Published: September 20th 2007September 15th 2007
Everytime I go to Potosi I find out about another thing going on there in a few weeks time which I want to go back for. I like Potosi more each time I go back, it feels like a real place. Most travelers only come for a few days to see the mines on their way from Uyuni to somewhere else and so it doesn’t feel very touristy, instead its bustling with students, government workers, miners and real life all combined with altitude, sunny days and cold nights. Which all add up to a pretty tough and hard drinking population.
Anyway I thought I’d fit in a quick trip to Sucre in the mean while.
There had been lots of problems with student protests and road blocks in Sucre and I wasn’t sure if I would get there or not. I ended up taking a taxi with Michelle and Pedro Negro as Michelle was flying home from there. I arrived to the sight of burning tractor tyres blocking the street to my hostel and cautiously had to walk past them. However no one was the least bit interested in me and the protests continued the whole time I was there but
all very peacefully, the odd burning tyre and crackle of dynamite most evenings but that was about it. El sede no se mueve!
Sucre is a very pretty but slighty dull town I thought. Everyone else I’ve met loves it but if you are on your own there is only so long each day you can sit and drink coffee before you get bored. Luckily on the 3rd day I found film night at the Joy Ride Café (a stunningly well run and decorated place owned by a Dutchman) and met Marsha, a talkative Kiwi. We spent most of the following days drinking tea and chatting in the Joy ride and went off to Tarabuco market together, where neither of us bought much whilst wandering around the streets but Marsha did come back with some parafin lamps ingeniously fashioned from condensed milk cans.
So back to Potosi for a third time round - this time I was back there for a festival in the North of the departamento although we had to change our plans last minute due to lack of transport. We ended up going to a small village called Tinguipaya, a three hour, crazily overcrowded micro
journey, sitting on a 25L drum of Singani to be sold at the fiesta. All while Pedro is sitting comfortably in the front chewing coca and passing the driver beer.
Luckily I met up with an English girl called Gemma whilst hanging around Potosi, I had been fairly bored during the days because Pedro was working guiding down the mines or in meetings, so me and Gemma spent one day together at the thermal laguna (pedro was supposed to come and was going to take the day off work but he stupidly just called into see if things were OK and then had to cry off on the outing) and then we invited her to come to the fiesta too.
When we arrived in Tinguipaya Pedro ditched us and went off drinking with the bus driver so me and Gemma were left to wander around on our own. We were the only gringos in town for the fiesta and we were certainly popular, it was all fairly friendly attention but got more touchy feely as the night wore on. I dont think I have ever been groped so much in the space of 24 hours before! It gave me a
good opportunity to practice the kind of spanish they dont teach you in class. We had a great night though, we met up with Pedro later a bit worse for wear and managed to avoid all the punch ups. The Tinkuy festival is a traditional meeting of local tribes where they settle the yearly diputes with some fisticuffs, refereed by the women. Crazy. But apart from that there was lots of dancing of the kind I did in Potosi at the previous festival and drinking, lots of drinking. The Bolivians are pretty hard drinkers and I even heard an Irish lad claiming that they put him to shame. Generally you can get away with the forcefeeding of beer by sacrificing a lot of it to pachmama (i.e. tipping it on the floor). This makes for very messy dancing as there were lots of houses where you could go in and drink chica, the local fermented maize drink here, then get up and dance in a circle. The tinkuy involves lots of footstomping and with all the drink on the floor you end up covered in it.
The next day we hung around a bit and there was a religious service
and then everyone headed off with their llamas or on the buses/trucks back to their villages.
There are more photos below