We have mentioned before that we have certain meals that we always eat during the different holidays. On Christmas Day, we always have prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, which is typically an English tradition, but we have adopted it for ourselves. It is actually pretty easy to prepare and we usually find prime rib on sale, which makes it more economical for this special dinner. One of the best things about making prime rib are the sandwiches that you make with the leftovers during the following days, especially if you save the juice from the prime rib and make French Dip sandwiches. Last year, we were in Prague during Christmas, so we didn’t end up having prime rib, so we are looking forward to having it more than ever this year. We will be in Chicago visiting our youngest daughter for Christmas, so we will be leaving the cooking up to her. We are looking forward to seeing how she prepares our traditional dinner, but here is the recipe that we would normally prepare.
6 – 8 lb Prime Rib (3 or 4 ribs)
5 Garlic Cloves – minced
1/4 cup Prepared Horseradish
4 tbsp Fresh Rosemary – roughly chopped
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Thyme
1/4 cup Sea Salt
1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Pan Drippings from the Prime Rib
Stir together the flour and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully incorporated. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Rosemary and 1 teaspoon of thyme. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the prime rib, bone side down, into a large roasting pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, horseradish, 3 tablespoons of the rosemary, 1 tablespoon of the thyme, sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. Whisk the ingredients until it forms a paste (whisking instead of stirring allows the ingredients to bind together). Generously rub the paste over the top (the fat cap) of the prime rib. Roast the prime rib in the oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours (approximately 20 minutes per pound) until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Pull the roast from the oven and set it aside, tented, for 20 to 30 minutes to rest (cutting into the roast without letting it rest will cause the juices to run out and the prime rib to be dry). Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Pour the pan drippings into a 9 inch square baking dish. Place the baking dish into the oven for 5 minutes to get the drippings smoking hot. Take the baking dish out of the oven, pull the batter out of the refrigerator, and add the cold batter to the pan drippings. Place the pudding back into the oven and cook until puffed and dry, about 15 to 20 minutes.
We had planned on seeing quite a bit while we were in Bolivia, but on the day that we went to Incallajta, our guide treated us to a couple of unexpected treats. As we drove from Cochabamba into the surrounding mountains, we stopped at a tiny village. This was the first time that our guide had taken this route and he was excited to find a little Spanish church that he’d never seen before. Then, after we visited the ruins, our guide took us to what he called a “ghost village” where almost all of the inhabitants had moved away. Neither of these stops were on our agenda for the day, but they made for some of the most interesting memories of the trip.
As we drove through the countryside filled with farms where the people worked the land as they have for hundreds of years, we stopped to talk to a couple of villagers. Well, we didn’t talk to them because they only spoke Quechua, but our guide and driver spoke to them. The person who had the keys to the church wasn’t there, but we peeked in through a tiny window to see the altar. This tiny little church probably hasn’t had foreign visitors in all of its history, but we were excited to see the unexpected treasure.
Visiting the town of Chimboata left us emotionally drained. Our guide, Remy, took us to the Spanish colonial village for us to see a traditional Bolivian village. He told us about an old man that he used to visit whenever he would take people to the town, but he had recently passed away. As we walked through the empty streets we came upon a woman laying in the doorway of an abandoned building. He spoke to her in Quechua and she sat up and showed us the yarn that she was spinning. Remy told us that she had seen our camera and had said that it was okay for us to take her photo. She was literally just waiting for her time to come and it was extremely heart-wrenching to see. As we waited by our van, Remy and our driver looked around to see if there was anyone around to take care of the woman. Eventually they found a man who told them that she was being taken care of, but sitting in an abandoned building did not seem like being taken care of to us.
As we drove out of town, we came upon a group of children on their way home from school. One of them was a five year old girl named Bellina who had a three mile walk ahead of her to her house. So, we offered her a ride and took her the rest of the way. She smiled bashfully and spoke quietly as we drove her to her home. Her youthful smile was such a contradiction to seeing the old woman in the village. These people live without electricity and their only concerns are growing food and taking care of family. The thought of politics, world conflict, or anything that doesn’t have to do with their day-to-day living doesn’t ever cross their minds. Our visit to their village or farms was probably quickly forgotten by them, but will be remembered by us forever.
It is often the case that the unexpected parts of a trip are sometimes the most interesting. We are extremely thankful for our guide, whose enthusiasm for sharing Bolivia with us took us to see things we might not have otherwise seen. Despite all of the historical and beautiful sites that we saw, it is the people that are most fascinating. The thought of that poor woman laying on the floor will remain entrenched in our memories as will the smile on the little girl who we gave a ride.
