Hoo Boy! Today we ran this one from end to end.
In certain parts of the world, things happen on a slightly different timeline; “Barbados Time” might be the catchall for it. There is a just a little bit of slop as to when something is to begin. Thirty minutes late is down right punctual in Bolivia. Going forward, I will account for this “Bolivian Factor,” adding it as logarithmic constant to anything scheduled.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so confident or dallied with that cup of coffee, delaying us just enough such that the fast road, the best road is closed when we arrive.
(Note: Bolivia is going through a road revolution. They are being built and upgraded the likes of which the country has never seen. That’s good. Less good is that to do this they are closed between 7 am and 5 pm. If you are not through the closed off road, you are either stuck and barred access or you are stuck on the road until the road re-opens.)
We take the back roads.
Problem; our 1.5 hour hop, skip and jump turns into 6 hours on the kind of roads that you would shoot a Land Rover commercial on.
What did it look like?
Here is but a brief snippet
Two highlights from a heck of a lot of time in a truck, was the truck itself…I knew that Land Cruisers have a cult following around them and now I know why. Understandably there are extra style points for the older models but we happened to be in a newer Land Cruiser Prado spec and this thing just devoured these roads in more comfort than I thought possible.
Going forward, I will request this for any and all origin travel.
The second, a bunch of bananas generously given by at gatekeeper at one of our stops.
Tropical fruit, eaten in the tropics is where it’s at.
We arrived late, *ahem*, at Siete Estrellas, a cohesive group of farmers with serious COE (Cup of Excellence) palmares to their name and an unerring commitment to coffee…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We were seated as guests of honour at the head table and proudly served fresh squeezed orange juice that was tangy and invigorating to slake one’s thirst. This was followed by the near national dish of chicken, rice, potatoes and salad. Only to be outdone by a bowl of chicken broth with chopped parsley so humble and honest it was practically sanctifying.
Introductions were made and speeches given with their leader speaking passionately, “Coffee means everything for us; health, family, food, clothing, education. Everything.” Like so many others, there is only one wagon they’re hitched to; the 2 acre portion of their 10 acres of land that is planted with coffee. Impossible not be touched from our time together.
The balance of the day is more up, down, double back over this beautifully creased and emphatic landscape covered in green. There is something different here and as of yet I cannot quite put my finger on it. I despair to even attempt to capture it in a picture — because I don’t think you can.
Last stop, framed by 2 hours of driving on either side is to COACS, a coop we bought from this year and hope to again which is less a certainty than it sounds. The best coffee is yet to come but the general consensus is that yields this year will be down 30 to 50 %. Unusually for Latin America this does not seem to be an exaggeration. It is most certainly a serious problem.
The day ends with $3 plates of steak, cheesy rice and potatoes where the chef is on the street with the grill, cooking the meat — as it should be — over proper hot coals; raising or lowering the grill according to his expert eye. Stray dogs linger hesitantly around the table hoping for a donation.
Another one for the books.
What are we going to do tomorrow?
We’re going to put a bird on it and do it all over again.
From the heart of the rainforest and covered in dust from every backroad in the Yungas region, I bid you good night.