Sucre is sweeter

21 03 2010

I got up early so that I could pack my bags and check out and then I headed to Café Florin with Byron and Fraser. The Florin is a Dutch run establishment and although I found the idea of bitterballen in South America quite tempting they didn’t strike me as the ideal breakfast food so I settled for an English breakfast instead.

After some more blogging on their free WiFi I went off to buy my bus ticket to La Paz for later that evening and then just wandered around the city for a bit exploring. It’s a really beautiful city and they whitewash the buildings quite regularly so that they can maintain the title of the White City.

The White City

In the evening, Kevin, Byron and I got a taxi to the bus station (the windscreen had so many cracks in it I thought it would fall out if we went over a bump in the road) and then waited around for our buses. Unfortunately the Kiwis were on a bus 15 minutes before mine. Jess and Phil were also on the same bus as the Kiwis (they were going to stay at Loki – not quite sure what they’d make of such a party hostel) and they then caused a huge fuss when they thought their bags hadn’t been loaded.

After delaying the departure of their bus by almost 15 minutes they finally found their bags in the boot; sheepishly boarded, and their bus was able to depart: probably only a few minutes before my bus. I was on my way back to La Paz.

Making tracks

20 03 2010

I’d meant to get up early so that I could try to change to a dorm room and save some money but after the heavy night it wasn’t an option. I also missed the breakfast but like most of the hostels in South America it was probably just stale bread and Nescafé.

Pretty much everyone felt grotty, so me and a few of casualties from the previous night headed off to the central market to get some food. I ate a salteña (a Bolivian empanada originally from Salta but the Bolivians do it better) and drank some fresh mango juice. Whilst we were at the market one of the local election candidates came past and, being tourists and not eligible to vote, we expected them to ignore us but we still got showered in confetti and shook the MP’s hand.

After our small snack I still felt pretty awful so I headed back to the hostel and grabbed a shower. Since everyone else was trying to sleep off their hangovers I decided to head into town and do the ultimate in tourist cheese: I got the “Dino Truck” from the main plaza to Cal Orck’o – a quarry where loads of dinosaur tracks were found on the vertical wall. The Dino Truck is just a truck with benches in the back and a very tacky dinosaur head attached to the front.

The Dino Truck

In the bus there were a group of about 8 Belgian youths (they can’t have been older than 18) making a lot of noise and singing songs. Somewhere along the way they asked “Kan iemand anders in de bus ons verstaan?” I kept my mouth shut: although I could begrijp (understand) what they were saying I decided that technically since I find the Belgian accent quite tough I couldn’t always versta what they were saying.

Once we reached the quarry area where the Cretaceous Park is situated I joined an English tour and our guide took us past all the dinosaur models and to the museum. He was super-enthusiastic and would have been ideal as a children’s TV presenter.  He was pointing at the models and explaining what category of dinosaur they were: Ankylosaurus (not really a category but an individual sort of dinosaur), Theropods, Ornithopods and then he pointed towards the Titanosaurus. This is when the inner dinosaur geek in me reared his head and I shouted out “Sauropod”. Later on in the museum when he was chatting about the prints he then said to me, “You mentioned sauropods earlier, can you name any?”. Obviously this is when I reeled off a list “diplodocus, brachiosaurus, brontosaurus…” The other tourists looked at me and asked if I went there everyday or something. It reminded me a lot of the days at Southcott Lower School when my friend Duncan and I would compete for the unofficial title of dinosaur expert.

T-Rex model - there were no T-rex prints anyway

After the long explanations about the 5 geological phases that had turned a dinosaur footprint on a horizontal river bed into fossilised prints on a vertical wall we finally got to see the pièce de résistance – the quarry wall. The viewing gallery was actually quite far away so it was slightly disappointing. Although max zoom and digital zoom on my compact you were able to make out the prints. Although to me some of them look like something a workman might have made instead of a dinosaur 68 million years ago. It was also unfortunate that in February this year (at 3:30 in the afternoon apparently) a huge swathe of the quarry wall had fallen off, destroying some of the best prints.

Baby titanosaurus tracks

On the tour I chatted to a Dutch couple (Utrecht and Groningen – not sure how that works exactly, must be a lot of phone sex) and a guy from Munich. When we were in the bus on the way back the Belgians said something funny and me and the Dutch couple laughed which is when they suddenly realised that other people on the bus could understand them. I told them I couldn’t possibly understand them because ik ben Engels. I didn’t even manage to say “I’m English” in my native tongue so I don’t think it was very convincing!

Once more back at the hostel the others weren’t around so I headed off to the Joyride café where I had a fantastic coffee and pepper steak sandwich, and jumped on their WiFi to try to get my blog more up-to-date. Whilst there, the Scots Kevin and Andrew came in and they joined me for lunch.

Back at the hostel no one was really feeling like drinking and it looked like nothing would happen that night but eventually we went and got a beer each from the bottle shop and then started back on the whiskey. We probably spent at least an hour and a half joking about antics of the previous night and lots of unknown stories came up.

