Sucre, Champions League Final :-) , Potosi, Uyuni, La Paz
13.06.2007 -17 °C
Okay so last time I was on line we were in Sucre but I had yet to tell you anything about it. We ended up staying longer then expected due to flue or a bug, basically we weren’t able to travel further . Don’t worry though we didn’t spend the week suffering and doing nothing. The hostel Charcas was in the city centre and within walking distance of the main sites. (Stats - double room shared bath 80 bolivianos, private bath 130 bol.) Sucre is known as the white city, as well as being known as the most beautiful city in Bolivia, though it is a nice city this description was spoiled by coming through the usual roads filled with rubbish that seems to great us on arriving at any city here. While we there the city was celebrating a 25-year anniversary. Every night and day the sounds of marching bands could be heard practicing in the schools, and any available space, As the main day, Friday, crept closer they took to the streets. The whole parade and practice sessions were taken very seriously as the country’s president was going to be watching the final march. On the Thursday night the local army barracks set off various firework displays, which we could appreciate from the rooftop in the hostel. On the Wednesday morning we visited the cathedral and capilla de la virgen de guadalupe. It was nice but quite gaudy at times; one room contained an altar with the all Seeing Eye seen in Egyptian art. Across from it was a burial bed decorated with various pictures of the grim reaper, over looked by angels on the ceiling. There were also statures of a saint as a child with a slit throat, blood included of course. The statue of the virgen is adorned with jewels and precious metals and is worth an absolute fortune but then the whole effect is turned into a joke by the surrounding multi coloured lights that belong in a disco or at an Xmas party. I wonder who is claiming that idea. We also ran into Helen and Chris in the pub that afternoon, (the couple from the road trip in Argentina). They were taking Spanish lessons locally, and by the sounds of it were doing well. They also told us that they had finally booked their flights back to the Uk but only for a month and then they were off to Korea to work, after nearly two years they’d decided to try and settle somewhere.
That afternoon we headed to the Joy Ride pub to watch the Championship final with Liverpool and Milan. By now you all know the score and you can imagine the atmosphere in a pub filled with Dutch supporting Liverpool because they had two Dutch players`, there was also a young Liverpool supporter who cried at the end of the match much to the amusement of a local Caca supporter and thus now a Milan supporter. To add insult to injury upon leaving the pub he rubbed the crying guys head and said loser with a sloppy smug grin.
In town we also visited a textile museum, which explained the history and methodology behind the various weavings created and worn by the indigenous people.
It was quite interesting and also contained a section on dance. The only down side is that there is an abundance of information to read which can make your head feel like exploding by the end. We also checked out Casa la Libertad.
It has many pictures of ex presidents including one that Bolivar said was the best representation of him.
On the Friday night there was a feeling of celebration after the marches and demonstrations we decided to go to a blues night in Bibliocafe. There were three bands playing, one of them was La Maya, the band we’d previously seen in Santa Cruz. On the Sunday we were supposed to go to the market in Tarabuco but weren’t feeling up to it, between lack of sleep and feeling unwell it just wasn’t meant to be. We were disappointed about missing it but found out that afternoon that one of the buses returning from the market, containing a lot of tourists had crashed, killing one person and harming many more. Now we count our blessings that we didn’t go, you never know...
On the Monday we headed to the worlds highest city Potosi. This is where the problems with high altitude really kicked in.
The city is nice and the mountains overlooking it are beautiful but when you’re constantly out of breath it can be hard to appreciate them completely.
Potosi is a mining town, previously it was silver but now it was mostly tin. Many people died in the mining of the silver for the Spanish crown, many of them locals and slaves, we were informed that the working conditions haven’t changed that much over the centuries, the life of a miner is short, the work is extremely hard and the mines contain toxic gases. We were considering visiting them but the breathing problems prevented us from doing so. While in town we visited the mint, the tour was interesting, though very cold, the museum contains, coins, melting machines, pots, minerals, and even mummified babies. We also visited a local church were you could walk along the roof to have amazing views of the city and surroundings.
After Potosi we headed towards Uyuni.
From here we arranged to do a three day tour around the South of Bolivia, taking in Salar di Uyuni (the salt lakes),
Colchani to see how the salt is processed, Isla Inca Huasi (cactus island),
arbol (stone tree),
a stone valley, geisers,
dali valley and along the way flamingos, andean foxes, llamas, etc.... The trip was really enjoyable and the group we were with was nice. The trip started with a train museum that we ended up seeing twice as we had stumbled on it ourselves on our first day in town.
In Uyuni itself we stayed in the local Hi hostel were the owner’s son chatted up all the girls, evening pinching bums, he was starting young at 3. The best place in town was the American run minuteman, really good pizza and pasta with a smile.
From Uyuni we took a seven-hour night train to Oruro. Instead of heading straight onto La Paz like some of our fellow passengers we decided to stay in town for two days. We had heard a lot about the masks made in town for the devil festival in Feb and le gran poder at the beginning of June. I must have looked like a child in a candy shop checking out the costumes and masks. They were amazing and I really wanted to buy loads but the sensibilities kicked in about trying to carry everything and the cost of post so we bought one which, fingers crossed, makes it through an post back to Dublin.
So now we `re in La Paz and have been for a few days. We had been told that it was the best place to shop but so far nothing has jumped out, so instead of the original plan of buying loads I bought a new rain cover for my bag as my other one is in bits and a pair of combats, ohhhh last of the big spenders, no! I think if the trip was shorter it would be easier to shop but where would the fun in that be. In town we visited the local coca museum, it was interesting but as its been renovated is badly laid out and hard to follow. It’s also presented as being a balanced view of the history but I found this to not be the case. They talk about how the Bolivian people use the plant for spiritual reasons and to allow them to work harder and that the rest of the world use it only as a drug, for profit and exploitation, they also say that the world points all the blame at them but as we all know many countries are blamed and Bolivia isn’t completely innocent either, we’ve seen many non spiritual users here.