Sunday, April 24, 2016

New friends and birds in the heights

"Nobody warned us that nostalgia is the cost of having good times"  -Mario Benedetti.
La Paz, Bolivia
I just spend ten fabulous days in Bolivia.  At first, just another training course (although a renowned one) concerning my job... now, beautiful memories of what certainly was one of the best academic and socio-cultural experiences.  The XII International Course on Advances in Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy was held in La Paz, gathering together young professionals of 18 Latin American countries.  Most of us arrived one day earlier to adapt to the height... 3600 meters above sea level (4000 at the airport!) is quite impressive.  In spite of the "soroche", we had time to fraternize at the historical center of the city... the click was immediate.
Plaza Murillo, La Paz
It was an intense course, with live cases, premier conferences with international experts and long sessions, but we all were happy to share experiences and to work together.  The action was non-stop, with academic activities from dawn until sunset, and cultural events at nights.  An early start means sunrise photos.
Sunrise in La Paz
La Paz is so different to Panama City that even some common birds were lifers for me.  During the scarce spare time we got, I visited the ravine below the Zenon Iturralde park, very close to our hotel.  I got a quite impressive list... eventually; including Rufous-collared Sparrow, Great Thrush, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Giant Hummingbird and so on...
Peruvian Sierra-Finch (female)
Great Thrush
I also got several Gray-bellied Flowerpiercers.  This active little bird is hard to photograph (sorry for the poor shot), but is an endemic bird to Bolivia..., found nowhere else in the globe.  They were actively visiting the flowering bushes in the ravine.  Following them up and down the stairs at 3600 meters above sea level was exhausting!
Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer
The last day of La Paz course, our hosts planned a touristic afternoon.  We visited some iconic places close to the city, like "the Animas valley", the "Zona Sur", the Cable Car to El Alto (really impressive) and the "Valle de la Luna".
I can assure you that there is nothing similar in Panama. The eroded valley attracts visitors for its strange figures.  Neil Armstrong himself named the place because of its similarity to lunar landscapes... who better to make such a comparison?  However, I don't agree.  The valley seemed full of life to me..., nothing to do with the moon: the xenophitic vegetation (something we're not used in Panama) was exuberant and beautiful.
What a great experience... but it was not over.  The second part of the course was in the city of Santa Cruz... but that is another story.  Meanwhile, let me emphasize that this was one of the best lived experiences in every way!
Group at Valle de la Luna
Love you guys!

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