View arriving into Sucre
After another refridgetated bus journey (why did I have to lose my sleeping bag?) I did at least wake up for sun rise over some rather amazing mountain scenery, arriving at the bus station I was greeted by a rather friendly tourist police officer who gave me the low down on what's what. My hostel was apparently close to the bus station but my half dazed state and usual terrible sense of direction it took far longer with my heavy back pack that I'd have liked but finally I arrived at what claims to be Bolivias best hostel and goregous it was too! The staff were friendly, the showers hot and amazingly powerful (a valuable commodity when travelling along with loo roll which at times I think has more value than gold) and my 4-bed dorm had a terrace with a hammock.
The room where the Spanish students practiced was incredible, it looked like some Baroque banquet hall. It's amazing as well that 4 days without having chance to do any washing and 2 days without a proper bed how much you appreciate these things, I sniffed my clean laundry for ages, which when travelling is like perfume! I tried to get a few hours sleep when I arrived but after an hour I gave up and sat out in the warm morning sunlight in the garden and had breakfast. After meeting my roomies I went to do my usual city walk and also went to visit the much lauded textile museum. Sucre
really is a really beautiful city so I had no shortage of photo opportunities. I'd intended to also see one of the better churches but the textile museum was so good the church was closed after I got out of the museum.
The beautiful streets of Sucre
Although the museum was quite hard work on the old grey matter as there's a hell of a lot of information to absorb (you get a guide book in English), it was incredibly interesting and the weavings on display were so beautiful. The textiles from the Jalq'A community fascinated me the most as well as the typical dress; the men wear their trousers below their backsides, ha! In your face hip-hopsters who thought they'd invented this style, the Jalq'A have been doing it for centuries! As well as textiles there was information on the musical instruments and ceremonies that take place at different times of year. There was one ritual when the men dress up as both men and women and talk in high pitched voices for the women in what appeared to be some kind of mock courting ritual.
Mischievous outsiders in different costumes then try to come in and steal the 'women' - very Shakesperian I thought in terms of men playing women's roles. Then there was a festival where chaotic music playing was the order of the day, I have to say I struggle to appreciate that one a bit more, it made me think of Phoebe from Friends and her out of key songs, I think I was missing the subetly of it perhaps. One thing that slightly worried me that was depicted in the weavings and was mentioned as part of one of the festivals was a game the men play called 'Goat Pulling', I couldn't work out if they used a live goat or replaced it with something symbolic as they engage in this tug of war - slightly disturbing! When I got back to the hostel (after getting lost again but this time owning to the utterly crap map in my LP) my roomies insisted on having dinner with them, a slow process which involved getting pickled with dirt cheap, but half decent, Bolivian wine, almost causing a diplomatic incident in the process but I'll leave it there on that one as it's not my story to tell.
Local women in the main square
The rest of my time in Sucre was spent visiting the Mirador and chilling out at the cafe there, visiting the Casa de la Libertad for a history lesson on Bolivia, the church of La Merced for yet more great views of the city and to see it's beautiful interior and also a visit to Parque Cretacico with my roomate Jane. The day I went to visit the Mirador, museum and church didn't go according to plan; I left the hostel late, again, after chatting to the girls, then there was a celebration in the main square where all of the different towns were exhibiting their traditional dress and foodstuffs so that it was a bit of a snapfest with my camera. I couldn't get into the museum before lunch as there were lots of school children doing parades there - they looked so cute in their uniforms, so I headed to the mirador instead rather than just hang around in the main square or a cafe wasting time.
I'd intended to go to the mirador at sunset but in the end it proved a good place to relax. The food at the cafe there was lovely, the weather and the view simply splendid and I even got to fit in some Spanish practice. Time soon evaporated and so I headed back to the Casa de la Libertad and finally got to pay it a visit. Our English speaking guide was really informative and I learned a lit about the formation of Bolivia and their superstar of history (no not Che), Simon Bolivar. I think it's impressive for a man who was born in Venezuela was honoured with having Bolivia named after him, ok so he did set them free from Spanish rule but still. In many ways Bolivar was not unlike someone like Van Gogh, he didn't get the recognition he deserved until long after his death.
He died of tuberculosis, alone, poor, in borrowed clothes with no family or friends at his bedside on his final hour. My favourite quote of Bolivars sums up how he felt he would be seen in the future "my name now belongs to history. It will do me justice". Although the museum wasn't big by European or American standards it had some impressive pieces such ad Bolivias constitution and the original Argentinian flag (Argentina was the first country to gain independance from Spain). The flag was found in a cave during the War for Independance, the original is interesting as the colours are inverted to that of the modern day flag and no one knows why they were changed. Now I hear you ask is this important relic not in an Agentina museum, well after it was discovered Bolivia wanted to hand it back to Argentina but they insisted the Bolivians keep it as a sign of the special relationship between the two.
I just had time to squeeze in a visit to La Merced before it closed and was treated to a much closer view of the cities skyline than I'd had earlier at the Mirador. The interior was pretty impressive too, decorated with filigree and gold inlay (although the church in Salvador wins for all out bling), it is supposed to be amongst Bolivias finest. By this point I was begining to get 'churched out' and decided that I'd only make an effort to visit the finest on offer from now on. I grabbed dinner at what was to become my favourite cafe, Joyride, before going back to the hostel to catch up with the girls, more wine soon flowed.
Next day Jane and I decided to head to the dinosaur park, I have to admit I hadn't been sure if I wax going to pay it a visit as I was worried it was going to be terrible and tacky, Jane thankfully persuaded me to go.
We'd intended to get the 10am bus but by the time we'd been to the bank (I struck it lucky first time here - Brazil take note as your banks suck!) we'd missed the bus, ho hum back to Joyride for drinks! Missing the earlier bus actually turned out to be a blessing as the guide at the park told us the light conditions after midday were better than in the morning for viewing the footprints. I should probably briefly explain what the park entails: discovered by workers at the nearby quarry the star attraction is a vertical mudstone face displaying around 6000 dinosaur tracks from 4 different families of dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period. They have casts and skeletons in the museum and the largest cast is around 80cm in diameter. The lifesize models they also have on display are also impressive, I made sure I took lots of photos for my dinosaur obsessed nephew.
After a late lunch at Joyride it was time for some r'n'r at the hostel, I had debated trying to fit in the hat museum as well but opted for some chill time instead as I was due to leave for Potosi that evening. After some quick diary checks I found that I'd left myself a day to spend in Uyuni
and given everyone I'd met who has been there said there wasn't much to see, I decided to chance it and stay another night in Sucre. My friend Oliver who I'd met crossing the border had also only arrived that day so it was good to spend some time with him and also go on a night out with everyone, it turned out to be the right decision as it was a fun evening, getting up for my bus was going to be a different matter.