Saturday, May 23, 2009

La vida Sucre

The [ridiculously] spicy vindaloo at the Star of India in La Paz, down the 'Road of Death' on a mountain bike, 6,088m Huayna Potosi, the mines of Potosi: Bolivia was off to a pretty exciting start. Upon arriving in Sucre, Bolivia, I kinda felt like taking it easy for a little while... Well, I'm not really sure if that's actually true - I was quite enjoying the Bolivia adrenaline - but Sucre is a pleasant place in Bolivia where you can take it easy for a while, plus I'd had a recommendation for a Spanish teacher there, so La Vida Sucre wasn't 'The Sweet Life' (well, not literally anyway), it was a week spent relaxing and learning some rules of the Spanish language, to supplement my ability to string words and phrases together orally.

So what was there to do in Sucre for a week? Well, I had two hours of Spanish lessons each day. I also wondered around the city a bit, and the 'White City' as it's known in Bolivia is certainly the most visually appealing place I had seen so far in Bolivia:

Now, technically, both La Paz and Sucre are capitals of Bolivia (yes, it's a bit strange) - the President and Congress sit in La Paz, while the Supreme Court meets in Sucre. For a tourist, there's a lot of fun things to do in La Paz, but Sucre is certainly the one you want to look at; it also happens to not be nearly as high up in the mountains, so walking around the town doesn't wear you out quite so much...

And then there's Independence Day. Now, in the US, for example, it's the 4th of July. For the entire country - got fire up the barbeque and celebrate, no matter where you live! Bolivia? Well, technically, I seem to remember reading that there is a national independence day holiday, however, each province also celebrates a Bolivian Independence Day holiday, each at a different time of the year. I guess there must be some historical reasons for all this, but the upshot for all of this was that in Sucre, Independence Day was May 25, and the locals start celebrating about a month in advance. In part that can actually be annoying - the whole town gets painted fresh in time for the holiday, consequently the room where I stayed the first night in town smelled a lot like paint. I didn't stay there the next night. On the positive side, every evening, the city is enveloped in a party!

An evening concert in the main square. Next night there was a dance production there, sadly I didn't get a picture of the woman who was balancing 11 bottles on her head!

Also went to a traditional Bolivian costume dance performance. Hard to describe, but there were elaborate traditional costumes and dances reminiscent of choreographed insanity. Not sure if the picture does it justice...

The Tour de Bolivia may not have been explicitly scheduled to coincide with the Sucre province Independence Day (seeing how it was about 10 days too early for the big day itself), but here it was riding through the streets right outside of my hotel

And most of the rest of the time was spent hanging around our hotel along with a few other tourists there at the time:

Karen, from Holland, along with Balu, from Sucre, a 3 month old puppy who rumbled around the Wasi Masi hostal, and spent most of his time just being a cute three month old puppy...

On Sunday, three of us ventured to see a Bolivian football game. Some things missing at a Bolivian football game: instant replay, a functioning scoreboard, a clock, a particularly high level of skill... Still a lot of fun though!

In fact, it was fun enough, that we all accessorized with Universitario Sucre apparel. I got a scarf. Karen got a crazy hat. She's Dutch, after all!

And after a week of hanging around Sucre not doing very much of anything (there's all kinds of tours being organized into the surrounding countryside, but none of them seemed all that overwhelming, so I was content to just hang around town), I left the city, with a slightly improved command of the different tenses of the Spanish language. Next stop: back across the border into Argentina to see the town of Salta. More on Salta itself in a different post perhaps, but a few observations on the ride there: you first have to take a bus from Sucre to the border town of Villazon. This is an overnight bus ride... on a Bolivian bus (no bathrooms, not much comfort, bring a blanket or face freezing to death in the middle of the night), and on Bolivian roads (6PM - 11PM: reasonably nice, 11-11:30: dinner break, 11:30 - Villazon: unpaved and bumpy, welcome to Bolivia!). But the ride wasn't without a bit of entertainment: getting on, I was in the next to last row. There were three local girls in the last row, happily giggling along, until three guys came onboard with the tickets for the same seats. This was discussed for a bit, the conductor called in, the girls giggled some more, the bus took off. I wondered how this was going to get resolved seeing how we were leaving Sucre already... How it was going to be resolved? Very easily: after a couple more conversations with the conductor it was determined that the girls' tickets were for the previous day, so they had to vacate the seats. Not the bus though - no such thing as not enough space on a Bolivian bus (and the bus was full, mind you) - the girls just got to spend the next 12 hours in the aisle. I thought they took this turn of events remarkabky well even, certainly a lot better than I would have!

Upon arriving in Villazon, I promptly crossed the border into Argentina and headed for the bus terminal, hoping for a super-comfortable Argentinian cama bus to deliver me to Salta. Unfortunately, that route is only served by semi-cama buses, so I had to settle for that. Now the bus from Sucre was also called semi-cama, but putting them in the same plane of existence would be offensive to that plane. I had missed Argentinian buses, where even semi-cama is awfully comfortable, and is usually half-way empty (I don't know how they all stay in business). So having settled into my sleep-inducing seat, I was ready for the 7 hour ride to Salta, which got going well enough... and then after about an hour, we had stopped. After about 15 minutes, curiosity got the better of patience, and I headed outside to investigate. Argentina greeted me with this:

There was a strike blocking the road! I'm not sure what they were fighting for, but it was clearly wasting my time, so I wasn't feeling all that partial to their cause!

This went on for about an hour and a half. I thought the big, sturdy bus would've been perfectly justified in just plowing straight through the demonstration, but apparently our bus driver did not share my point of view, so we waited. Finally getting going again, the rest of the ride was downright boring and uneventful, and we arrived in Salta with only the hour and a half delay caused by the strike...

1 comment:

dlott said...

Reminds me of Nepal... The smaller protests while you were off galavanting about. If you keep your speed and aim for the fringe, most of the time everyone will scatter.