Life happens all around us. La Paz, Bolivia is no different in that respect.
After my recent visit to Tiwanaku (see Ancient Peoples or Aliens?), I watched the Ancient Aliens episode about Puma Punku. That episode features a unique bowl found at Tiwanaku. The bowl is located at the Museo de Metales Preciosos (The Precious Metals Museum) on Calle Jaen. Hearing the name of the museum while watching the episode, I recalled being on Calle Jaen with Leslie (see Mamani Mamani). The bowl is unique because of what appears to be Samarian cuneiform writing. I decided I had to personally see this bowl.
Saturday morning at about 09:00 I left my house for the green line of the Teleférico. I was the only rider in my gondola for the entire length of the green line. The same happened on the celeste line, the white line, and the orange line. From the orange line I saw a red building that may be a cholet. I also saw the “illegal” cemetery again.
I got off the orange line at the Armentia station and walked southeast on Avenida Armentia toward Calle Jaen. I stopped along the way to take photographs of some of the shops. Just as I made it to Calle Jaen, I heard some loud motorcycles. At first, I thought they were on the main road behind me. Suddenly, much to my surprise, I noticed two motorcycles on Calle Jaen coming quickly uphill toward me. The motorcycles were from the Bolivian police. A dog barked and chased the second motorcycle. Life happens in La Paz.
After the motorcycles passed, it was just a few more steps to the entry to the Museo de Metales Preciosos. I did not have to pay. I retained my ticket from our visit to the other museums this past February. The guard simple tore off the stub for the museum. That left one museum entry, Casa de Murillo. More on that soon.
At the first exhibit in the Museo de Metales Preciosos (no photographs allowed!) I noticed an abundance of artifacts from Tiwanaku. This theme repeated itself throughout the museum. The artifacts included arrowheads and ceramics.
After looking through the first couple of rooms, one exits into the central courtyard of the museum. Crossing the courtyard, I entered the Gold Room. The first thing I saw was the unique bowl which prompted my journey. Fuente Magna is the name given to the bowl. The museum does not allow photographs; however, one can see and read about the bowl at Ancient Pages. I am glad I got to see the bowl. It was fascinating. Just what was a bowl with Samarian cuneiform writing doing in Tiwanaku? How did it get there? Was there some sort of extra-terrestrial travel involved in millennia past? Life happens in La Paz, but who knows what may have happened at Tiwanaku?
I found two other fascinating things in the museum, mummies and skulls. One of the upper rooms of the museum has three mummies on display. Two of the mummies appear just as the one at Tiwanaku did. The mummies are only about half-height, wrapped with what seems to be a hemp rope. The only thing exposed is the face of the mummies. The third mummy on display is without wrappings. Upon closer inspection, one realizes why the mummies are only about half-height; they are folded. Instead of the arms crossing on the chest, they lay straight up toward the head, one on either side of the neck. Folding the legs at the hips and the knees allow the legs to lay inside the chest cavity. Yes, the knees are in the chest! No wonder they appear half-height!
A nearby room displays five of the distended skulls I saw at the museum at Tiwanaku. These were easier to see. I studied them closely. I could not decipher how the skulls were distended during the life of the individual. Other than the odd shape of the skull, the face and teeth appeared normal.
There is some ancient gold on display in the Gold Room. But my attention went to the items I described above.
Essentially across Calle Jaen from the Museo de Metales Preciosos is Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo. Pedro Domingo Murillo is a revered patriot, freedom fighter, and martyr. In return for plotting and fighting for Bolivia’s independence from Spain, the Spanish executed Murillo in 1810 in the plaza that today bears his name. The museum is in the home once occupied by Murillo. Unlike the other museum, I was able to take a couple of photographs.
After the second museum, I decided I should have a coffee. Music drew me into the Hanaq Pacha Restaurant. Like so many of the old structures on Calle Jaen, there is a central courtyard. That is the seating area for the restaurant. While drinking my coffee I noticed the upper floor had a lot of art for sale. Finished with my coffee, I went upstairs to explore. In addition to the art, some of my favorites appear below, I found a unique view of Calle Jaen. Life happens in La Paz.
I departed the restaurant and almost immediately walked into the Kullama Gallery. During our February visit, Leslie and I bought some gifts and a magnet in the gallery. One of the items was a llama leather coin purse. The coin purse has a painted accent. Today, I met the accent painter, Inti! He proudly proclaimed his name is Aymaran. I bought a couple more gifts, took his photograph, and departed. Life happens in La Paz.
As soon as I stepped back onto Calle Jaen, I noticed a director and photographer working with a model. I remember seeing something similar on my last visit. I took a few of my own photographs and continued toward the Mamani Mamani Gallery. I was happy that the sky was so blue today. I ended up with a much better photograph of the gallery building.
Turning the corner, I saw more models and more photography in full swing. I immediately sat on a nearby bench to watch all the activity. Not only did I see what was happening with the models, I also watched all the people walking past. Some of the pedestrians included one of my favorite subjects, cholitas. Life happens in La Paz, so I just watched life unfold for a while.
