After thankfully surviving our 30 minute ride to Coroico, Teresa and I got out of that vehicle as quickly as we could, simply happy to have our feet on the solid ground. Like most plazas in Latin America, the main square was bustling with energy- people sitting and chatting, selling juices, playing music, and kids using plastic bottles as soccer balls.
We set foot on a little exploration, walking up, down, and around the cobbled and crooked streets. The outskirts of town, just a few blocks from the center plaza, revealed blue skies and vegetation covered mountains as far as the eye could see. The streets themselves were filled with tiny restaurants offered cozily inside homes, internet shops, and mini-markets selling water, juices, snacks, toilet paper, and all the daily goodies.
We happened upon the main market and meandered through but, since it was getting dark, most people were putting away their fruits, veggies, and spices. It was a small, indoor market with one skinny aisle and one open section on each of the two sides. With hoards of flies making pit stops on each piece, the meats and cheeses made me cringe a bit, but there were some huge papayas and other intriguing fruits I’d never seen before.
We continued on and got lured into a little home/restaurant by some yummy looking sweets in the window and an entrancing smell floating from the open door. We went inside and found a woman folding clothes and talking to, what I presume, were members of her family. We got her attention and she gave us these yummy banana-muffin type deserts. She asked if we wanted a flan/pudding type desert to go with it… it was freshly made and typically accompanied the banana postre. Of course we said sure!! She sprinkled some cinnamon on top and we happily dunked the muffins. The place was quite cute, its walls covered in paintings, crafts, and a big collage of the woman’s family, given to her on her birthday. After a few minutes, she came out and talked to us- curious as to who we were and where we came from. She was so sweet, very grandma-like, telling us all about Coroico, her life, her family, and tips on visiting some waterfalls just a few miles away.
On the way home we took a lap around the plaza, talked to one of the jewelry sellers for some time, and finally just sat on a bench for about an hour, talking about our trip and speculating on life. Next to us was a man selling the juices we’d seen everywhere. Curious, I asked what exactly they were but he only spoke Quechua (the native language), so we decided to wait until daylight to try ’em out.
The next day there was a big line in the plaza around some women with baskets. They were selling bread, empanadas, and rellenas (banana, rice, or potate pastries stuffed with meat, veggies, and potatoes). Since everyone was crowding around, we figured it was in our best interest to order one too! Then, thirsty, we made our way to the juices. The woman had 3 big jugs on her table, each with a different juice – one peanut, one peach, and one flax (they also contained some other seasonings like cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, etc). Teresa ordered the peach and I ordered the peanut… both were very refreshing!
Satisfied, we headed to the minivan taxi for a 40 minute, $.50 ride to the end of (what I’m calling) “waterfall way.” We left town, traveling past little villages (or whatever you call a grouping of 10-20 houses) and a couple waterfalls. When we finally arrived we walked through some tropical forest-like area and came upon an impressive waterfall. Children were playing in the little pool it created underneath. Some little girls came up to Teresa and I and nervously asked if they could take pictures with us. Growing up in a non-touristy area, they definitely don’t see many people like us and were particularly entranced by the whiteness of Teresa’s skin :) It was cute and they were so excited… first taking a group picture and then each individually, all smiles, standing in-between us.
We walked back towards town so that we could make a stop at each of the waterfalls along the way. We had gotten terrible bug bites the day before, so we walked in our flip flops and stopped in each of the flowing springs to “ice” our feet and ankles. At one of the waterfalls, a man was using the free water and washing his motorbike.
When we got back into town, we walked through the markets to buy some of the blankets we’d seen the night prior. I ended up choosing 2 beautifully knit pieces from one of the women, spending a total of about $20 (100 bolivianos). While in most countries bargaining is part of the custom, here people make so little and I made it a point to pay face value. Sure, they were giving me tourist prices- but, in the end, me saving $1-3 is nothing and them making 10-20 bolivianos is huge. When I handed her the money it was quite touching… I had the 2nd biggest bill in their currency, a $100 boliviano, and she just looked at it in her hand, held it in the air, and kissed it. The smile on her face and glean in her eye was 100% genuine. She just looked at me and said, “thank you.”
Before heading out, we wanted to eat lunch at this French restaurant Teresa found on the internet. It ended up being quite a walk outside the main part of town… but so worth it! We had delicious tomato soup, mouth-watering mushroom pasta, and a drop-dead-can-I-have-another crepe smothered in roasted bananas and melted chocolate. Part of the adventure was finding “the treasure” in each of our dishes… the tomato soup contained a fly, the pasta a little metal ring, and the crepe a thin hair! I guess that’s what you get when everything is homemade :) Good thing the food was soooo scrumptious and the view was soooo enchanting that it over-trumped all. haha
Coroico was such a colorful, friendly, and just-living-life town… and a wonderful place to spend my 26th birthday.