Sunday, March 2, 2014

Valle Alto

Two weekends ago, two of our teachers from language school packed the 5 of us students, plus the two of them, and a driver, into a minivan trufi and headed a bit over an hour south to a region called "Valle Alto."  I wasn't quite sure what to expect on the trip, since the only time I'd heard the names of any of the towns we were headed to was in regards to the extensive flooding that has occurred in parts of Bolivia (due to the large amount of rain the country has received this year).

We left at the *leisurely* hour of 7:30am in order to try and make the 9am mass at the first pueblo on our list, Tarata.  However, this was an epic fail.  No one except the 10+ statues of Catholic Saints (complete with wigs of real hair--!!) was to be found inside the church.  They, along with the incredibly intricate and ornate decorations surrounding them made for quite the churchly experience.  Here's a picture I found online so you can get a taste of what this spectacular sight looked like:

Second stop on the tour was the market in Clisa.  We were warned ahead of time that this Sunday-only market was huge and full of anything and everything you could possibly want.  And our teachers were not lying. We passed lines and lines of clothing, fruit, vegetables, electronics, coca (!!), meat, all kinds of cooked food, MASSIVE amounts of bread, sweets, kitchen wares, shoes, etc.  It was amazing and overwhelming all at the same time.  One of the highlights for sure was our poor teacher Viviana asking pretty much every single person she came in contact with where we might find a bathroom...  Darn gringos and their combination of constant water drinking and very small bladders...  Here are some pictures of the market that Nate took (another Franciscan Lay Missioner).  He's quite talented and actually has a photo blog you should check out if you have the time! (

In this first picture, you get the sense of what I mean by "massive amounts of bread."  This is just one of m.a.n.y tables of all sorts of bread--flat breads, rolls, loafs, etc.

Here's a picture of a woman selling (from left to right) limes, tangerines, chirimoya (still have yet to try, but I've heard it's delicious), and the little pile all the way on the right is higo, which translates to "fig" in English, but the taste (SUPER delicious) bears little resemblance to the fresh figs I've eaten in the States (although also super delicious in their own right).

After looking at all this food and spending what felt like *hours* walking under the boiling hot sun (I know I shouldn't complain too much to all you Northern-State livers who've gotten pummeled by snow and cold weather this winter...), it was decided we would drive to the next pueblo of Punata to eat our lunch.  And it was along this part of our journey that we really started seeing the evidence of the flooding that had (and still is happening) in the region.  Here's an awesome picture Nate got *while in a moving vehicle* of a house surrounded by flood waters.

We saw this same scene in pastures, forests, and everything in between during our drive.  Very sad.  And very frustrating.  So far, the only organization I can find that says that it's directly helping Bolivian flood victims is called Samaratian's Purse.  Here's the link if you want to check it out: (  However, my big disclaimer is that I don't know anything about the organization past what I have been able to read on the website, so take it as you will.  I'll let you know if I hear of any local organizations that are helping out as well.

Now I'm going to shamelessly segue back to lunch.  I wish I would have taken of picture of mine.  It was incredible.  My host mother had gotten up at 6am (I had to leave the house by 7) in order to *freshly* make me grilled chicken, mashed potatoes (from scratch of course), and broccoli.  Yup.  Can you say, "PRINCESS???" Because that's exactly what I felt like...  In lieu of a food picture, here's one of the whole group minus our trufi driver, who was kind enough to take it.

From left to right we have Oswaldo and Viviana, our two fearless leaders and two of our absolute *favorite* teachers, Valerie, Hady, me, Mary, and Nate.  It looks like Nate has gone Bolivian in this picture meaning zero sign of a smile...

And finally, we get to my favorite part of the trip--Laguna Angostura! When I asked why this quite large body of water was called a "lagoon" and not a "lake," I was told it's because it's not big enough to be called a "lake..."  Apparently, a body of water only gets the title "lake" when it's roughly the size of the *massive* Lake Titicaca OR one of the Great Lakes in the United States. I assured both of my teachers that we had MANY "lakes" in Wisconsin that were quite a bit smaller than their lagoon...  Not to worry, I will be starting my lagoon-to-lake name-change petition shortly.  Stay tuned. Here are some pictures I took of the water, the surrounding area, and some of us from the group.

Here are 4 out of the 5 students (sorry Mary!!)--Valerie, me, Nate, and Hady.  Looks like the Bolivian way of smiling (ie not) is Nate's signature look :)

And here's the lake in all of it's glory!  I love the way the clouds were filling the sky--and thanks again to my incredible camera, it looks even a little better than the real-life scene :)

Two more scenery pictures! The one to the left shows the abundance of cacti found near the lake.  The one of the right is looking up the steep banks found near the far side (don't ask me north, south, east, or west...I have zero idea...) of the lake.  There were TONS of trees and bushes growing in every little nook and cranny of the rocks--a beautiful sight for sore "city" eyes :)


  1. Oh my gosh. Chirimoya are the possible the best fruit ever... After Mangos. We had them in Spain and I still dream of them. Eat a bunch for me! Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  2. your pictures of the "lagoon" are gorgeous! miss you lady!