From my previous visit, I thought I remembered seeing a large church a block or two away. I left the company of models to search for the church. While I walked, I took photographs of the neighborhood and the people I saw. I did not locate the church. Instead, I headed back to the photoshoot. Life happens in La Paz.
As I neared the area, I recalled the photoshoot troupe often walked farther west on Calle Indaburo. I decided to go that way to see what was there. There is essentially a set of stairs down to the next street. The walls did have a lot of color and graffiti, so I understood why the photographer chose to shoot in that area. I saw a uniquely painted metal door. I am not sure if it led to a shop or a home. I opted to not find out, just to enjoy the art. Across from the door is a sign for what I assume is a nightclub, Bocaisapo (mouth and toad). Near the door advertised; coca, art, and culture. Life happens in La Paz; however, I do not think I will return to experience the club.
Walking back, I found a small café with a couple of outdoor tables. The café is in the Mamani Mamani Gallery building. I went inside and inquired if they had beer. With an affirmative answer, I went back outside, a smile on my face, and sat at one of the two tables. Soon the server brought my beer and a small bowl of peanuts. The beer was very good. It is an artisan brew I have not seen before, Cobriza.
The table was almost directly across from a door the photographer used as a backdrop for several shots. I took advantage of the location and took a few shots myself. Additionally, the models walked back and forth from their staging area to the various locations on Calle Jaen and Calle Intaburo. I am not sure how they were able to walk in those “ankle-buster” shoes. It appeared to me to be a challenge to walk in the shoes in the best most level and even sidewalk imaginable. Add some cobblestones to the mix and it seems nigh impossible to walk. In fact, they often escorted each other; one in “ankle-busters” and the other steadying model in flat shoues. Regardless, because of my location, the models walked by frequently.
Soon I saw a familiar man approach the models’ staging area. I realized it was the artist, Mamani Mamani. He greeted the troupe. He ultimately ended up in front of his gallery, posing for photographs with the models. Afterall, he is a very famous artist in Bolivia. I was happy to just be sitting there and watching life unfold. Life happens in La Paz.
Finished with my beer, I decided I would start my journey back home. Instead of retracing my steps to the orange line, I decided I would walk to the celeste line. Luckily that direction is all downhill.
Along my route, I kept seeing a political sign. I finally stopped to take a photograph. The slogan in Spanish reads, “Insurrection Brigade. Elections and the referendum are a submission to the corrupt bourgeois dictatorship and selling the homeland.” People in Bolivia are definitely able to express their views.
A little farther along I came to a yellow building. It is striking, not just because of the color, but because of the architectural style and details. I am not sure what the building is, but it is eye catching.
I made it to Calle Comercio, a street familiar to me from previous treks through the city. The bustling street meant it was Saturday. The Mega Burguer sign touts, “nobody does it like us.” In front of the fast food restaurant is one of many vendor stands. One can see many cardboard boxes under and near the stand. One of the aspects of life in Bolivia is that many of the vendors set up and tear down their stands each and every day. I am sure that is because they do not have the funding to have a brick and mortar store. I continued southeast on Calle Comercio toward Plaza Murillo. As I may have noted, life happens in La Paz.
I made it to Plaza Murillo with my newfound knowledge of the history of the plaza. It struck me that there were a lot of people around the plaza. At first, I thought that was because it was Saturday. As I walked a bit farther, I noticed two reasons for the throng of people. At the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace I saw a wedding couple posing for photographs. In addition to the wedding guests, several people were boarding a bus. I am not sure if that was part of the wedding or something separate. It is very obvious that life happens in La Paz.
Next to the basilica is the Presidential Palace. On this visit I got a much better photograph of the guards wearing period uniforms. The platforms on which they stand bear the inscription, “Presidential Escort.”
Two police officers walking up Calle Socabaya.
After watching life happening in La Paz, I continued my walk to the Teleférico. Along my path, I saw some new sights. First was a building with the sign, “Vice President of the State.” I assume that building houses the offices of the Vice President of Bolivia, Álvaro Marcelo García Linera. Near that building is the 1668 Saint Agustin Shrine. Beside that is the La Paz city hall.
Across from city hall were several protest banners and a lone woman selling items, presumably to raise money for the cause. One of the banners read, “Mayor enforce the constitutional decision to LPL.” Another reads, “Revilla, order your company LPL to comply with the constitutional ruling of reincorporation.” The third sign reads, “Revilla is a liar does not comply with the justice of our reincorporation justice is fulfilled do not negotiate.” The mayor of La Paz is Luis “Lucho” Revilla. Life happens in La Paz.
A few minutes later, I made it to the celeste line. A fitting end to my trek that day was the beautiful mountain, Illimani.
I enjoyed walking around La Paz today and watching life happen.
At first glance, the title of this blog post may seem a little odd. It is a rendition of how the artist signs his works, MAMAN!MAMANi. The first letter, “i” is rendered upside down.
When we left our house at 09:00, it was a cool 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius). It was not foggy, but the clouds were quite low. A bit of a breeze and a bit of drizzle made the morning all the cooler.
