After our first week of classes, we took a weekend trip out of the Cochabamba valley and into the jungle. We traded in the dry, high altitude Cochabamba for the humid lower lands of Villa Tunari in the province of Chapare. As we left Cochabamba, the road began climbing the mountains, but everything was still brown and dry like the city. Little towns and farms lined the road, which with the mountains and hills provided for a beautiful landscape.
As we continued toward Villa Tunari, we kept climbing higher and higher, things got greener, and the temperature got cooler. We continued climbing higher, and it began to rain. As we were traveling, our driver decided to stop for food at one of the small towns situated on the road. There were ladies selling fish, beans, and other foods, and they were aggressive. They opened the door of the van and asked us if we wanted any food. When we said no, they asked “why?”! Well, the reason was that with our stomachs still new to Bolivia, we did not want to risk getting sick from any of that food. Once the driver got back in, we were on our way again. Near the peak of the climb, through the foggy windows, we could see a big, beautiful lake. Soon after, we began to descend and could see views of thickly forested, tropical mountains. With every kilometer we traveled, the altitude and the climate changed. The air inside the van got hotter, heavier, and more humid as we kept going to lower altitude. We soon reached Villa Tunari, checked in to our hotel, and found dinner.
The next day, we decided to go to Parque Machia, which is home to many animals such as pumas, ocelots, bears, and monkeys; many of the animals were once held in captivity. We entered the park and had to leave all our belongings except cameras and water in a locker. As we continued into the park, we walked up a grueling path in hot and humid weather toward a lookout point. All of the sweat and energy were worth the view of a river and Villa Tunari. We continued on the path toward two waterfalls, and along the way, we saw a few monkeys in some of the nearby trees. We took a few pictures and continued toward the waterfalls. The waterfalls were nice, but unfortunately, this time of year there is not much water. We spent some time at the waterfalls then headed back toward the entrance of the park. On the way back, we saw more monkeys. These were the adventurous and bold Capuchin monkeys and the reason we had to empty our pockets. They approached us, climbed some of us, checked our pockets, and took water bottles. After spending some time with the monkeys, we headed out of the park to get some lunch.
The next day, we planned to go back to Cochabamba, but we had enough time in the morning to visit an orchid park. It had rained the night before, so it made the path through the trees of the park seem like a scene from Jurassic Park. It must have been the wrong time of year because none of us noticed any orchids, but as we kept traveling through the park, we got another view of a river and took some pictures of some interesting plants. Once we saw everything in the park, we went back to check out of the hotel, got lunch at the same restaurant we had eaten at two times before, and headed back to the city.