Fearing being both covered in vomit and being robbed* during our journey to Sucre, it was with great relief that we disembarked in Sucre bus station and began the, by now, usual ritual of
- finding a taxi
- being charged an extortinate price
- being shouted at for offering only half of what was asked
- walking away from said taxi driver
- being chased by taxi driver who realised we wouldn't budge and was now happy to take our offer
So, twenty minutes later, we were deposited in the main square of Sucre and were once again pleasantly surprised by what we saw. Busy, vibrant and well developed. but enough of me, lets talk about the city. by coincidence, it was all of those things too... and wet. with all our bags, we couldn't realistically huddle in doorways without seriously annoying many Bolivians so we headed for what was the most european cafe we'd visited since... europe. unfortunately, the european-ness stretched to the price-list, but when you're cold, wet and tired hot-chocolate is pretty much the only cure. Though, for me, recovery was greatly assisted by coffee, orange juice, bacon and eggs. While the girls went off into the rain to find us accomodation (someone had to look after the bags, you see?).
There was nothing obvious about Sucre to find enjoyable, but it was. No special buildings, no special activities, but the city was lively and there were plenty of things to see if not much to actually do. In retrospect, it was probably that the majority of buildings were all in one piece and painted white (an annual requirement i believe)... makes such a difference.
nestled away on another side street was a french cafe / restaurant. We've met alot of french travellers in south america (really, a surprising amount) but this was the first french eatery, so obviously Letty was very happy. the coffee and hot chocolate were devine and whilst most of the food was beyond our budget, what we had was delicious with a bonus of free internet (ok - the real reason i liked Sucre!).
But apart from this amusing photo of a mobile home - Sucre style, there's not much else to say about the place, so we move on...
Our journey from Sucre to was notable only for stopping off at Potosi. And Potosi is most notable for being the worlds highest city (altitude... probably also coca-leaf consumption). You would think it might make more of that claim but what we saw was more dust & debris; though rather strangely, they had the most amazing and modern bus station, so maybe its a sign of things to come.
We went from that station to a small, smelly side street for our next bus - the smallest bus so far (via a strange breakfast involving noodles and what we were told was chicken). Thankfully we were virtually the only passengers. Off we went through the bumpy dusty street on our way to Uyuni and their infamous salt flats. We managed to get into the middle of nowhere before the wheel quite literally fell off (to be honest, we were suprised it hadn't happened before now).
We were greeted with the normal welcome of 'stay here my
The sole purpose of Uyuni is as a base for the salt flats (either tours actually mining the salt). and as you don't see the miners the only people you actually meet in uyuni are other tourists. Not really our thing, but the place itself is a it of a one-off, so we grin and bare it. The town itself is small but stillmanages to be sprawling; the main tourist hub is really quite pleasant but stray away and it gets decidedly more threadbare. Good night market in the main streets though.
(click images for a larger version)
Aside from the obligatory comedy photos, we also stopped off to view a dormant volcano, had lunch in the middle of nowhere and visited a mine/museum type thing (didn't go in), with petrified cacti outside. this place might just be the dictionary definition of desolation.
We arrived in Tupiza, at 4.30am - still the middle of the night - and, bless them, we we're still being hounded by people to stay in their hostels. With little power to resist we followed like sheep... somehow picking up someone else who tagged along with us... the three had become four! The person in question was a lovely Swiss woman called Florence.
We crashed at our hostel until a sensible hour to get up and then found somewhere for breakfast. Now what you first realise about TUpiza is that all the restaurants seem to come in a "tupiza restaraunt kit" that being pine wooden interior, with matching tables and chairs and you guessed it a pizza menu. So what is there to do in Tupiza..well this is horse riding country, so we booked a days ride.
When we arrived in the morning we we're a little early as we had hoped to grab some breakfast en route only to find Tupiza was shut. But the nice man from the horse riding company took us to his home and fed us all a Bolivian breakfast: dry bread, strawberry flavour jam, dulce de leche (like caramel, very popular, very sweet, very 'Tim'), and instant coffee or for Katy "solo agua caliente, por favor". And the very cutest kitten ever (OK - i know, they're all cute). When we tried to pay, they wouldn't let us - result.
So off we went to mount our trusty steeds. BUt not before we we're kitted out in chaps, bandanas and cowboy hats. I got a big brown horse called Lucchio and Katy got a grey called Morrow. Letty named her's Squirt. Everyone was happy with their beasts (Florence least so, as she said she'd never ridden before).
With a brilliant day behind us and our behinds knowing all about the brilliant day, we headed back to the hostel for a well deserved shower and food. And later that evening we sent Florence on her way towards Paraguay. We'd only been together for the briefest time but it seemed so much longer... a pleasure to meet you Florence.
Whilst at the station, we bought tickets for the following morning to continue our journey, to Salta. Goodbye Bolivia, you will be missed. hello Argentina.
(* after the drunken Bolivian in front of us mentioned that this is where everyone gets robbed as we arrived at a fuel stop.)