Our destination this beautiful morning was the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery. I learned of the gallery the day before Valentine’s Day from our good friend Tia. She and some of her friends had recently visited the gallery and met with the artist, Roberto Mamani Mamani. I was intrigued by Tia’s description of both the work of Mamani Mamani and the historic area in which the gallery is located. I suggested to Leslie that we should visit the gallery. If we found anything we liked, we could buy it as our Valentine’s Day gift to each other. She agreed, so we were set to visit.
Tia agreed to go to the gallery with us. We met Tia on the street about a block from our house. Just as we met her, a taxi passed. Tia flagged down the cab for us, and we began our ride to the Teleférico Verde. Our eight-minute trip to the Teleférico Verde Irpavi station cost us $15 Bolivianos (US$2.18). That amount included a tip of $3 Bolivianos.
On the upper level of the Teleférico station, we boarded one of the gondolas and began our steep ascent up and over the San Alberto area of La Paz. The San Alberto area has dozens of multi-million-dollar homes. No doubt the owners directly under the Teleférico remain very unhappy that the public transportation always flies overhead.
As the Teleférico Verde crests San Alberto and begins to drop into the Obrajes area, the gondolas are at the highest point above ground. My guess of the height is about 400 to 500 feet (122 to 152 meters). Leslie detests this part of the trip. She was also cold. I assured her she would warm up when we began walking.
We rode the Teleférico Verde to the final station at Del Libertador. At that station, one can switch to the Amarillo line or take a short walk over to the Celeste line. Our destination required us to walk the short distance to the Celeste. Once on the Celeste line, we continued to the final station, Prado. As an aside, the cost to build both the Verde line and the Celeste line was US$88,000,000 each!
Emerging from the Prado station, we walked a short distance uphill to Avenida 16 de Julio to hail a taxi. After a minute or two waiting, a taxi stopped for us. The driver was a lovely man. I told him we wanted to go to the Mamani Mamani Art Gallery. At first, he did not know the location. I showed him the address of Indaburo #710 esquina (corner) Jaén, and he immediately began driving. Traffic was a little heavier in this section of La Paz than it had been near our home. The driver quoted a rate of $15 Bolivianos to get us to our destination. When we arrived, Tia paid the driver $20 Bolivianos (US$2.90).
Immediately upon getting out of the taxi, we saw the art gallery. One cannot miss the building. There are large murals painted on the building; undoubtedly done by Mamani Mamani. The building sits at the southern end of Calle Jaén, where it makes a 90-degree turn to the east. We walked into the gallery at about 10:00.
One is immediately struck by the very colorful artworks when walking into the gallery. Everything in the gallery seems to pop out at the viewer. As we walked through the gallery, one of the employees accompanied us and quoted prices of the various works about which we inquired. He spoke excellent English. That made our communication easy.
I asked about one enormous work that caught my eye. He said it was 5,000.00, I thought that might be in Bolivianos; but then he finished his sentence with the phrase, U.S. dollars. I quipped that was way out of our neighborhood! We settled on a much smaller painting and a painted stone frog. We asked the employee if the artist was at the gallery. He said no, but he thought he would arrive in about an hour. We really wanted to meet the artist. We paid for our items and said we would return in about an hour. With that, at about 10:30, we began our stroll north on Calle Jaén.
Calle Jaén is a cobblestone pedestrian street. There are no vehicles allowed on the intricately paved road. It is intricate because of the size of the stones used and the alternating patterns interspersed along the street. The largest cobblestones can be no more than four inches. It must have taken a very long time to pave that street!
Not too far from the art gallery, we spotted the Hostal Ananay. We decided that would be the perfect place to stop for a coffee. Walking through the door from the street, one is in a small hallway about 10 or 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) long. At the end of the hall, one is surprised by a cozy courtyard. Across the courtyard from the hallway was a door to the café. We walked in, sat down, and ordered our drinks.
The café was surprisingly large. There were multiple tables scattered about, a stage set up for musicians, and various works of art. Two art pieces caught my eye. First was a very odd painting of Jesus Christ depicting Him with three faces. We learned later the painting is titled, The Trinity. I guess that makes sense, but it was still nothing I would want to own. I could not read the name of the artist. The other piece I noticed I could see hanging in my house. It was a wood carving of an indigenous Andean man playing a Bolivian pan flute.
After our break, we continued our walk north. We soon spotted a small art gallery. We climbed the treacherous, no-handle-available stairs to enter. Once inside, a nice young woman greeted us and asked if we spoke Spanish. We answered, “a little.” We asked if she spoke English, and she responded similarly. She began telling us, in Spanish, about the various items in the gallery. One of the things that she made were sculptures of cholitas that are about one-inch tall. We had to get one. She also pointed out some refrigerator magnets. Each magnet was a bottle cap with a scene painted inside that her sister made. We bought a magnet with a cholita painted inside. I was remiss; I should have asked her if I could have taken a photograph of her. Oh well.
Leaving the gallery, I saw a sign on the wall noting that the Club Atletico Jaén, a football (soccer) team, was founded here in 2005.
