Finally, I’ll post my entries from our week in Sucre, Bolivia. Pictures can be found HERE. Enjoy!
Sucre, March 17th – March 23rd
Day One: We arrived in Sucre with our new little family of friends in the afternoon, and took a taxi to the center of town, Plaza 25 de Mayo. The funny thing was that the taxi…well…didn’t run so well and we spent a good chunk of time waiting on the side of the road for the car to start, which the driver assured us was normal and that it would fine in just a minute. Eventually it worked and we arrived safely at Hostal Charcas, right across from the Mercado Central. After checking out a room for 4, we decided it was good enough and set down our packs. While the hostel didn’t have much to offer (no wifi, no breakfast, no kitchen) the price was right at about 33 pesos each (less than US$5), they had a rooftop terrace and lots of bathrooms with lots of hot water. We walked around the city a bit, through the bustling Mercado Central, and settled on having a beer and a snack on the terrace before we decide what to do for dinner. Seeing as it was St. Patrick’s Day, and our friends were from England and Germany and had never celebrated, we decided we might as well try to show them how it’s done…sort of.
We started out by eating at a German restaurant (Kafe Kulture), and passed a strange dance party in the street on the way. Isabel was quick to point out that the owner was Austrian – and the food took an eternity to come out. Luckily (or not) we were occupied trying to pour our ½ liter of dark hefeweizen beer into the tall, skinny glass without spilling foam everywhere. It’s a special talent I apparently don’t have. When the food did come, it wasn’t the cuts of meat advertised on the menu, and the waitress was genuinely confused above which plate was what (strange, since she also spoke German). But, seeing as we didn’t really know what we were missing (authenticity) I thought it was pretty delicious.
Next we head for the Joy Ride Café, where we had seen an advertisement for a St. Patty’s day party. We made our friends order a liter of green beer each (on special 2×1) and spent a long time chatting over what we’d be doing at home. We run into a friend of Isabel’s, who is going to a non-profit language school that sounded interesting, and also had some funny run-ins with your typical, drunk-to-a-stupor expats. After finally finishing our green beer, we stop for snacks, drinks, and bon-bons (which Will has to climb up a ladder in the store to get…hilarious), hang out in the room for awhile, and finally go to bed around 3 a.m. Not a bad St. Patrick’s Day, but still not the same as home.
Day Two: On our second day we sleep in until 11 or so, and everyone slowly gets up, showers, has coffee and gets ready for the day. We don’t leave until around 1 p.m., and head across the street to search for the famous juices and fruit salads at the Mercado Central. I think I can easily say it’s the best fruit salad I’ve ever had, for only about US$1 – with every type of fruit, including local varieties like chirimoya, yogurt, oats, nuts, whipped cream…simply amazing.
After that we went off in search of information: we’re trying to look into hiking, mountain-biking, and/or climbing, and/or going to Sunday market in a nearby town, which is also having a festival this weekend. We went around town getting different information and eventually book our bus tickets for Sunday and book a hike on Saturday, and we’re left with plenty of ideas of what else to do here in Sucre. There’s a language school, Fox Academy, that is a non-profit and all of its proceeds go towards teaching English to low-income families. It sounds like a fantastic school, they also offer classes in Quechua, the local indigenous language, as well as cooking classes, and you can volunteer to teach English. Also, the company we’re going hiking with is a non-profit that invests its proceeds into the local community, and they’re looking for volunteers. It seems like there’s a lot of really interesting things going on in Sucre to get involved in!
Later Tyler and I head back to the Mercado in search of snacks: Tyler gets this amazing chorizo and rice dish from the second floor of the market for only US$2, and I try humitas, which are basically like triangle tamales, but sweeter, and mine had only cheese and could have used some flavor and some type of sauce. After our “snacks” we head over to Fox Language School for a dinner fundraiser they’re putting on that Isabel’s friend Fiona invited us to. It was a great way to try some traditional Bolivian food and get a feel for the school (lots of nice families and kids). After that we went out for early drinks at the Amsterdam Café, a non-profit restaurant/pub that works with Bolivian street kids, and quickly became one of our favorite places to hang out (why not, it’s for a good cause?!). We talk about planning a possible two day hike through some villages outside Sucre that we heard about through the extremely helpful local tourist office, that would include walking along part on an old Incan trail, and seeing volcanoes, craters, and tiny indigenous villages. But, for now, it’s off to bed so we can get up early for our hike tomorrow!
Day Three: We get up early and head back to the market for another great fruit salad. It makes us late, but hey, it’s Latin America, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Our guide is Yao, a recent volunteer from Vancouver, BC. First we go to Parque Cretácico – a dinosaur park on the outskirts of Sucre. It seems that a cement company accidently uncovered hundreds of dinosaur footprints in the hillside, and so they built a park around it. Due to the shifting of tectonic plates, the footprints are on a vertical wall that you can see from the park. The park is filled with dinosaur bones and models, as well as an AV room showing BBC documentaries. It’s a pretty interesting, if cheesy, place.
