Sucre (7 May 2012)

Okay, so this is two years later, and we still haven’t finished our blog on the 4 month Americas trip in 2012. So this is a next step towards finishing our blog about our adventures in Bolivia..Last time I blogged, we were at the end of our Salar de Uyuni trip and dropped of at Uyuni where we booked an overnight bus with Matthieu and Sonia.

The overnight bus from Uyuni to Sucre was an 8 hour nightmare. Luckily it was only 8 hours and not 16 hours like one of the bus rides in Argentina. The “semi-cama” bus was more like a local bus, no leg space, no reclining seats, and a crazy bus driver going much faster than he should. The two promised bathroom breaks happened next to the bus (literally). Definitely a culture shock. Luckily we arrived safe and sound in Sucre at around 5 am the next morning – super tired. We didn’t book a hostel in advance, so the four of us (Matthieu and Sonia went along)¬†went in search of a place to stay. We took a taxi to the first hostel, and then walked to two more hostels before finding a place to sleep. We only stayed until 10 am, checked out and went in search of a better place to stay. After the Salar tour, we were all looking forward to a little bit more luxury. Cobus and I first checked out, and about 2 km further we found a nice 3star hostel (more like a hotel). A little bit later Matthieu and Sonia arrived at the same place ūüôā

Our first day in Sucre were spent sleeping. We didn’t have energy for anything else, except finding something to eat. Also, all the busses and taxis were on a strike, so we couldn’t really go far. For dinner we went to a great bar/restaurant, called¬†Florin.¬†Cobus had some catfish, and I had a llama steak. Both meals were prepared to perfection, and we can absolutely recommend this place.

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

Dinner at Florin, and a stroll around the town square

The following day we tried to book an excursion going to one of the nearby communities outside of Sucre. To our surprise, the answer was the same everywhere – none of the excursions were 100% safe to book, since they didn’t know when the roadblocks will be open again. There were suppose to be a strike everyday of the week the week we were in Sucre. So having not much to do except stroll around in the city, we went to the much advertised Dinosaur museum in their Dinosaur bus. There were lots of lifesize plastic dinosaurs around which was cool, and far away (really far away)¬†in the distance you could see the dinosaur tracks. Funny thing is you had to pay to get inside the museum, and then you also had to pay to use the binoculars in order to see the dinosaur tracks in the far distance. The museum hasn’t been open for too long, so with a few more years and more funding, hopefully they’ll be able to make it much nicer. At the moment it might be better do book a bike tour to a different place outside the city where you can see other dinosaur tracks up close. Back at the hostel we were advised to book a bus for the Wednesday night to La Paz, otherwise we might get stuck in Sucre for a while due to all the roadblocks. We booked the same bus as Matthieu and Sonia, and then joined them for dinner¬†at a closeby Italian restaurant. The restaurant was in the owners house, and with the owner being Italian, it ensured a great atmosphere and great food.

The dinosaur museum

The dinosaur museum

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

Dinner with Matthieu and Sonia at Cafe Monterosso

On Wednesday we didn’t book any tours, since we thought we will be leaving that night. We checked out at the hostel, and went sightseeing in the city. We also tried to find flight tickets from La Paz to Rurrenabaque in the Amazon basin as we weren’t up for a very bumpy 18 hour bus ride in Bolivia’s semi-cama busses. In the afternoon we were¬†surprised to find out that all busses were cancelled for that night due to roadblocks between Sucre and La Paz. No busses were scheduled for the rest of the week. We ended up spending the rest of our Wednesday finding a way to get out of Sucre. The agency who were helping us (I think their name is Real Andean Adventure) was an experience in itself. The two woman working there were not so good in dealing with lots of customers. It seemed the way they were trying to keep everyone happy, was to help everyone a little bit, then, not finishing, help someone else a little bit, then someone else, then getting back to you, then moving on again. In the end, everyone were helped during the same time period, whether you were there first or last. I think we spent 3 hours in there.¬†It was crazy! I almost went crazy! The¬†cherry on top¬†was of course when the lady made a mistake with our booking and we lost our tickets to Rurrenabaque on the Saturday. The next flight we could get was on the Sunday. At that point we decided to go to another agency who managed to book a flight for us on the Saturday to La Paz and the Sunday to Rurrenabaque (at least we knew they made no mistake this time).