Along Calle Jaén are multiple small museums. We stopped in one. The attendant said we needed a ticket to enter. He said those tickets were available in the first museum at the end of the street. Sure enough, at the T-intersection of Calle Jaén and Sucre is the Museo Costumbrista (Museum of Customs), where they did sell tickets for the museums. Residents of Bolivia can enter the museums for $8 Bolivianos (US$1.16) while foreigners pay $20 (US$2.90). Tia and I were considered Bolivian nationals because we had our residency cards. Leslie was considered a foreigner since she did not have her card. The fee allows one access to four museums on Calle Jaén:
Museo Costumbrista Juan de Vargas
Museo Litoral Boliviano
Museo Metales Preciosos
Museo Casa de Pedro D. Murillo
I was disappointed with the Museo Costumbrista and the Museo Litoral Boliviano (I cannot translate this, but it seems to relate to the early history of La Paz). Neither museum allowed photography. There were some interesting and unique items in each museum I wanted to capture. I did find a YouTube video for the Museo Costumbrista. The 00:01:46 video shows some of the masks and costumes are worn for the carnival celebration from the early 20th Century. One may click here to view the video, Museo Costumbrista.
The Museo Litoral Boliviano had several dioramas depicting episodes in La Paz history. Some of them were rather gruesome. I have included some photos I found on the internet.
The photo above is a diorama of the death of Pedro Domingo Murillo. His house is on Calle Jaén. It is now one of the museums (credit the newspaper La Region).
We opted to skip the final two museums because we were anxious to meet Mamani Mamani. That ended up being a lapse in judgment. The good news is our entry ticket is valid until August 22, 2019.
As we left the museum and began our walk down Calle Jaén, named after Don Apolinar Jaén, I saw a tile sign that provided the history behind this beautiful street. He was born in Oruro, Bolivia in 1776 and later executed on May 29, 1810, because he was involved in the revolution for independence. He and others in his group are referred to as the Protomártires de la Independencia (martyrs of the independence).
I call skipping the other two museums a lapse in judgment because when we returned to the art gallery, we found out the artist was still not there. The employees assured us he would be there soon. We could have easily toured the other two museums. Instead, we walked outside and sat on some benches to await his arrival. Leslie and Tia opted for the sunny side of the street. I was happy to stay in the shade.
My bench faced a building on which was the name, Residencia del Adulto Mayor “Maria Esther Quevedo.” It translates to a retirement home or old folks’ home. As we sat there, more and more older adults came to take their place on a bench. Some of the people we saw were disabled. At least two walked with visually impaired canes. Some of the elderly sat near us on the seats (Leslie and Tia finally moved to the shade). The Bolivians are so polite; as each one sat near us, they greeted us with, “buenas tardes (good afternoon).” We all responded in kind. I busied myself with more photography…imagine that!
In the photograph above, one can see a cross on the side of the nearby building. It is La Cruz Verde, the green cross. A plaque below the cross provides the following story, my best translation from Spanish.
The tradition is that in colonial times the alley – Calle Jaén today, was a dark place with constant appearances of supernatural beings and phenomena (ghosts, goblins, souls in pain, infernal noises of horse-drawn carriages and chains dragging on the ground). But, above all, there was the presence of a condemned widow who seduced all the men who gathered drunk in the wee hours of the night to take them on a mysterious adventure. Then, the neighbors of this street, heirs of a deeply rooted Catholic faith, decided to place the green cross to scare away all the evil creatures that frightened them.
I thought it was an interesting story.
It soon became evident that the people were waiting for lunch at the home. The door to the home was closed and locked. A couple of men, over time, rang the bell and tried to gain entry. One of the men did enter after a lot of talking and continuing to step into the building. At about 12:20, a woman from the facility opened the door and announced it would be ten minutes until the doors opened. She opened the door again at 12:30 and said, “pase (come in).” Interestingly, not one person seemed to rush to the door or even get up off the bench. Finally, one by one, people made their way into the building. As each one departed, they said, “buenas tardes” to us again.
As the drama played out in front of the home, Leslie walked back to the gallery to ask about the artist’s arrival. This time the employees told her he was by San Francisco Church and that he would arrive momentarily. Leslie came back to the bench to report and sit down. As soon as she gave the report, a taxi arrived, and Roberto Mamani Mamani emerged! He greeted us all and walked with us to his gallery.
Roberto Mamani Mamani is from Cochabamba, Bolivia, born December 6, 1962. He is Aymara, one of the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. He is world-famous, having enjoyed exhibitions of his work in more than 50 locations, including Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Munich, and London. As of 2017, he had made more than 3,000 paintings and nearly 70 series. He is also well known for painting large murals on buildings.
Inside the gallery, he immediately turned over our painting and began writing and drawing on the reverse. He wrote in Spanish, for Terry and Leslie, all the energy from the Andes, happy Valentine’s Day. Below that he drew a rough sketch of the sun and moon. He said I was the sun, and Leslie was the moon. Mamani Mamani is a lovely and genuine person. It seemed he could not do enough for us to demonstrate his gratitude. He gave us a small book documenting several of his works. He also gave Leslie a ring that has one of his works under a bubble of resin.
