Saturday, April 25, 2009


Semana Santa celebrations in South America are not only a time to respectfully consider Jesus's death and resurrection, they are also a time to GET WASTED!!

We came down off the mountain late in the morning, and we found a wide cross-section of the population of Sorata drunk in the streets: grandmothers, twelve-year-old boys, Cholitas, bus drivers, priests, and lots of old guys. So, we carefully chose seats outside a cafe near the plaza, dropped our packs, ordered a few paceñas of our own, and settled in for some people watching.

In the middle of the plaza there were several music stages set up side by side, each with their own band playing simultaneously. The musical mayhem continued into the streets where marching bands dressed in full costume would strike up a lively tune and parade around the square a few times until drowned out by another marching band. Battle of the bands Bolivian style sounded like preschool music class after a while.

Party on the streets of Sorata
From Laguna Chillata

We watched with amazement as 90 liters of beer vanished within five minutes of being parked on the sidewalk. The dancing, once impressive, began to disintegrate. The men promenaded their Cholitas around in an inebriated stumble-trot, trying not to fall. The streets turned increasingly wet with the foam from hundreds of beers...and from a few people who had to break the seal.

Lady that was partied out at noon, and sat down for a nap at our table, the confetti slowly falling out of her hair.
From Laguna Chillata

The scene kept getting uglier over the next few hours. We decided to head down to our hostel after I was told (for the third time this trip) that I looked like “a virgin” or “The Virgin” of the two. Apparently this is a secret-weapon pick-up line of drunken middle-aged men across South America. I have my doubts about how well it works. (It definitely can't get more action than my all-time favorite pick up line: “Hey baby, can I take your derivative? I want to be tangent to all of your curves.”)

We headed away from the chaotic center and took the steep path down to our hostel at the bottom of the valley. By the time we got to the hostel, the clouds had completely lifted, and we were shown the impressive peaks of Illampu and Ancohuma that we had almost missed on the days trekking at their foot.

With clear views, Sorata struck me as an impressive place. With sun, you can see all the way from the bottom of the lush, jungle-like valley to the top of the snowy Andean peaks that hover over the city. The land around the town is steep, but still terraced and cultivated. Fields and houses cling to the sides of the mountains like lichen covering a rock, with different patterns and textures.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the quiet oasis at the river's edge, enjoying the sunshine, drying our gear, napping, and taking in the views.

View of Illampu from our hostel at the bottom of the valley
From Laguna Chillata

Pepe, the resident dalmation at the hostel, who was really good at his job: lying in the sun, barking at geese, and begging for food.
From Laguna Chillata

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