WWOOF in South Bolivia (Tarija)

hard at work de-twigging Rosemary

With an expiring Peruvian tourist visa as the so-called excuse to bugger out of the Sacred Valley for a few weeks…I headed out to Tarija, Bolivia last Saturday night from Cusco.  I had two buses to patiently sit through, a 15 hour ride from Cusco to La Paz (one of the capitals of the Bolivian nation, because here they actually have two capitals), a few hours wait at the bus terminal and a 19 hour ride from La Paz to Tarija in the far south.  Not particularly enjoyable or comfortable voyages, but always a nice opportunity to sit and to reflect on things.

I arrived safe and sound in this small Andalusian-esque city; I was greeted by tropical and, for the first time in this year’s South American travels, shorts-worthy weather!  It was easy to find my WWOOF host, only a 10 minute walk away from the bus terminal.  His “farm”, registered as a case of urban sustainability and agriculture, is in fact a small, yet diverse, garden and a production of artisan Italian food and beverage goodies – among the ones I’ve learned of so far are smoked and lemon salt, limoncello (an Italian lemon-based liquor) and pesto sauce.  Trying them all in turn I can attest that Mauricio really does know what he is doing – I guess his year spent in Italy served him well, as I feel my time in Bolivia will serve me well too.

We, as another helper – Veronika from Austria – arrived soon after I did, have been busy helping in the production of said products.  We’ve been preparing basil and rosemary, milling lemon and orange skins and drying the smoked salt out in the hot sun.  We cleaned up the garden a bit on Tuesday, owing to some TV crews coming to film a spot about the uses of basil (“albaca” as they call it here is relatively unknown and under-appreciated)…otherwise we stand watching the weed invaded spot before us without really wanting to roll up our sleeves and get to it.  I plead guilt to the same – as I’ve envisioned everything from a chicken tractor to the neighbour’s goat to come in and do the dirty work for us – ripping up such densely growing weeds can be quite daunting!

Ah well, the next few days will show us what garden-work lies in store…or will it?  I heard something about a weekend wine and art festival that will take us out of the city to the valley to the south for some frivolity Bolivian-style.  Plenty of food, wine, music and mingling, all of which may very well encroach upon our Friday and Monday too.  Work?… I guess in mañana culture, life comes first…and…work comes later :)

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