Saturday, August 18, 2007

Trip to Villa Tunari

I left town this weekend with some hesitation. I’ve been tired, I have a nice hotel in Cochabamba and I only have two weeks left in Bolivia. Did I really need to go off with a duffel bag on a long bus ride to who knows where? Yes, I decided. Because while I’m sure I’ll find my own adventures in the U.S., hanging out with wild animals and in the jungle won’t be among my options, especially for a weekend. I need to take advantage of the chance while I can.

So I headed to the street corner in Cochabamba where microbuses depart for Villa Tunari. I bought a ticket on a 7-passenger “special” bus for just over $3. The three-hour ride was surprisingly comfortable. The minivan was nice and the roads smooth and paved for most of the way. The scenery was also very enjoyable.

I jumped out at the Parque Machia, where there is a unique reserve for wild animals that have been rescued from captivity. I spent several hours talking with the dedicated staff and seeing the collection of monkeys, parrots, macaws, pumas and turtles among others they are trying to rehabilitate back into the wild.

Then I took a taxi to the Hotel El Puente, located a few kilometers outside of town. It’s on a hilltop overlooking a small river and has a series of natural pools nearby. It’s isolated, in the middle of the jungle. In that sense, it reminds me of my time in Buena Vista. But this place is better maintained. I have a comfortable little cabana with a window that takes up almost one whole wall. From the bed, I look out onto tropical green trees and plans and listen to the calls of various birds, one of which sounds like an arriving text message.

On the ride to Villa Turani, I’d been thinking of how hectic the past few months have been – filled with work, travel and major life changes. That pace seems likely to continue in the near future and I longer for some time with no responsibility and nothing to do.

I found it when I got to the hotel. I’d left my computer behind – so I could read, write by hand or sleep. Seeing the immensity of a whole book before me and having the time to read as much of it as I wanted was a shock for me. I barely knew how to handle the luxury.

Childhood memories of pouring over one book after another seem distant. Now it’s only thanks to audiobooks that I listen to while exercising, while in transit, or while doing chores, that I keep my reading up. A chapter or a few chapters of a paper book is a bedtime treat. The ability to continue reading on as long as I want to feels like a dip into my past.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

My reading habits have changed drastically since entering grad school. Unfortunately, so have my TV habits. I used to read a lot for pleasure, but now that I have copious amounts of books and articles to read for classes (not to mention research!), it's difficult for me to pick up a book simply to "relax." While I have started listening to audio books more, I actually watch a hell of a lot more TV. More than I ever have in my entire life, in fact. Ah, well. A habit of reading just a few pages of fiction in bed before going to sleep each night is developing. It's helping fill that gap, I think...

You know, I miss discussing books and the craft of writing with Michael in Chita. It's something I always look forward to when going back to Siberia.