Bolivia: Sucre

Leaving Uyuni, many travelers head to Tupiza for a taste of the “Wild West” or to Potosi, the highest city in the world, to tour the mines.  The train to Tupiza was full.  I was not interested in getting blown up underground on a tour with miners smoking cigarettes while holding dynamite, so we headed straight for Sucre.  We arrived at night, after a long, sweaty bus ride.  Instantly, we felt the energy of the city.  The plaza was packed with people.  The beautiful white colonial buildings reflected the city lights.  The mix of indigenous culture and “big city living” was seamless.  Joshua wishes we could have stayed a month.  Who knew that a city we had never heard of could instantly win our hearts?

We visited the Recoleta area, with endless views of the city, which houses several museums including the Indigenous Art Museum.

The museum is working to revive ancient weaving traditions by helping artists learn the skills and then sell their work.  One woman sold a tapestry that allowed her family to pay for electricity for an entire year.  We were struck most by the men’s weaving style which wasn’t as intricate as the women’s but bright, vibrant and full of crazy animals.  The museum allows men and women to weave in the building to increase interest and display their talent for tourists.

We also visited Cal Orck’o 5km outside of town where the largest concentration of fossilized dinosaur tracks have been discovered.  The Bolivians were digging in an area rich in limestone to make cement when they came upon a few tracks that had been uncovered by the wind and rain.  Twenty-six paleontologists from Europe and America came to identify them: 4 types of dinosaurs, hundreds of tracks on a vertical wall.  Two tectonic plates collided sending the tracks straight up in the air…resulting in a perfect viewing area.  The park itself is full of replica dinosaurs, kind of like a really bad Jurassic Park–full of noises, moving parts and terrible robotronics.

Bolivia was not even on our radar before we began traveling in South America, but as we heard more and more good things, we decided to make it a stop.  For one thing, Bolivia is excellent on the budget.  Accommodations are inexpensive, but dumpy (and internet is nowhere to be found).  The food is much better and cheaper than we heard from other travelers.  We can fill ourselves at the local market with fresh juices, fruit salads, soups and meats, usually for less than $1.50/meal.  Overall, Bolivians seem to love Joshua’s eagerness to understand their culture and love giving him tastes or explaining how a dish has been prepared.  All the mamas in the market want to fatten him up!

We did have one market emergency, however.  Joshua and I both ordered a fresh juice, but during the wait he ran upstairs to grab a snack.  I waited and waited, slowly sipping my drink during his absence.  The woman making the drinks wouldn’t give me his juice until he returned.  After 30 minutes, I told her I would pay for the juice, but he wasn’t coming back.  That’s when she got really worried.  She sent out all of her friends to look for the “bald” man.  The market was closing so she was afraid he may have been locked out.  The whole search team was looking for him so he could claim his passion fruit juice.  I think she was also worried that he had “left me” left me.  Finally, she gave me the juice “to go” (in a bag); and I went back to the hostel where Joshua was waiting patiently for me.  He thought I had left the juice stand to meet back at the hostel.  One of the first moments on the trip I wished I had a cell phone!

Joshua and I love traveling, but the daily grind can wear a person down.  Lately, we have been more focused on taking time away from the guidebooks to have a few real dates.  We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner of wine, caviar and filet mignon for under $30 at a French restaurant.  I had my first real cup (not instant) of coffee in a month at a café with wifi where we sat for hours using the internet and sipping our drinks.  He even brought home flowers from the market one morning as a surprise…not the first time on the trip I have been presented with the local flora!

We spent one full day in the market of Tarabuco, about 65km from Sucre.  It’s an authentic little town way up in the hills where you can find just about anything for sale.  The women are small and round.  They wear top hats (which KILL me), as well as awful rust colored tights under super pleated skirts.  They carry large loads of groceries, things for sale and children on their backs in bright colored blankets.  The men do the same.  We purchased a blanket/towel/carrying mechanism to use on the trip—it has already come in handy as a beach towel/bus blanket/changing station.  Who knows what other uses we will find for it?!

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