We had received many recommendations from locals that Villa Tunari, nestled in the lush jungle valleys and on the shores of many intersecting rivers east of Cochabamba, was ‘the place to be’ on New Year’s Eve. It turns out, not so much! It’s a very small town with not much to do, and end of December is peak rainy season. So appart from a shower at midnight, we didn’t know what else to expect. Villa Tunari is also on the way to Buena Vista, where we were to start out 2 week volunteer work for an NGO a few days later (see next post), another reason why we decided to go.
After a, at best, bumpy bus ride from Cochabamba, we had alot of trouble finding accomodation for the evening, the 31st of December, as the few remaining rooms were going to the highest bidders. Villa Tunari just seemed like a tiny run-down town with not much going on, the most entertaining thing we saw being chickens stuck in trees…
Our disappointing and tiring arrival was however rewarded, as we ran into the French couple we had met in Torotoro: Nicolas and Valentine at the only half-decent place in town to eat. They were hoping that we hadn’t come, as they had recommended this place to us! We ordered the only dishes available on the menu, and ate and chatted until the restaurant closed at 10pm. We went to the plaza, unconvinced, and sure enough, nothing was going on. To keep us busy until midnight, we bought beers and a 4 euro bottle of ‘champagne’ (which actually turned out to be bad cider) from the only shop illegally open and selling alchohol at this time of night. It started pouring with rain just as we opened the bottle, and a few minutes before midnight, leaving the square even more deserted. We could not help but laugh at our bad luck!
The next day was spent recovering from our hangover and having lunch (3 varieties of grilled river fish accompanied with rice, yuka and salad) with Nicolas and Valentine, hashing over the previous night and its amazing turn of events. We also visited the monkey refuge Parque Machia, on the other side of town, hiking up to the top of the hill for a great view on the valley and gorged rivers below (of which we have no photos as all belongings are left at the entrance to avoid them being snatched away by the monkeys!). We saw many different types of monkeys who were free to roam, and even racoons and colourful birds that sounded like loud water drops. We left for our volunteering program the next day, battling a little to find transport so close to New Year’s, on a 3-hour ride east to Buena Vista.