Our trip to Bolivia was one of the most interesting trips that we’ve ever taken and we have a lot of experiences that we want to share. Before we describe each unique adventure that we were able to enjoy, we wanted to share our overall impressions of Bolivia in general. As with all countries, Bolivia is a very complex nation with a lot of contradictions, aspirations, and impediments to success. Everyone we met along our journey was extremely nice and helpful, but they all expressed a similar impression of their country. It is a land rich with potential, but that potential is being squandered due to mismanagement and corruption from the political leaders who rule the country.
Despite the success of surrounding countries like Peru, Chile, and Argentina, Bolivia seems to be stubbornly holding onto the past, which is great for a visitor, but not necessarily good for its people. While these other countries have embraced tourism, the people of Bolivia may want travelers to come to their country, but seeing the sites that the country has to offer is not an easy endeavor. Just getting from one place to another can be risky and life threatening or is often very expensive. Because of that, we were able to only see a fraction of what the country has to offer, but it isn’t going to deter us from visiting Bolivia again, as we truly want to see more of this wonderful country.
From our conversations with people in the United States, people often know nothing or very little about Bolivia. Usually the conversation goes something like, “isn’t that where they wear the bowler hats?” or “that’s where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed, right?”. Perhaps they’ve heard of La Paz, but few associate it with the Inca empire or relate to the ruins the same way that they might refer to Machu Picchu in Peru. As far as the bowler hats, people are partially correct. There are three major tribes that trace their ancestry back to before the Incas and each has their own traditional dress and language. In fact, as you venture out of the cities and into the countryside, you are likely to meet people who speak no Spanish at all, the standard language of Bolivia and South America, but who speak their ancestral language. We saw people from two of those major groups, Aymara and Quechua. Outside of Cochabamba, where we spent our first week in Bolivia, the people are Quechua and the women wear white hats, while outside of La Paz the people are Aymara and are the ones that where bowler hats.
Seventy percent of the land in Bolivia is covered by jungle and rainforest, while the rest is either high in the Andes mountains or on open plains, such as the Uyuni Salt Flats. In fact, the salt flats are probably Bolivia’s biggest tourism draw at the moment, but something that we didn’t get the opportunity to see during our trip because we simply didn’t have the time or money to make it there. Road conditions in Bolivia are horrendous and travel by bus can take days or even weeks to get places. You can fly to some smaller cities, but the prices are usually outrageous. However, to and from the major cities, La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz, flights are not only convenient, but they are cheap as well. In fact, we flew with BOA (Boliviana de Aviación), which had flights from La Paz to Cochabamba leaving about every hour and a half and it was one of the best airline experiences we’ve ever had. Our round-trip tickets cost the two of us a total of less than $150 USD and our flights were on time and the service was excellent.
The ancient ruins that we were able to see, both Inca and pre-historic, were definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Oddly though, the Bolivian people don’t have much of an interest in their own history and therefore these sites are not as fully examined as they would be in other countries and because there isn’t a lot of tourism, they aren’t visited often. Being the only people at a site, just us and our guide, made seeing them even more enjoyable, but at the same time made us rather sad that these historical sites were not being relished and cared for in the way that they truly deserve. They are very proud of the fact that they haven’t rebuilt any of the sites in order to show what they might have looked like, but there are also probably many more buildings and ruins left undiscovered and buried beneath the land. Other than the time that we spent in Copacabana, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, we saw very few tourists anywhere during our trip. And the people that we saw in Copacabana were most likely just passing through on their way to or from Peru, which is on the other side of the lake.
The other common perception of Bolivia, at least in the United States, is that it is the country where most of the cocaine comes from. Unfortunately that is true and growing coca leaves is one of the largest crops that Bolivia produces, much of it legally, but there is also a fair amount of illegal growth as well. It is common to see people chewing on coca leaves and it was even on our breakfast buffet at the hotel in La Paz. Other than coca leaves, the country grows everything that it needs in very fertile soil, including potatoes, strawberries, bananas, tangerines, lemons, and quinoa. Unfortunately, the demand from other countries for the cocaine that is made from the coca leaves has made that the largest cash crop in the country. It has also created the culture of political corruption as well as a desire not to have prying eyes from tourists, which is probably part of the reason that they make it difficult for tourists to visit the country.
Bolivia truly is a fascinating country with plenty to offer the world. Right now it is like a gem that has yet to be polished to reveal its true splendor, but there will likely come a day in the near future when tourists flock to Bolivia to see all that it has to offer. From the animals of the jungle, the amazing Amazon river, the high ranges of the Andes, dinosaur tracks, ancient ruins, humble cities and friendly people, there is much to see and do in Bolivia, if people are willing to venture there. We had heard a lot about petty crime and pickpockets before we left and were on our guard everyplace that we went, but we found that our concerns were pretty much unnecessary. Every country has places where crime is prevalent and people should be wary, but we didn’t find Bolivia to be any worse than any other country that we’ve visited. We hope that more people will visit this incredible country and we will definitely return again. Maybe on our next trip we won’t be the only foreigners that we see as we explore the many treasures that Bolivia has to offer.