Next we take a walk through a poor, working class part of town to find the “trailhead” to the waterfalls we’re supposed to walk to. Yao has only been there once before, and he’s asking locals the best way to get down to the river. We take some narrow trails down the ravine until we’re at the river. The idea is that we follow the river, which is mostly dry, a few hours and have lunch at the falls. We have a good time talking and walking, even if it does start to drizzle, then rain, then really rain. We’re from the PNW, after all, right? We stop and have a great lunch of grilled veggies, avocado, tomato, spinach, hard-boiled eggs, etc on great bread rolls. Then we continue walking, and after some amount of time Yao tells us the surrounding landscape doesn’t really look familiar. At first think he’s joking because we had been teasing him that he would get us lost. He’s not joking; he doesn’t know where we are and wants to walk back. It was supposed to be a one-way hike and we’re not really looking forward to walking all the way back. We tell him we should keep going to some nearby houses and ask people if we can hike out of the river valley to a main road, from where we can catch a taxi or hail a truck back to Sucre. Eventually we find a family that has a huge truck and is actually heading back to Sucre later that day and is willing to take us as well. So, it’s all going to work out – phew.
We walk around the river some more, then Yao manages to get us lost again trying to find the road out of the valley to where the truck his. What a great guide. The truck ride back is pretty fun – it’s an open truck and we got some great views of the “super moon”, although I was really about to pee my pants. Finally we make it back, find a pee spot, and get a taxi back to our hostel. Yao wants to make our failed day up to us and invites us to his place for drinks and snacks. He mostly wants to bribe us out of telling his boss he got us lost. Not wanting to turn down a free offer, we agree to meet him and he points us in the direction of his apartment and we agree to meet him in about an hour. Within that hour I fall asleep, and the others go out to meet Yao. It turns out he actually told them the wrong directions (AGAIN!) and they couldn’t find their house. They went to the Amsterdam Café for dinner, and ran into him there, where he said “hey guys, what happened? I waited for you for like fifteen minutes.” Fifteen minutes?! That’s it?!! Then, he apparently wanted them to go to a party with him and everyone was like, ‘no I’m pretty tired…’ and our idiot guide Yao had to audacity to tell them ‘hey, I did the same hike as you and I’m still going out, why are you so tired?’ Wow, just wow. Then he tried to friend us on Facebook. What a completely incompetent guy. I mean, I feel bad for him; it sucks to make a big mistake on the job, but c’mon, take some responsibility. We didn’t want him to get in trouble, but we thought the company should know what happened so they can maybe take some precautions in the future – like give guides maps, only let experienced guides lead hikes alone, and to learn to say ‘no’ when there’s not enough staff to lead a hike. The idea of the organization is great, so I want them to do well – it just looks like they have a few lessons to learn!
Day Four: While Saturday turned out to be sort of a draw, Sunday pretty much made up for it. Well, it was off to rough start…when just as we were leaving (already late) for the bus, I said my usual line to Tyler “do you have the key?” expecting his usual answer “yeah, it’s in the door, c’mon.” But this day, it was different. This day, the key couldn’t be found anywhere, to the point that we were about to miss the bus. I tried to send Will and Isabel on ahead so they wouldn’t miss out on the day, and I would stay back in the room to look for the key and guard our things. I had already looked everywhere. People are freaking out, and it’s my fault. We try to store our most important stuff (computers) with the hostel reception, but the poor old man is too consumed trying to get everything ready for their bus leaving for the market. We decide to just have him lock the door with the spare key and leave him a note in case he forgets, which seems highly likely because he’s old and easily confused. The worry, however, is that someone took our key and will go into our room while we’re gone. I was the last one with the key the night before, so I would be responsible for anything that goes wrong. We tried to have faith in humanity and enjoy the day in Tarabuco, a town a few hours away that has a huge Sunday market, and today was having a huge festival.
The day turns out to be great – there are tons of people lining up for a parade through the town in fancy, colorful indigenous costumes. We find out the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is going to be there – crazy! We walked around trying to politely take pictures of people’s colorful dress and make our way through town. Eventually we decide to eat something since we missed breakfast thanks to my great key fiasco. A women taking surveys points us in the right direction of food and lets us know the procession doesn’t start until noon so we have plenty of time. We make our way up the hill and eventually a guy randomly calls out to us, something like “mister, mister!” in English, and end up talking to him. He’s completely drunk at 11 a.m., but harmless. He’s eating at a typical Bolivian food stand – a women on the side of the road with a few large pots wrapped in colorful blankets, and a some plastic chairs and a table. We look inside the pots and see a fantastic looking potato soup. At five pesos for a giant plate of food, we decide to risk it. She loads up a huge serving of pasta, soup, and salad and we sit down to enjoy our gigantic meal, which turned out to be pretty delicious with few aftereffects.
