Sunday 9 February 2014

Catching up with the stalkers in Sucre

From Uyuni we caught the bus to Sucre. We went with the latest morning bus and ended up on a 'normal' bus - luggage on the roof in a tarp, no heating and basic chairs. This was all fine for a day bus - but now I check what the bus looks like before booking!

We were lucky to be doing this in the day as our transfer to the next bus (already included in our ticket) in Potosi was complicated. We had thought about stopping in Potosi - the worlds highest city - but given I didn't want to do a mine tour there isn't much else to do.... And it's not a pretty city with its main industry being mining - we didn't appreciate the altitude either!

After a lot of chatting with the lady in the ticket office we established that we had been dropped off at the old bus terminal and our bus to Sucre left from the new terminal. Still being lucky a Bolivian/American couple who were in the same situation (and on the same bus) managed to get us transferred to the new terminal and we caught the bus with minutes to spare. More hassle arose when it turned out seat 29 had been issued twice - but with help from our Spanish speaking friends we got it sorted out.

Arriving in Sucre we caught a cab to the Beehive hostel - it was the other side of town and Sucre is hilly! At 2,800 it's also at altitude.

The Beehive was a great hostel - super friendly, we were swept out of the door with a group of people within 30 minutes of arriving. There was salsa classes, Pilates, group dinners, camp fires etc we ended up staying for 6 nights instead of the 3 we had originally booked for!

Sucre is a pretty town - the center is all white washed colonial buildings and squares. It's actually the second capital of Bolivia - where the judicial seat is and where the laws get made - there are lawyers everywhere!

Main square and buildings around it:

This bin ate the paperboy?! Like something out of Harry Potter!

We wandered around town exploring - most of our clothes were covered in salt from the flats so I was wearing everything else until the washing was done - it was cool here especially at night.

We had our first Bolivian lunch experiences - one at a local hole in the wall cafe, where slow cooked lamb was the speciality of the day - with rice and salad for 11 Bobs - £1! Another day we headed to the food court at the market and tried pollo piccante - again tasty and filling for less than a pound.

Market stalls stacked high with fresh fruit and veg - you could get anything there!

We also saw a lot of indigenous women in their traditional dress - we first encountered this at the refuge on the salt flats tour - the lady cleaning the bathroom was wearing the traditional pleated skirt and had her two hair braids tucked into her apron strings!

I haven't taken photos of people - mainly not to be obtrusive, but also my Spanish isn't great to ask and when we did try we got refused. Apparently the locals believe that reflections capture your soul - and this applies to the glass of the camera also - if they had seen the pictures on the digital camera I'm sure they would have had this confirmed!

Anyway we were reunited with our stalkers Matt & Lucy at the Beehive - we immediately got Lucy signed up to all the fun stuff (Matt wasn't convinced by the dancing class).

Salsa dancing was a fabulous end to the day - Veronica our teacher was showing us Cuban salsa so we started with a cocktail lesson to make Cuban mojitos - these loosened us up to be able to swing our hips through the basic steps Veronica showed us.

By the second glass we were having fun - getting into the music and practising turns with Jim - the sole man to join the class - it was very fun and great to meet the Bolivian women dancing with us!

On Sunday we got up super early to head to the Tarabuco market - the largest indigenous market in the surrounding area and a chance to see some different local traditions including the dresses. We ended up in Samay Wasi restaurant - lured by the promise of traditional dancing in costume - with pictures encouraged!

At this family run restaurant we got to meet the bubbly owner, my namesake, Katty:

She is a real force of nature - she says her English is better than her Spanish (the locals here speak Quechuan) - but both were rapid fire! She personally meets and greets everyone to the restaurant and explains the concept - set lunch with traditional dancing. It was great to meet someone so friendly and welcoming!

Not sure who this guy is - but he was in the main square at Tarabuco - where you could buy similar traditional hats.

We didn't buy anything at the market in the end - there were some nice jumpers and lovely traditionally embroidered pieces by different ethnic groups - but nothing that we needed.

Instead we returned to Sucre to save space in the bar for the Super Bowl! Unfortunately for my first Super Bowl experience we didn't get the ads - it was all South American :( the sea hawks supporters were happy though - I regretted my decision to support Denver as soon as they made an own goal (or is that touchdown?!).

We managed to amuse ourselves during the Spanish ads with the llama song - which Elissa came up with - it goes something like this:

Happy llama
Sad llama
Very very mad llama
Short llama 
Tall llama
Falling on its face llama
Dalai Lama
Really really crazy llama

You kinda needed to see the actions to get it though! I'll try and get it videoed & on Facebook!

On Monday when Lucy and Matt started Spanish lessons, Cat and I headed up to a cafe with a great view on their recommendation - although climbing the steps up was hardwork the views over Sucre were worth it!

We then explored the neighbourhood around - some lovely colonial buildings

Staying a sociable hostel with a kitchen for guests meant that we could indulge in a spot of Bolivian wine tasting - seeing which bottle for approximately £2 was the best! The most well known if the brands are Kolhberg and Campos de Solana. The wine is grown in the Tarjia area of Boiivia where the wine making tradition goes back to the 17th century. The elevation of the Andes means that the grapes get much more sun and the wines age quicker - so a 2 year old Bolivian wine drinks similar to 6 year old elsewhere in terms of balance and smoothness. Not sure I can concur - but for £2 a bottle it helped with our budget and provided a welcome break from beer!

After having had a few relaxing not terribly strenuous days in Sucre, where the biggest thing was what to cook for dinner (or on the BBQ - thanks Jim!), we decided to sign up for a walk with Condor - a not for profit trekking agency.

We did the Dino and Waterfall hike with a Canadian couple from the hostel. Our hike started by catching a local micro up to the dinosaur park - Cretaceous Park. This was right next to a quarry that produced cement. The quarry had discovered some non cement chemicals in some of the rock so those rock faces were left undeveloped and it was here after some natural erosion that dinosaur footprints were found.

And Cretaecous Park was born after the scientists had found out a lot about the area and the prints! Now you can see the rock face with the footprints from both herbivores and carnivores and they have a museum with casts if the footprints - they are a lot larger up close! The area used to be a lake with mud and dust blown across it - effectively preserving the footprints from the dinosaurs. The rise of the Andea mountains turned the rock layers from horizontal to vertical.

 You can see the footprints!

There was a great view over Sucre also!

The park also had life size models of the dinosaurs making scary noises!

He looks a bit scared

From the park we hiked down into the valley - following a track that alternated between following the river and cutting across it - the first few times we took our shoes and socks off. Then we tried to jump rocks and in the end we got wet! I didn't realise how much wading was required on this hike!

Hiking buddies on the hill - we did Cat's hair in Bolivian pigtails!

Archway near where we stopped for our picnic lunch under eucalyptus trees 

Mixture of plants we saw - catcus and eucalyptus

After hiking the valley floor the only way was up - and over the ridge to discover the 7 waterfalls

First view of the falls

Waterfalls close up - there are apparently 7 layers - but you can reach past 3 in rainy season as you have to climb up the water shoot. There was the option to bathe here but we skipped!

Then we had more excitement of following the water downhill and wading more before scaling the hill to the top to find a micro back the centre of Sucre. All in all a fun day out!

And that sums up the Sucre experience as we were on the night bus to Cochabamba after a quick shower of course :)

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