For anyone planning to visit La Paz, it is worth the time and effort to visit this quaint corner of town.
We departed the gallery with all of our purchases in tow. We hunted in vain for a taxi. Everyone that passed already had passengers. We walked about six blocks before Tia was able to hail a cab. It was just in time. Just as we got into the taxi, it began to rain.
The traffic was absolutely nuts! The traffic was barely moving. To travel about eight blocks, it took nearly 20-minutes! At one point, our driver set the emergency brake and turned off the taxi while we sat in traffic. It is at times like that I am glad the taxis in La Paz do not rely on meters. If we had been in New York City, I would probably have needed a line of credit to pay for the taxi ride.
Our driver let us out of the taxi about a block from the Celeste line. We walked quickly in the rain to the station. Then it was merely a repeat of our morning journey, just in reverse. We were back home by about 15:00.
Our first grandchild, Michael, was born at virtually the same time as when I landed in La Paz, Bolivia for the first time. He was born while his father was at sea. On Veterans Day; father, mother, and baby were finally reunited.
Shortly before Tyler returned from deployment, he said he and his family planned a trip to Colorado around the Thanksgiving holiday. With that knowledge, I was able to make arrangements to leave work for a little over a week and head to Colorado.
The anticipation was enormous! I had not seen my wife for nearly four months because she had been in Colorado. I had not seen Tyler, Hillary, or the rest of my family for close to 15 months. I had never met Tyler’s wife, Victoria, and, of course, I had only seen Michael in photographs.
My countdown for my Colorado homecoming finally made it to mere hours as I sat at home on the evening of November 19. My taxi was due to pick me up at about 00:15 on the morning of the 20th.
Right on time, my taxi arrived. I was tired because I had only dozed while waiting. Regardless, I wheeled my luggage, laden with Bolivian gifts, to the curbside, and placed it in the rear of the car. The woman who was my driver spoke virtually no English. But even with me being 90 percent illiterate in Spanish, we were able to communicate. One of her first questions to me, in Spanish, was whether I wanted her to go via the Llojetta route or take the Autopista. I said I did not care, and it was up to her as the driver. She selected the Llojetta route.
When we turned off of Avenida Costanera onto Avenida Mario Mercado, we began our climb to El Alto. We went up and up. In fact, there seemed to be no end to up. The only difference in our climb was when we encountered a speed bump or a sharp hairpin turn. Other than that, it was all up! Because of the steep road, much of that part of the journey was in second gear.
Our house in La Paz is at 11,180 feet (3,408 meters). The El Alto International Airport is at 13,300 feet (4,054 meters); quite an altitude gain.
We finally crested onto the top of the El Alto mesa. There were still several more kilometers to go to get to the El Alto International Airport, but at least it was all reasonably level.
It was around 01:00 when we arrived at the airport. I paid my 200 Bolivianos (US$29), took my baggage, and went inside the terminal. By 01:40, my check-in was complete. Ten minutes later, I was at my gate, waiting patiently for my 04:30 flight to Lima, Peru. That flight was right on time.
About an hour and one-half later, the plane landed at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru. Since I was merely transiting Lima, I did not have to go through passport control. However, I did have to go back through security screening. I left the screening area after a very brief wait and made my way to Friday’s for breakfast. I must have been hungry because it tasted so delicious.
Departing the restaurant, I made my way to the gate for my flight to Orlando, Florida. I arrived early. I watched as the security and airline personnel set up another security screening area at the gate. This is standard practice for a flight departing an international location, heading to a United States airport. Once again, I had no issues and a very short wait for the screening.
Soon after the screening, the airline employees began to scan the passengers’ boarding passes and allow us onto the waiting bus. When the bus was full, we rode to the waiting Latam aircraft. Onboard the plane, I settled into my seat and waited for the five and one-half hour flight to begin. It ended up being a comfortable and uneventful flight.
Once I was off the plane in Orlando, Florida, I went to passport control. As usual, that was a breeze. I waited in the Customs area for my one bag to come off the plane. My customs form dutifully filled out in detail, rested in my pocket. I lifted my bag from the carousel and went to the exit. I did not see anyone collecting the Customs forms. I asked a passing Customs officer to whom I should give my paper. She said they no longer use those forms…
To get to my next gate, I had to exit the terminal. That meant I had to go back through a security screening. I usually have TSA Pre-Check status on my boarding pass. The boarding pass issued by Latam in Bolivia did not have that notation as the lady at the TSA Pre-Check line pointed out to me. She said I could go to a nearby kiosk and try printing another boarding pass. I declined. That ended up to be an error in judgment.
I entered the line for security screening. Today was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in Orlando, Florida. By the way, Orlando is home to Disney World. The screening area was absolutely packed with holiday travelers and many, many families sporting Disney World attire. The line snaked back and forth for a distance at least equal to the steep road to El Alto.
