Friday, May 18, 2018

Field Trip to Roboré

When it comes to destinations in eastern Bolivia, the little town of Roboré comes up as a top spot -- spectacular scenery, great hot springs, flora, fauna, and lots of history.  At only 5-6 hours' drive from Santa Cruz, it's a perfect place to go spend a relaxing weekend.  However, relaxing weekends aren't really part of our lifestyle, so we've never been.

Panorama taken from the base of Chochis tower
That changed because of a project Kaylee is doing with the girls in homeschool; later this year, they will be studying Bolivian history.  To make their study more enjoyable and relatable, they will be interviewing a variety of people they know here in order to learn from their personal stories.  Their first interviewee was our friend Judy, who grew up in Roboré as a missionary kid and came back to serve in Bolivia as an adult with her husband. She loves to show people around her hometown and suggested that her story would have even more impact if we went and saw it for ourselves. So we did!

(As usual, more photos here: Field Trip to Roboré - Google Photos)

The girls were excited to camp, but we had outgrown our well-worn, second-hand tents, so I took them tent shopping a few days before.  On Saturday morning, we packed up and hit the road, planning to come back on Monday.

Our first stop, other than the standard toll booths and police checkpoints, was the little town of San José de Chiquitos.  The church there is one of six that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos. Although we don't agree with their doctrine, we love the architecture! ;) Traveling to visit all six is a very popular tour option for visitors.  We would have liked to investigate the compound, but it was noon and all closed up, so we settled for lunch and went on our way.

Along the way, Kaylee and the girls had gotten their first glimpse of wild toucans and there were several in the plaza of San José.

I was excited to get a photo of one of the goofy critters in flight! ;)

As we left San José, the scenery began a dramatic shift from the yawn-inducing flatness of Santa Cruz to the broken hills and valleys that characterize Roboré.  Unfortunately, the weather closed in on us as well and although it didn't rain until much later, we passed the rest of the day under a heavily overcast sky.  It affected the photos, but it didn't dampen our enjoyment of the sights.

Our next stop was at Chochis, a rock formation that outsiders have nicknamed Muela del Diablo, or devil's tooth, although there are at least two other locations in Bolivia that also claim that name.  Officially, it is called the Tower of David, but most just refer to it as the tower or hill.

There is a "sanctuary to Mary" at the base of it with intricately carved doors and pillars, woodwork typical of the Chiquitanía region. It was built in commemoration of a nasty flood that did a lot of damage and killed a lot of people in 1979.  While the wood carving was amazing, we found the overwhelming worship of Mary disturbing (but not surprising).

The side of the sanctuary had a massive door in door in that swiveled on a pivot.  It featured Eve as the central figure of the Fall on one side and Mary as the central figure in Redemption on the other.  It would have done the sculptor well to study Romans 5 on both counts.

Eve as the central figure in Eden

Mary as the central figure at Calvary
"Most Holy Virgin, from Calvary we are all yours.  We do not deserve you, but we need you.  Help us!"
As sobering as it was, we enjoyed the art and of course posed for another family photo or two.

Upon leaving Chochis, we were only a few miles away from Roboré.  We wandered around town a bit, but as it was getting late and we still needed to set up camp, we really only took time to stop by Judy's childhood home and get a picture of her and the girls in front of it.

What we didn't know at that point is that we weren't actually spending the night in Roboré.  We actually went a few miles farther to a place called Aguas Calientes (hot waters), where there is a campground alongside a hot spring.  Now, I mentioned above that we were planning on camping and that the girls were very excited about it.  To be honest, the only camping they have done here is in the "backyard" at Etnos and they were looking forward to being out in the country and doing some real camping.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.

When we rolled up to the campground, it was immediately apparent that it did not line up with our expectations.  It consisted of maybe 50 pahuichis or grass-roofed shelters and it was LOADED with people hustling and bustling.  It was a shocking contrast for the girls, who have only known quiet Forest Service campgrounds like the one on Battle Ridge.  When we found an available spot and started unpacking next to a group of youths who were listening to their reggaeton with the typical latino love of volume, the two younger ones broke into tears.  Thankfully it was short lived; some time in the hot spring helped a lot!

After getting a reasonably good night's sleep in their new tent, they were much happier in the morning
Thankfully, the youths turned their music off somewhere around 11:00pm and the weather deteriorated no more than a steady drizzle overnight.

In the morning we got to enjoy the hot springs and more birds!

Bare-faced ibis

Snowy egret

The hot spring formed a huge, shallow lagoon that was a perfect temperature for a misty morning!
After soaking for a couple hours, we packed up our gear and headed out for some more sights.  Unfortunately, the weather closed in even farther rather than lifting, which changed our plans slightly, but we still enjoyed ourselves.

We visited Santiago de Chiquitos, near where the first five missionaries from New Tribes Mission (now known as Ethnos360) were killed while trying to make peaceful contact with the Ayoré people in 1943.  It's an incredible story of how God worked through the tragedy, especially considering that we have Ayoré friends who are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
At the plaque commemorating the deaths of Cecil Dye, Bob Dye, Dave Bacon, Eldon Hunter, and George Hosbach
The memorial plaque is at the trailhead for a series of lookouts called "The Antechamber of Heaven," which apparently have amazing views, but as you can see from this next photo, it wasn't worth our time to hike to them!

Catholic church in the plaza of Santiago de Chiquitos
Our last big stop of the day was a fun drive and a short hike into an amazing waterfall north of Roboré, called Chorro San Luis. 

Kaylee and the girls behind the falls, for perspective!
That night, instead of camping again (it was supposed to rain more), we decided to stay in a hotel owned by people Judy knows, next to the church her father pastored in Roboré.  We spent an uneventful night, had a nice complementary breakfast, and busted back home to Santa Cruz.  All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend and I think we all agree that we should go back sooner than later!

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