagant). We also visited the paleontological museum which had some pretty cool skeletons set up.
One afternoon Danielle went off on a wine tasting tour, which I wasn't interested in. Instead I bought Danielle some bolivianite jewelry because her birthday was coming up. Bolivianite is a mixture of amethyst (purple) and citrine (yellow), and only naturally occurs in Bolivia.
Another evening I took a 2-hour private salsa lesson. It's satisfying to learn quickly, and I got to the point where I could do some basic things. I'm still at the level where I'm just going through a pattern and not really dancing, but I enjoyed some of the stretch-release that was going on. In the evening I joined the teacher and his students at an Irish Pub for socializing as well as salsa and bachata (I only know the basic) dancing. It was great to practice Spanish talking to several of the people there, and just be immersed in a truly local experience. (After all, that's what every tourist claims to want, except then they go and visit the same places and do the same things that all the other tourists also do.)
There was one important thing to do in Tarija, which we did on Tuesday: extend our Bolivian visas. The only real trouble was that the address in the guidebook for the immigration office is incorrect. Luckily a man working at the veterinary clinic around the corner knew where it was and gave us good directions. For the record, the address of the immigration office in Tarija is E0648, Ingavi, Tarija. I updated Google Maps. Once inside, we quickly moved from one office to the other and got our extension without any problems.
We also did some planning for the remainder of our trip in Tarija, and while we didn't nail everything down yet, we decided to visit a jaguar preserve near Santa Cruz. We'd heard scary things about the length of the bus ride there (20-ish hours) so we decided to fly. Flying is indeed way faster and more comfortable than taking the bus.