I found myself sandwiched in the line between two of the Disney World families. The family behind me had a child in a stroller. I lost count of the number of times the stroller bumped into the back of my legs. The family in front of me was a husband, wife, and two children in the eight-year-old range. I am not sure just how much of their home they brought with them or how much of Florida they were trying to take back to their home, but I did not know TSA had that many plastic x-ray bins. I pictured myself finally approaching the x-ray conveyor, looking wistfully at an automaton TSA employee, and merely shrugging my shoulders because there were no more bins in the entire zip code. Somehow, additional containers did show up. When I could finally approach the conveyor, I placed my items in the bin (note that word is not plural) and stepped through security. At this point, I request the reader to stop, take a deep breath, sigh, and revel in my successful trip through the Orlando security checkpoint. I celebrated the fact that there was no bruising on the back of my legs from the stroller.
Quite blissful, I made my way to Ruby Tuesday for a well-deserved glass of sauvignon blanc and chicken sandwich.
My last flight of the day was to Dallas, Texas. I quickly boarded the plane and had a relatively quick trip to DFW. The flight arrived in Dallas at about 23:05 Bolivian time. I could not make it to my final destination because there were no more flights to Grand Junction that day.
I waited at the baggage carousel to collect my bag. With my suitcase in tow, I walked to the lower level, called the Marriott for a shuttle, and waited. I made it to the hotel at about 00:00 Bolivian time. That meant I had been traveling for about 24-hours. I was delighted to lie down and sleep.
Early the next morning I got back on a shuttle and went back to the airport. I checked my bag, grabbed some breakfast, and found my gate, D14. While I was sitting at the gate, I saw a plane arrive. The plane stopped short of the jet bridge because the ground crew was not there to guide the aircraft. After 10 or 12 minutes, the ground crew arrived and guided the plane to a proper stop. Just as that happened, I received a text on my phone. With about 45 minutes left before my flight was to begin boarding, the departure gate changed to Terminal C. That was disheartening. However, it turned out to be ok because I did not have to go back through security.
At the new gate, I boarded the plane, sat back for a smooth ride, and was in Grand Junction by 10:30 local time, Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.
Leslie and Hillary met me at the airport. Soon we were in Fruita, Colorado, Lorraine’s home, the base of operations for this high-level visit. I began eating my way across Colorado with some Gardetto’s Snack Mix, one of my favorite things on this planet. We busied ourselves with last-minute preparations for Tyler, Victoria, and, of course, Michael.
On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, we drove to the airport to pick up the newest members of our family, Victoria and Michael. We quickly caught a glimpse of the proud papa, Tyler, carrying our very first grandchild, Michael. We very happily saw, met, and hugged our new daughter-in-law Victoria too. It was so lovely to have them at the same place on Earth as Leslie and me.
Once we were back in Fruita, poor Michael was passed around like a rugby ball…well, we did not toss him around; but he indeed found his way to many people at the house! Hillary and Shane stopped by so, now the only couple missing was great-grandma and great-grandpa Juvera. That was remedied the next morning when they arrived at the airport. Suddenly Michael had two more fans to whom he could be passed.
Since everyone was finally together, Friday was Bolivian Santa day. I had brought gifts from Bolivia for everyone. There was Bolivian chocolate for each family. The guys received wallets, alpaca socks, t-shirts, key chains, a refrigerator magnet, and a Marine Security Guard Detachment coin. Everything was from Bolivia. The women received hand-woven, baby alpaca shawls. The remainder of Friday was spent visiting with all of our family.
It was also an Ugly Christmas Sweater day. Hillary had purchased ugly Christmas sweaters for all of us. I set up the tripod, and we captured the moments.
Saturday was a day for more visiting with relatives. Early that morning, Tyler, Victoria, and I stopped at the Aspen Street Coffee Company to get some go-juice. Later in the day, Tyler and I went to the barn to sort through some of his stuff. In one of the boxes, he found his baby blanket! That is now 25 years old! It seemed strangely appropriate now that Michael is on the scene.
Just as important was the preparation of our Thanksgiving meal. That evening, I took the opportunity to take a selfie of the group. It may not be the best photograph, but it will forever mean a lot to me. Michael is just off-camera in his bouncy chair.
On an evening trip through the town center of Fruita, I was struck by the beautiful Christmas lights on display. I had never seen that before.
Sunday morning, Leslie and I took great-grandma and great-grandpa Juvera back to the airport for their return to Colorado Springs.
One morning in Fruita, it was cold and foggy. I looked outside and saw there was a beautiful frost on nearly everything. That meant it was a great time to go out with my camera.
Once the fog lifted, one could see that the Colorado National Monument had received some snow. I was very picturesque as seen from Fruita.
Since Victoria had never been to Colorado, we had to take her to the Colorado National Monument. At the entry station, the ranger told us no Desert Bighorn Sheep had been spotted that day; however, we should stay alert. There was a chance we might see some.
We drove up to the visitor center, stopping periodically to view sights from the various overlooks. At the visitor center, we stopped to go inside and explore. We also stepped out to the Canyon Rim Trail to look down into the adjoining canyon.
