We reached Sucre late in the evening, and after being royally screwed by the taxi driver, arrived at the Travellers Guesthouse, run by a very friendly and helpful young woman who is the doppelgänger of my friends’ wife. Sucre is ridiculously expensive, and is interestingly the other capital of Bolivia, which has the government and treasury based in La Paz, but constitutionally enshrines Sucre as the capital. Luckily, the Travellers guesthouse will put you up in a dorm for cheap, but don’t expect any reliability in terms of internet, hot water or even at times electricity. Then again, the majority of Sucre could be described as such.
I’ve found Bolivia to remind me shockingly of India. The rubbish on the streets, the half-completed buildings at the outskirts of every town, the wild animals everywhere. But, the lack of incense and bright colours in the air and the uniqueness of Bolivia ensure you are never unclear as to your destination. The indigenous women, with their long black hair braided into two long tails (and sometimes tied together at the end), dressed in traditional clothing and usually carrying something in a sling across their back (baby, shopping, bricks, etc). Every wall is painted with messages, usually political, even buildings that are nowhere near completion, and when it’s not a message urging you to elect Evo Morales for another five years, it’s usually an advertisement for coca cola or the local telecommunications company. And these chaotic city scenes are constantly overlooked by the peaks of the Andes all around, often reaching over 6000 metres high and poking their snow covered tops from behind the clouds.
In Sucre, we boarded a local minibus to visit a small set of waterfalls on the edge of the city. I can imagine them in the UK: Health and Safety would have an absolute fit. It’s funny really, the number of dangerous things that anyone can do in Bolivia: Cross a desert, go poking about in a silver mine, ride down the death road on a bicycle, try and take a public bus. The waterfalls required climbing around and over precarious rock formations, all slightly slippy from the gushing water, and almost all overlooking sharp drops of 20 feet or more. Still, as is usually the case, we were made to look clumsy and amateur by the groups of local teenagers who bounded up the walls at a ridiculous pace, before performing cannonballs into the waterfall pools below: drops of easily 3 metres. Every foreigner in attendance looked on slightly slack jawed and we unanimously agreed that we could totally do that if we wanted to and had jumped heights that were, oh gosh easily three times that height in the past but of course we were in the middle of sunbathing at that exact moment and would demonstrate our machismo later.
Bolivia is a rather complex country, with a history tainted by military dictatorships, numerous coups and wars with the neighbours. After their independence from Spain, when Bolivia was still part of Peru, the country declared themselves independent themselves after glancing nervously at the rather hungry looks being cast at Potosi from Brazil, Chile and Peru, but subsequently lost a large part of it’s territory to Brazil, Chile (who landlocked the country - something the Bolivians have never forgiven, let along forgotten), Argentina and Paraguay. Today, the country struggles with exporting it’s natural resources, of which it has plenty, and garnering foreign or private interest in a country that has under President Morales nationalised vast quantities of services. While a very popular move for the people, foreign investment has slumped somewhat.
And so now, after a brief detour through La Paz (where it was raining, cold and miserable), it’s onto another bus and time to head for Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable body of water in the world, or so it is claimed. From there, it’s onwards to Cusco and finally to see Machu Picchu!
The bus journey itself was surprisingly eventful. At one point we had to jump out of the ferry so that we and it could be separately be ferried across the lake on rickety boats, and when we arrived hailstones the size of golf balls poured out of the heavens; crazy. Pictures are on the way!
Thanks for reading!
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