After a very nice 12 days in Sucre, we are moving onto Santa Cruz for a quick stop before venturing into the northern section of the Pantanal in Brazil. Sucre has been good to us, firstly as a place to chill out and get aclimatised to the Bolivian lifestyle, and also where we have done our first week of spanish school. Things are ridiculously cheap here; we are staying in a very nice B&B, La Dolce Vita, where we have a private room that is the size of a small studio, for $18 a night. It is next door to the main market where there is an amazing selection of fresh fruit n veg, as well as all sorts of meats and other produce, where we can walk away with two large bags of goodies for $4. And the chilli's here are hot, colourful and plentiful!!!
Sucre is actually the capital of Bolivia (I always thought La Paz was) and is nestled in a valley at 2800 metres. The days are warm, early 20's, and the nights a bit chilly, but ok, around 10 degrees, which considering it is late autumn is quite pleasant. The city has expanded a lot
over the years, but the main square and surrounding area is very pretty with a heavy spanish architectural influence. It is relatively safe, but i am still not fond of bringing out my camera in public.
They do like to protest here though. We arrived the day after a 2 week demonstration where all of the roads in and out of the city were blockaded. The day after we arrived they started it up again, with only a days break here and there. For the first few days we were awoken to people marching down our street with bands blaring, and firecrackers ripping through the air. We are lucky that we booked our flights out of here in time, as now there are no available flights for the next week. La Paz is apparently worse, and the police a bit more vigorous against the protesters.
There are some great bars, and some really nice restaurants here. I can get a 1L glass of beer for $4.50 at a bar, or $2 for a take away, and we went to a fancy french restaurant, where we had a great meal and a nice bottle of plonk for $45, that
was as good as we have had in Sydney. However, we have been taking advantage of the market and cooking most of the time. Not only does it save dosh and gives us a good intake of vitamins, but it gets really tiresome eating out all of the time. However, you can get some good meals, like mondongo (pork in a curry sauce with potato's) at the market for $2...
As i mentioned, we have done a week (20hrs + 10hrs of homework) of spanish school. We are slowly getting the grasp of it, but it is a lot more complicated then i thought, with all sorts of rules that need to be followed. We will need at least another 2 weeks to be somewhat confluent. We will probably do that in Peru &/or Ecuador. We have enough to get by, and the more we practise the better.
Apart from spanish school and eating, we have not done a helluva lot. It's been nice having a 'home' for a while and not packing up, travelling for a day, and then settling into a new city again. The main square is nice, and a place where people either people
conjugate to chat and eat ice cream, or to demonstrate. We have walked around the city a lot, finding good saltenas (bolivian empenadas), heldao (ice cream), and one day to the farmers markets on the out skirts of the city, where there is crazy mixmash of all sorts of stuff you can buy. The market flows from a series of halls onto the footpath and then onto the street. We found ourselves walking down the main street dodging stores, sellers, dogs and buses all at once. A bit nuts, but full of energy, smells and colour. From big strong bolivian women butchers chopping up every part of an animal thinkable, to piles of chilli's that are hallucenogenic reds, yellows, oranges and greens of all shape and sizes. And then there are the juicer women, all plying for your business. We always get shy and end up going to the first one, while the remaining women yell and try to catch our attention. From here you pick your fruit, and along with some medicinal inca beer (i think it is mead) they blitz it all up in a blender and serve you glass after glass until it's drunk. Truly delicious.
We have been getting more adventurous, and eating our share of street and market food, but are still very wary of the water. We see some (brave) people drinking tap water here, but have heard too many horror stories (like the runs for 2 weeks), to do it ourselves. We are even washing our fruit n veg in bottled water, or making soup to boil the buggers. It a bit of a pain having to constantly buy bottled water, and not great for the environment, but we really have no choice. My guts are not made of cast iron...
On our last sunday we went to Tarabuco, a small village about 1.5hrs out of Sucre up in the hills, where the locals from the surrounding villages visit the massive market to buy produce and sell various inca wears and textiles to the multitude of western tourists. It was pleasant, but like in Vietnam, you are constantly hassled and pressured to buy, with old women coming up and tieing a weaved wrist band around your arm before you know it, and then not leaving until you either purchase it or strongly break free from their grips. We got some nice
stuff, for which we probably paid too much. We know that bargaining is key here, and did do it a bit, but something does not sit right with me trying to haggle an old man down for $1 or $2. It is very little money for us, and a lot for them. Every seller says that they made the object (scarf, poncho, bag etc...) themselves (buy hand), but walking around the market it is pretty much all the same stuff being sold everywhere.
We also visited the Cretaceous park, where there around 5000 dinosaur tracks of at least 8 species of dinosaur. The tracks are actually on a cliff face that was revealed by the cement factory next door. They are over 65 million years old, and over time have been pushed up from a horizontal position into a mountain as the Andes were formed. Unfortunately, you cannot get real close to footprints as the cliff is starting to crumble, and of course i did not bring my zoom lens that day! But there were binoculars and it was pretty impressive to see them, with some 60cm in diameter and scaling up the whole cliff.
We also visited
the Musef, a cultural museum where they exhibit all of the various masks used by the people from each province in Bolivia, as well as providing a good history on the culture and people. The masks range from simple to intricate, and some are quite scary looking with some up to 1m in diameter. We tried to visit a few other museums, but the opening times are weird and did not mix well with our spanish classes. And we could not find some of them, walking around block after block looking at nondescript shut doors... On our second last night we caught up with Jamie, a Chilean mate that we made friends with in Torres Del Paine, who we have not seen in nearly 2 months and ate a pizza that was 60cm x 40cm. Paid for it the next day...
From here we fly to Santa Cruz, as not only are the roads blockaded, but also because we have heard that it is one of the dodgiest roads in Bolivia, and therefore south america. We have been told of travellers getting so scared that they got off the bus half way and came back to Sucre to get
a flight! Its only $55 each, so we are happy to take the hit and do the 30min flight. However due to the blockades we will have to walk part of the distance to the airport, hopefully not too far....
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