Back in the vehicle, we continued toward the East Entrance to the Colorado National Monument. I was driving and focused on the road. Suddenly Leslie shouted there was a sheep alongside the road! Sure enough, a Desert Bighorn Sheep ewe was lying beside the road, casually chewing her cud. I stopped immediately. Tyler, Victoria, and I piled out to take photographs. Just as we finished, I saw another vehicle approaching. They were slowing to take photos as we had done.
Continuing our eastward journey, I was surprised at how much snow there was on the road. By the time we got to the East Entrance, the road was completely dry.
When we left the Colorado National Monument, we called Hillary and Shane to tell them we were on the way to the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita. They met us there. For the meager entry fee, a visit to the museum is a must if one is in the area. The interpretive and interactive displays help put the prehistoric history of the area into perspective.
Our time in Fruita coincided with a full moon. I was able to get a reasonably good photograph of the moon one night. It reminded me of the pictures I took of the moon while we were stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan.
No trip to Fruita is complete without a visit to the Main Street Café in Grand Junction, Colorado. When we go there, we always try to get the table that is in the display window. The day we went, that table was open, so grabbed it quickly. It had been eons since I had a milkshake. I corrected that oversight with a strawberry milkshake. It was absolutely everything I thought it would be!
After lunch, we walked along Main Street; stopping at the Main Street Minerals and Beads shop and then the Robin’s Nest Antiques and Treasures store. That antique store is one of our favorite stops in downtown Grand Junction.
Wednesday morning after Thanksgiving, I was up early as usual. I could tell the sunrise was going to be good. So once again, even though it was cold, I grabbed my camera and headed outside. I think the results speak for themselves.
Later that morning, we took Tyler, Victoria, and Michael to the airport so they could begin their 11-hour journey home. They made it home about an hour late, but safe and sound.
When we returned from the airport, Leslie and I finished packing our baggage. We were due to the leave Grand Junction the next morning. We had so much stuff we had to ship some items to Bolivia to keep from having overweight baggage.
That next morning, we drove to the airport. We left the vehicle in the parking lot for Lorraine and Hillary to retrieve later that morning. We went inside the airport, checked-in, and went to our gate to await boarding.
We boarded and left on time. It was a very smooth and uneventful flight to Dallas, Texas.
Once we were in Dallas, we had enough time to get breakfast at Chili’s. It was particularly marginal, but it was food.
When we got to our gate, we only had a short wait before we boarded the American Airlines plane bound for Orlando, Florida. Once again, that flight was comfortable and uneventful. We had a row of three seats to ourselves, so we were able to spread out.
The comfort ended at Orlando. A wheelchair attendant was at the door of the plane to collect Leslie. He pushed her to the desk at the gate, said he had to go clear the plane and left us there. We did not quite understand that. In all of our travels, once the wheelchair arrives, we are off to our next destination with no stops.
The young man finally returned and began walking with us down the concourse. I asked to confirm that he knew where we were going. He replied yes, to baggage claim such and such. I said no, we had a connecting flight to Lima, Peru. He stopped, checked his iPad, and said we had to leave the secure area to check in with our carrier, Latam Airlines. That was disheartening since I already knew how challenging the security screening was at Orlando.
Regardless, he got us to the Latam desk. I showed our tickets to the woman at the counter. She said we were all set and we could go to our gate. Since Leslie and I had not originally planned to travel together, we had different itineraries. That meant our seat assignments were not together. I asked the woman if she could seat us together. She flatly said no. That surprised me. She said we might be able to change seats at the gate. I pointed out that Leslie needed assistance. She told us to wait at a designated point, and someone would take us to the gate shortly.
We waited at the designated spot for nearly ten minutes. Finally, I asked another Latam employee how we were supposed to get to the gate. Ultimately, they called someone, and we began our journey to gate 82.
As we got to the security screening area, we entered the wheelchair assistance line. I thought that meant we would be expedited through the queue. Boy was that an incorrect thought. I could have sworn that some of the families in line wearing Disney World attire were the same families I had seen a week earlier. Even though we were in a short and “fast” lane, it took an excessive amount of time to get through security.
Departing security, our attendant got us to the gate reasonably quickly. Just as we arrived, they started boarding. By our way of reckoning, we just barely made it to our plane.
We boarded the plane, and Leslie took her seat at 18J, an aisle seat. I continued to 26C, another aisle seat. The boarding was somewhat chaotic. I kept an eye on Leslie. I saw the middle seat next to her remained open. As it so happened, the middle seat next to me also remained open. When it appeared boarding was complete, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could sit next to my wife. She agreed, so we were able to sit together.
The flight from Orlando to Lima, Peru was uneventful but lengthy. At only about five and one-half hours, it was certainly not the longest flight we have taken, but it is still a long time to be cooped up in an aluminum cigar. We eagerly awaited the in-flight service and a glass of wine…wait a minute…Latam airlines do not serve alcohol…what?!?! We may never fly them again…
I was ever hopeful that when we arrived in Lima, we would have enough time to go to Fridays and get something to eat and drink…wrong. The airport was bustling. We made it to our next gate with about 20-minutes to spare. The only good thing is I asked the gate attendant if Leslie and I could sit together. She moved us to the front of the plan, row 2, and seated us side by side.
