Yesterday’s experience certainly left a sour taste in our mouths. We had just gotten too comfortable with our surroundings, but we have now learned our lesson. Thankfully it was not our wallets or our passports which would have been even more of a pain.
We spent the entire morning attempting to catch up on planning out the rest of the trip and booking hostels and excursions as necessary. We will be heading south through Chile to San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago, Valparaiso, and Torres del Paine for a few weeks with a brief stop back into Argentina to see a giant glacier. This hit all the stops we would be interested in, but left us with 5 days to spare before we were due to meet Lynn’s parents in Aruba. So, much to Doug’s mom’s dismay, we will be heading to Colombia. We have had at least 8 friends visit there in the past 6 months and love it so much that they extended their time there and Lynn has a very close Colombian friend who raves about it, so we decided that we would need to check it out.
All of this additional planning ended up being quite the chore attempting to figure out how to best arrange it with the given flight costs and how to change our miles flight that went to Aruba to now go to Colombia. Thanks to the handy use of spreadsheets, a phone, a computer, and a somewhat unaware woman from United we were able to get it all sorted out.
We did end up taking a few breaks during the day. The first took us out for lunch back at Mercado Lanza where we had a repeat of the goodies we enjoyed on our walking tour: fruit juice, a fried stuffed potato drenched in hot sauce, and two avocado sandwiches. We did learn during this process that we were cheated a bit on our prior visit to the juice stall when we paid the same amount for roughly have the juice. This time around we got the locals’ price. The second break allowed us to rest our brains some with The Americans. Oh, and we were able to get the hostel to do our laundry since we will essentially be in the middle of nowhere Bolivia for the next 10 days.
By the time evening rolled around, we needed to get ourselves out of the hostel and what better way than with Cholitas Wrestling. Yes, you read that correctly. Here in Bolivia the have something similar to the WWF, if which cholitas, dressed up in their finest, take to the ring to duel in a very choreographed show. Supposedly this was started for the locals, but from what we could tell it was a majority of tourists attempting to glean the storylines from their broken Spanish and cholita facial expressions.
We had arranged the wrestling show through our hostel so around 5:30 a women on foot came to collect us. In exchange for our purchase receipt we were given two perforated cards with various sections: the show, the tourist bus, a snack/souvenir, and two bathroom breaks (oh boy!). We followed here 5 blocks on foot while she continued to collect other tourists. Most were like us, but we did collect an older American couple from Boston’s Back Bay who clearly did not understand what they were signing up for when they chose to come to Bolivia. They would complain (whine, really) throughout the night about possibly not getting back the time they were told, the conditions of the bus ride, the quality of the lady’s English, how they couldn’t get dropped off at their hotel (though they refused to provide their hotel information when asked where they should be dropped off), etc.
We finally reached the corner where our tourist bus would pick us up and when it finally arrived it was stuffed full of unwashed backpackers with their alpaca sweaters, bad facial hair, and slouchy knit hats. We initially were standing in the middle of the bus but were transferred to another, boldly painted with Jesus, so that we could have seats.
The bus took us up to El Alto, the neighborhood by the airport where we were dropped off outside an old gymnasium where the event would take place. We entered and as soon as was physically possible, we collected our snack of Fanta and popcorn (we were so hungry by this point!), and secured front row VIP seats.
10 minutes later and the wrestling began! it started with two very skinny but scraggly guys duking it our in a very poorly choreographed way, but was quickly followed us by three rounds of cholita wrestling.
The cholitas would emerge with their walkout song, strutting or shimmying in thier bowler hats, braided hair, sparkling earrings, puffy skirts, and sandals while the tourist audience applauded. Some tourists even approached them for selfies before and after matches (you gotta get those Facebook likes) and offered their first-borns (OK, I made that part us). For the most past the matches were one-on-one with the exception of the last that featured two twins-on-one and all were entertaining. These women could be a bit better an the acting and exaggerations, but they were extremely flexible and athletic. There were a lot of flips, swinging around one another from their arms, braids, and legs, and jumps from the ropes. The giant skirts added to the ridiculousness. If only we could understand the rivalries amongst the women and who were supposed to be current the belt owner a la WWF.
The night ended with us being able to take porely-lit pictures with the cholitas while an all out 6 person + 1 child brawl occurred amongst more male wrestlers. Let’s just say, people come to see the cholitas and not the dudes.
By 8 pm the show was done and we were famished. On our bus ride back we listened in on the conversation of a woman behind us who had very strong opinions about how Ralph Fiennes (the actor) pronounces his name. The bus eventually made its way through traffic and dropped us at our hostel but we walked a quick block over to enjoy some hummus, couscous, and shakshuka from an either very sleepy or very drunk Moroccan man before calling it a night.
Daily Walking Mileage: 3.39
- Staying in Torres del Paine is stupid expensive if you book as late as we are (think multiple hundreds a night). We’ll be staying in Puerto Natales a 2 hour drive away to make things more reasonable.
- In addition to their braids, cholitas weave little fabric tassels into their hair to work like extensions.
- In addition to their wide hips, used to signify fertility and accentuated by layers and layers of skirts, cholitas charm potential suitors by showing off their massive calves.