On Thursday we visited La Recoleta, where the Mirador and the Franciscan monastery are situated. The Mirador, with its sweeping terrace decorated with white columns and arches, is situated on the plaza of La Recoleta and offers a beautiful panaromic view of the whole city. This Franciscan monastery was founded in 1601 and is one of the most beautiful examples of colonial architecture in all of Bolivia. The monastery museum is worthwhile for its anonymous sculptures and paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries, including numerous interpretations of St Francis of Assisi. One of the highlights is the magnificent wooden carvings on the church choir seats dating back to the 1870s, each one intricate and unique, representing the 26 martyrs who were crucified in 1597 in Nagasaki  (they were all Franciscan missionaries in Japan).

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Mirador with Franciscan monastary and view over the city

Inside the monastery - beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

Inside the monastery – beautiful woodwork, a very old cellar, and gardens

We also went to the Museo de Arte Indigena in an¬†old building¬†close to the Mirador.¬†The museum is part of a project to revive hand-woven crafts of Bolivia. There are a series of exhibition rooms and a shop selling woven goods. It seems that someone did extensive research on Jalq’a and Tarabuco weaving (two different ethnic groups) so lots of¬†insightful information was¬†available¬†– you can¬†get an English¬†version of all the information in the museum in the form of a book. There is an extensive display of examples of modern weaving by the Jalq’a And Tarabuco weavers – both very different. The Jalq’a come from around Potolo valley and their weaving always uses red and black. The patterns chosen is characters from the spiritual realm (for example demons). Every piece is different¬†and¬†designs are inspired by dreams with¬†no written record of the different patterns. All are done from memory and passed down from mother to daughter. Tarabuco designs, on the other hand, focus on scenes from everyday life, for example animals, people working, etc. The background is always white with the characters woven in different colours including black, blue, purple, red, yellow and¬†orange. We were also privileged to see¬†a Jalq’a woman weaving¬†– it¬†was¬†fascinating to¬†watch her. We tried to figure out what she was doing, but the method of weaving seemed very complicated. We definitely recommend a visit to this museum!

The weaving museum - definitely worth a visit

The weaving museum – definitely worth a visit

Since we spend so much time in the museum, we didn’t have much daylight left. However, we stopped at a few shops and appreciated some local art. We also passed through Plaza 25 de Mayo, the colonial heart of the city surrounded by¬†many of Sucre’s most important¬†historic buildings and restaurants. We visited a small coffee shop called Flavour, with some of the yummiest sandwiches we have had on our trip. The restaurant owner is¬†also Dutch like the owner of Florin – there seems to be quite a lot of Europeans living in Sucre. That evening we treated ourselves to some pizza bought from a street vendor. The pizzas are made in a portable little pizza oven – Cobus was very impressed by the simple yet practical design. We also went to a traditional dancing show Origenes – it was a bit touristy, but very insightful and interesting to see all the different types of dances in Bolivia.

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

Colonial Sucre

On Friday, our last day in Sucre, we decided to visit the local food market. We tasted as far as we went and had a great time. Our favourite remains the¬†fruit salad section where you can order a fresh fruit salad or smoothie¬†topped with cream. All the fruit salad vendors look exactly the same, and they all try to compete for your business. Actually, in all the different sections, the vendors in that section look exactly the same. It’s like visiting a market in Africa – everyone sells exactly the same thing! We also visited a few local art shops, and bought ourselves 2 table cloths. It was about all we could fit into our backpacks…

The market and the pizza oven

The market and the pizza oven

We left our hostel the Saturday morning early by taxi – luckily there was no taxi strikes that day so we could get to the airport in time for our flight to La Paz.

1 Cor 13:4-5

4¬†Love is patient, love is kind…, 5 … is not easily provoked.