The flight from Lima to La Paz, Bolivia was one of our shorter trips. We arrived in La Paz at about 03:15 Bolivian time. One of the Embassy employees was there to meet us and help us through customs. When we had retrieved our luggage and got in the vehicle, it was nearing 04:00.
Our driver selected the Autopista, a not-quite-finished highway. WOW! After taking that, if another driver ever asks if I want to take the Autopista or the Llojetta route, it will definitely be the Autopista! It was much quicker, and fewer hairpin turns, no speed bumps, and travel was at a reasonable speed.
We made it home at about 04:30, after nearly 24-hours of travel. We had that long-awaited glass of wine and crashed into bed. We were together and at home!!
I wanted to visit the Wellington Museum. For some reason, the timing never seemed to be right. That changed yesterday.
Leslie and I walked to the train station near our home and rode the light rail to the central Wellington railway station. Exiting the train, we walked to the waterfront and then mainly south toward the museum. Just before gaining the harbor, I stopped to photograph the Hotel Waterloo building. The building, finished in 1937, has a definite art deco style. It is one of several art deco style buildings in the Wellington CBD.
The first business we walked by was MADINZ. It is a store selling New Zealand tourist items and collectibles. What caught our eye were the two Shih Tzu dogs inside by the front door. When we walked in, the younger of the two, Oscar, became very excited. Leslie stopped and petted Oscar. As we began to wander around the store, the dog settled down. The items for sale were very high quality. We did not buy anything only because we already have a lot of New Zealand souvenirs.
As we walked farther, we came to the building at 1 Queen’s Wharf. It is an old harbor office building dating from 1896. Maybe the most well-known business there today is the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. We did walk in and take a quick look at the items on display at the Academy. We did not spend much time because much of what we saw was too modern for our taste.
At the south end of 1 Queen’s Wharf, in between that building and the Wellington Museum, one can see a set of entry gates to the wharf area. The gates date from 1899. I found the seal on the entrance to be quite whimsical.
Finally, we had reached our goal; the Wellington Museum. The museum is in the 1892 Wellington Harbour Board Head Office and Bond Store. It is a Victorian-style building designed by the same architect as 1 Queen’s Wharf. The bond store was a warehouse that stored goods imported to New Zealand as the customs fees and paperwork process was complete.
As with so many of the museums in this country, there is no set entry fee. There is simply a place to leave a donation. The quaint museum does an outstanding job of taking one through the maritime history of Wellington from the mid-to-late nineteenth century up to today.
The ground floor houses exhibits in a timeline fashion, highlighting many years past. A few of the exhibits that caught my eye included replica crown jewels, a 1958 diorama, and several peace sign emblems. The gems were reproductions made for display at the 1939-1940 Centennial Exhibition. I do not recall the significance of the diorama other than it depicted 1958…say no more. The peace signs date from 1982. They were part of the nuclear-free New Zealand protests at that time. The protests came to a head with the visit of the USS Truxtun. The United States at the time would neither confirm nor deny any nuclear capabilities of the cruiser. Decommissioned in 1995, we now know the boat was nuclear powered. The Truxtun was the last U.S. ship to visit New Zealand until the USS Sampson visited in 2016.
The first and second levels delve into the maritime history of Wellington, New Zealand. The most poignant area of the museum deals with the Wahine sinking on April 10, 1968. The movie in the museum is painful to watch. At least 51 people lost their lives that day. An additional two died later, bringing the toll to 53. The disaster happened during one of the worst cyclones to ever hit New Zealand.
As Leslie and I walked up the stairs to the Attic level of the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the diagonal bracing of the building. I may very well be the only person ever to do that!
The Attic is a beautiful, hands-on portion of the museum. I believe we enjoyed those exhibits the most. If we had visited the Wellington Museum earlier in our posting, I am sure we would have returned. It is well worth the visit.
Leaving the museum, it was time for lunch. We ended up at the München Food Hall and Bier Haus. We both opted for a rueben sandwich on rye and a liter of beer. Yes, you read correctly, a full liter of beer each. That may not have been the best decision we have made lately… Regardless, I thought the food was excellent.
When we left the restaurant, I wanted to walk to a photography store nearby. On the way, we passed near Wellington’s Civic Square. As we got closer, I remembered that a new Ferns orb sculpture was erected the previous day. I walked into the square, and sure enough, the orb was there, suspended above the square. It is an impressive sculpture. The artist is Neil Dawson. He had a similar sculpture in place earlier, but it was taken down. This new sculpture has a stronger internal structure.
After visiting the photography store, we walked back to the Wellington Railway station to catch a train back home. The railway building is another from the art deco era. It dates from about 1937. The front of the station is easily recognizable by the tall Doric columns at the main entry.
We found a train leaving in about five minutes. We got on and rode the 20-minutes or so to our train station. Then it was a short walk home. All totaled, we walked about four miles, so we were both ready for a nap even though it was late in the day.