Next we try to stake out our places for the parade – Will and Isabel opt to go further up into town to photograph the parade, while Tyler and I try to get a good spot for seeing the president. Around noon more and more people are gathering and things start to get a little crazy; people are climbing trees and fences to see the procession. Evo dances a traditional dance in full on traditional garb. The processions pass through, each one being announced and making some kind of offering to the president: a bag, a garland, at one point they actually threw popcorn at him and he picked it up and ate it, at another they gave him armfuls of bread and baskets of food, at another they were throwing confetti and ribbon at him, fireworks were going off that sounded like gunshots…it was totally unreal, unlike anything a president in any of our respective counties would ever do. The funny thing was that when asked for applause, the people hardly responded, yet they were dangling off trees to see him and shouting out his name. At one point, I swear, he looked right at us and gave a sort-of fist salute, which Tyler, he obviously stands out, repeated back to him, and he actually laughed and waived! It doesn’t get much more surreal than that.
After the festivities we went around town shopping for llama everything – llama socks, llama sweaters, a hat, traditional weavings, traditional ponchos (which Isabel plans to make into a rug – great idea!), pillowcases from traditional fabrics, llama gloves, and normal things like a flashlight and batteries. I even got to pet a really friendly cat for awhile, which the people around me joked that they would sell it to me. It was fun to just walk around the market, which not only had all the traditional touristy type things, but normal things like kitchen supplies, cocoa leaves, spices, clothes, etc. It was truly interesting to see, and we were so lucky to be there on the festival they have once a year.
Day Five: On Monday, myself, Tyler, and Isabel set off for our two-day hike to some villages outside Sucre. Sadly, Will was back at the hostel, sick. L We had made all the preparations the day before – we got food and water at the supermarket, packed our bags, put the rest of our stuff in storage, found a taxi to take us to the first village (the micros are currently on strike). It was drizzling as we left….not good. After about 20 minutes we turn off the paved road onto what used to be a dirt road, but by know is mostly a mud pit. We’re afraid that we’re about to get scammed and robbed, and we’re not looking forward to hiking and camping in the rain. It only looks worse on the horizon in the direction we’re trying to go. After some admirable attempts by our driver to navigate the muddy roads, we decide to admit defeat and head back. A lazy day might not be so bad anyway, and maybe Isabel can leave earlier to La Paz. We come back to the hostel and find a slightly better Will so Tyler gets us a double room for the night, and Isabel and Will are going to try to head to La Paz that night. Before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye to our dear new friends and readjust to travelling as just the two of us! It feels so lonely now – who will help us make all the decisions and lead the way around town?!
Day Six: Today starts with a beautiful sunny day. Our new room is much nicer than the old one – right up by the terrace, with lots of windows and sunlight, and storage. And it doesn’t smell like an old shoe, all for just a total of US$2 more per night! We enjoy finally being able to sleep in and have a lazy start to the day, my favorite. Since it’s sunny out, we walk around town taking pictures, and walk up to the Recoleta Mirador, which has great views of the city and the surrounding valley. It’s beautiful; Bolivia is so green and beautiful! After some much needed time interneting at Café Amsterdam, which turns out to have the fastest wifi of any of the places around our hostel, we head off for one last sightseeing stop: La Casa de Libertad, where Bolivia’s Declaration of Independence was signed, and where the first Congress of Bolivia convened before the political capital was moved to La Paz (Sucre is the “constitutional capital and houses the Supreme Court). I can’t believe I’ve seen the Bolivian declaration of independence, and also the first Argentine flag, but none of the historical relics of my own country. A trip to DC is a must!
After that we walk around some more, trying to plan what to do next. We settle on a 5 p.m. bus leaving for Santa Cruz the following day, where we’re hopefully do some camping, see Che Guevara’s grave, and maybe even volunteer in an animal refuge where I’ll actually be allowed to hang out with big kittens like pumas and such. We basically spend the rest of the day trying to eat all the food we were left with from our failed camping attempt and napping. But, we went out to dinner at Locot’s and had some delicious Bolivian food that I can’t remember the names of now.
Day Seven: I can’t believe it’s already been a week since we arrived in Sucre! Today we don’t have many plans. We sleep in, pack, get ready, and try to finish off the last of the food we were left with after our failed camping attempt. I pack our favorite cookies for the bus and make some sandwiches, leave a can of tuna for the hostel kitten, drink the last of our instant coffee, and give the rest of our fruits and veggies to a man on the street. Our main goal of the day is to finish updating photos and the blog, and mail a package home. It’s so funny to mail something here – first you have a find a box, which is usually just in the street or you can ask for one in a store. Then you have to find packing tape at the market. Then we took it to the post office and they say we have to wrap it in paper. To buy the paper we have to find a libreria. Then the post office lady wraps our box for us. So many steps just for a package! At home I’m so used to buying everything in one stop! But, we got it done, and now it’s just a few hours until our bus leaves for Santa Cruz. Depending on the road conditions due to rain, it’ll either be 15-25 hours long, so until next time….
Love you all!
Read Full Post »