It turned out that after giving up on their search for food Kevin and Byron had hailed a taxi and he’d driven them to a place that sold the traditional chicken, rice and chips. In Bolivia it’s quite common for you to eat your food by the stall where you buy it but they wanted take-away so the stall owner tipped their chicken and accompaniments into a black bin bag each and they brought it back with them (that also explained some of the weird rice spillages on the terrace). Kevin was telling us that he was going to bring the Chicken in a Bag concept back to Scotland where it was going to be a huge hit.

At about 11:30 a smaller crowd of us: Aussie Sam, Andrew, an Australian Andrew and Jackie from the Kiwi’s dorm went out once more to Joyride to party. It was another good night – the disco seemed quite subdued compared to the previous night’s strobe and laser fest – but we all had a good time and were once again there too closing.

Sam was chatting to some locals and they were heading off to a bar down the road. After a bit I decided that my Spanish wasn’t really up to the grade and, although I didn’t have any cards or passport or anything on me, I wasn’t sure I felt that safe so I left Sam to it and headed back to the hostel.

Partying in Sucre

19 03 2010

Bolivia is a strange country. It is one of the few countries in the world with 2 capitals: La Paz (the administrative capital with the government buildings) and Sucre (the judicial and constitutional capital). Of the two: Sucre is by far the most attractive with its omnipresent whitewashed colonial buildings.

I got a taxi to the oversized and confusing bus terminal at Potosí with two Kiwi guys that I’d met at the hostel – Byron and Fraser – and an Argentinian girl whose name now completely escapes me. Just as our bus was about to leave my dorm-mates from the previous evening turned up (they were going to get a taxi all the way to Sucre but apparently that proved impossible). They were Dominic, of somewhat confusing British and German ancestry, an English guy and two Dutch girls (who I’d confused the night before for being Belgian because their Limburg ancents were almost incomprehensible to me). Dominic sat next to me and since he worked for Accenture we chatted a lot about all things IT and the sad state of the current IT world.

Once in Sucre I got a taxi with the Kiwis to the Amigo hostel. They had a reservation but because my bank card was still giving me abuse I hadn’t bothered. Still, the website said they held some rooms back for walk-ins so I was quite optimistic. Unfortunately they couldn’t fit me in a dorm but they had a single room (it felt a bit like a cell) that was cheaper that what I’d been paying for a dorm in La Paz so it was all good. The hostel itself wasn’t the best – the toilets were often pretty dirty but the beds were clean enough.

We headed off to the Joyride cafe for lunch where I had an absolutely fantastic chili con carne. Phil and Jess from the mine tour the previous day were also there so I chatted to them for a bit. After lunch I headed back to the hostel to do some offline blogging. Later on we headed down to the kitchen area to start drinking. The Kiwis had got some small bottles of whiskey so we sat around drinking that for a bit. There were a couple of Scottish guys there too – Andrew and Kevin – they’d been lucky enough to find nearly a full bottle of Red Label on the bus so they were also on the whiskey. There was also an Aussie called Sam and a Brazilian guy (whose name seemed to keep changing depending on who he was introduced to).

In the kitchen some Israelis were cooking up a storm but then they discovered that the oven in the hostel didn’t work properly and someone had to sit holding the button in the whole time their dinner cooked. They weren’t best pleased! Another minus point for the dilapidated hostel.

After a while the whiskey ran out and for some reason we decided we needed another 2 full-sized bottle between 5 of us. So we went to the nearby bottle shop and bought 2 bottles of Bolivia’s finest whiskey for 30Bs each (£3). Somehow we managed to open both bottles (I think I got impatient with the speed that the first bottle was being opened so I opened the other one). At one point Sam suddenly decided that he was wasted and went off to bed.

At 11:30 we decided to head out (having only drunk about a quarter of each bottle) and headed back to Joyride. This had turned into quite a cool nightclub although they went absolutely crazy with the strobe and some psychedelic red and green laser lights. We had quite a few pitchers of beer at the club and Byron also came back from the bar with a “barmaid” – which was basically a tall cylinder filled with beer with a tap at the bottom. We mostly just drank the beer straight from the tap rather than putting it in our glasses first.

Joyride Cafe - The scene of much fun in Sucre

I bumped into Swedish Hannah from the Death Road with her Australian friend (I think her name was something like Gretchen) and they joined us for the rest of the evening. The Aussie girl got very upset when Kevin told her that he didn’t like Australians and that they were just like Americans. Meanwhile the Brazilian guy kept going around being very tactile (and that’s a polite way of putting it) with the women in the club. It was almost embarrassing when he kept coming back to our table to talk to us because he was being such an oaf and we didn’t want to be associated with him. Eventually the lights came on and we left the club eager for some food. We couldn’t see any obvious takeaway places and eventually Kevin and Byron (Fraser had also bailed sometime in the club and headed back to the hostel) went off on a mission to look for some food.

I stayed with the two girls and we managed to get one of the restaurants to give us some potatoes stuffed with cheese. They were really good but I think I could have eaten a lot more than the one we got each. Just as we got back towards the hostel it started tipping it down and after waiting a while for the door to be opened I finally got into the dry. The girls were staying at the Dolce Vita hostel (I’d looked into before too; it’s supposed to be very nice but they had a minimum 3-day stay on the website) so they headed off back there.