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Published: June 24th 2012
A mildly eventful bus journey had taken us from Uyuni to Tupiza, one where our driver simply abandoned the bus in the middle of some back-country mining village, only to re-board our vehicle an hour later perhaps with a little more ‘confidence’ before almost driving us off the side of a cliff. Of course I say ‘mildly’ more so because of all the truly horrific stories you hear about Bolivian roads, a country which proudly boasts ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Road,’ otherwise known as ‘El Camino de la Muerte,
’ a road where even the most moderate (or morbid) of estimates puts the death toll at over 1,000! I suppose, thankfully, that our own experience could only be slotted into the placid category on the spectrum. And so, after a mild ride, we had little enthusiasm for the next step in Bolivian transportation – the night bus! But, as we needed to get from Tupiza to Sucre, the only way of doing so via bus was during the wee hours of night. After enquiring with what seemed like every English speaking Bolivian in town as to the quality of the road between the two towns, I settled myself somewhat with our decision
to take the night bus, since most locals insisted the road was good.
And surprisingly, that’s how it transpired. A comfortable night’s sleep later and we had arrived in the early hours of the morning in Sucre. Thankfully, our hotel was accepting guests at such an ungodly hour, allowing us to check in and catch a few more hours of sleep before venturing out to explore the town itself in the morning.
Founded in 1538 under the name Ciudad de la Plata (City of Silver), Sucre has amongst other things served as the centre for the upper classes of the conquering Spanish during Potosi’s silver rush of the ensuing centuries. The city once held governance over various areas including Paraguay, south eastern Peru, northern Chile and Argentina. For now however, it exists as the official capital of Bolivia and thankfully for the modern tourists, Sucre seems to have lost none of its charm or grandeur. Buildings awash with white paint, covered above with terracotta tiled roofs and huge wooden doors makeup much of what can be found amongst the countless narrow streets of this very picturesque city. Of course along these streets walk locals clad in yet more
traditional clothing, the high topped ‘bombin’ hat most prominent among the choice apparel. It seemed Sucre would make a beautiful base for a couple of days before we headed west for the mayhem of La Paz.
With hot and clear weather, we bathed in the sunshine by sitting in the central square of 25 de Mayo, relaxing into our park bench before people watching until our hearts were content. The ethnic makeup of the city was in evidence whilst sitting in this square, since although Bolivia is one of South America’s most heavily indigenous nations, the significant Spanish influence was on full display, with students (Sucre boasting one of the world’s oldest Universities) and city professionals also choosing to take in the afternoon sunshine.
Aside from old universities, I am happy to report that Sucre also boasts one of the best food dishes I have tasted on our travels thus far; the “Pique a lo Macho” which includes beef, chicken, Vienna sausage, onions, boiled eggs, cheese and chips all cooked in a locally made sauce. Yes, that’s right – all in one dish! It was so good I had it twice in two days and even that was
Our final day in Sucre, we were still feeling the effects of our tortuous seven hour horse ride in Tupiza and were, for want of a better word, exhausted. The prospects of exploring more of these admittedly beautiful streets were a little too much for our energy levels and it was with some level of gratitude that we stumbled across an ice cream parlour and a cinema, a match made in heaven for us at that time and we obliged with some vanilla ice cream and ‘Men in Black 3.’ Perhaps not the most productive afternoon in such a beautiful place but at this stage of our trip, we’ve probably earned the right to a few home comforts.
That evening we were on yet another night bus bound for La Paz with renewed confidence in Bolivian roads. Such confidence was sadly short lived however, as our bus broke down in the middle of the night in Potosi, and we were subsequently forced to change buses with the only thing resembling transport at 2am, a clunky bus headed for Oruro, four hours short of La Paz. Here we would have yet another change of transportation for the
final leg to Bolivia’s capital. Any sleep we were hoping to get quickly went out of the rattling, impossible-to-close window for what was a restless, frigid night in the Bolivian altitude.
La Paz is often wrongly quoted as the world’s highest capital city in the world, sitting at 3,650m above sea level. Whilst that is in some ways correct, it’s only the de facto capital of Bolivia owing to the fact it has more governmental buildings than Sucre (Sucre is in fact the official and historical capital, as well as the seat of the nation’s justice system), making the highest official capital city Quito in Ecuador. However, the altitude was not the reason for our visit so this small technical glitch mattered not.
We would only be spending a couple of nights in La Paz. Our first day we set out to explore one of La Paz’s many markets, the curiously named ‘Witches Market.’ Initially we thought the name a little over the top, as we found the same standard tourist stalls selling jumpers, wristbands and scarves that could be found in any tourist town in this country. However, looking a little further we found the source of
the name, with foul smelling shops pushing all manner of weird and wonderful products, from baby Llama carcasses to fertility potions. The potions were self explanatory but I’m still unsure of what the Llama’s are used for and I care little to find out!
Over the previous days and months, we had kept in contact with fellow Travelbloggers Jesse and Nate, otherwise known as ‘Theroadiscalling,’ as our paths would be intersecting in this part of the world. We have long followed their travels on Travelblog, in part because they have been to many of the places we have been during our journey and so it was great to catch up with them during dinner one night and compare (horror) stories! Also joined by Jon, their Kiwi friend who they had been travelling around with, we had a really good evening with some decent Indian food. When we joined Travelblog back in February 2010, we never thought that using the site would result in new friendships but I guess that’s why it’s called the world’s friendliest travel site. Good luck with the rest of your travels guys and we hope our paths cross again!
For us, our journey would
continue west the following morning for the breathless heights and sights of Lake Titicaca and the mythical Isla del Sol, the place where the Inca story began...
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