Civilization Once Again - A Real City in Bolivia!

Trip Start Oct 16, 2010
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Casa Verde Bed and Breakfast

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, March 25, 2011

After dredging our way through the roughneck Bolivian cities, jungles, and people we finally landed in a fairly sophisticated and beautiful city that at times will remind you of any number of modern European cities. That being said you'll still see the random spotted pig roaming the streets. The people's fight to keep the majority of the national government agencies here is well founded when placing the city up against the considerably dirtier and less attractive La Paz and Santa Cruz.

An ignorant and lawless society indeed.

The trip from Villa Tunari to Sucre was pretty simple but quite eventful. The process is easy enough - go to the microbus station on the main highway and buy a ticket for the next private minivan headed for Cochabamba. As simple as that is, there are always the hidden challenges of an ignorant and lawless society lurking behind the shadows.

The day of our expected departure from Parque Machia we woke and had breakfast at the volunteers' cafe - always cheap and always good. Doing our final settle ups and goodbyes at the park we heard he grumblings of a potential road closure between there and Cochabamba however given that nobody had any solid information we had confidence in our ability to get out of town. We took a short 10 minute walk to the station where the minibus employees informed us of their uncertainty on the situation but had a van leaving just then. We told them that we had to retrieve our bags and could be back quickly. That van wouldn't wait but that's ok there are always more.

We walked back to our hotel, gathered our belongings and grabbed a taxi back to the station. Upon our arrival we asked for two tickets to Cochabamba. Of course, the same person who told us we could go replied that the road was closed and it was a 5 min - 15 km walk to pass the road block. We asked what the block was all about and nobody had any idea. They just accept that it is happening. After sitting in the little station for about 10 minutes contemplating our options such as going to the town where the block is we decided to return to our hotel in town and try again tomorrow.

We spent one more night in the jungle eating pizza and sharing our crazy go-no go story with all of our new friends.

At nine a.m. the next morning we were up, at 'em, and headed back to the 7 de Julio transport station. Even though no one we met on the way had any idea if the road would be open we decided we were getting on a van and going somewhere no matter what. Once arriving at the poorly run little outfit for the second day we made our intentions known that we were headed to Cochabamba and with only minor pushing and shoving about the unorganized process we were on a van with a couple Bolivianos up front and three indigenous people in the back carrying a dog and two children. We were fortunate to be sitting in the middle row with another Bolivian man.

The trip soon became more interesting as we quickly started talking to a couple of our fellow passengers. The fairly educated and well-rounded Bolivian (only the second such that we have met in the entire country) middle aged man discussed his journeys around the world and working in the US for about 15 years. He ended up buying a 50 acre piece of land (about $10,000) 4 km from Villa Tunari with which he loves the beauty and his ability to live off the land. But of course besides eating his fruits and vegetables and fish from the three rivers he also has the government allotted 40 x 40 meter coca farm. He explained that unlike others his leaves are really only good for one thing - processing into cocaine. So three times a year he harvests the leaves, bags them and some kid comes in a truck to pick them up. He earns $1000 - 3000 each crop and has nothing to do with the product after it leaves his property. He told us that there is no crop in the world that even comes close to producing that much income and that is why it won't be stopped. We were also explained why it is impossible to find someone to employ in the village. It's because anyone can make about $30 - $45 night working for the producers; minimum wage in the country is $90 per month. This is a very lawless society. "If you are stopped for a crime it is only about shelling out a few dollars," he explained. If you want to get to the front of a line in a government agency, $1.40 should get you a police escort. And of course don't worry about littering, pissing in the streets, speed limits, car or driver’s license, or even minimum drinking or driving ages. People throw heaps of garbage on the side of the road and piracy is ridiculously rampant. You can purchase a DVD of any movie, even currently in the theaters, for just over a dollar. I also was offered thousand dollar computer programs for a couple bucks.

And speaking of lawlessness, it turned out that the reason the road was closed was because one town was angry with a neighboring town. Similar to a war tactic of the 16th century they raise barbed wire and branches across the streets so that no one could pass and the neighboring town’s supplies are cut off. This is apparently common practice and it takes the Bolivian military a few days to come and kind of push them along. I am sure there is no consequence to those that organize a multiple day shutdown in transportation along major Bolivian transport arteries. It just is.

Upon arriving in Cochabamba we stopped at a couple of our favorite restaurants in our old stomping grounds - Brazilian coffee for real coffee (first time in almost a month) and a fake Chipotle for some yummy Mexican and real Tecates! Then we jumped the night bus to Sucre.

Sucre day 1

The road between Cochobamba and Sucre is frightening and we were glad that it was too dark to see and that we were exhausted enough to get some sleep. Upon arriving to Sucre we immediately felt a higher notch of civilization. It was too early to check in so we dropped off our bags at the Casa Verde and headed off for some early morning exploration. The city has the architecture and parks that remind one of stepping through Paris or Spanish streets. The cathedrals are impressive as is the selection of great restaurants and bars.

Our first stop was Joy Ride for breakfast, mainly because it was one of the only options open a 7am. This Joy Ride multicomplex of stores and restaurants is mostly an overpriced tourist trap but they do fulfill many travelers’ special requirements. We enjoyed a basic breakfast, decent coffee and plenty of free wifi as we waited for our noon check in time.

The Case Verde is a very nice place to stay, comfortable, with a nice breakfast. We give it a high recommendation. After a nice long nap we walked through the center square and down to Bolivar park as well as the little Eiffel tower. Note - there is no place to get a drink or coffee on this journey as we searched everywhere. Therefore we made our way back to the center of the city up our favorite street on the backside of the Mercado Central. The street bustled with fun Bolivian vending sights and sounds.

Time for the good stuff! We decided to slip in Pueblo Chico off the main square for a pre-dinner cocktail. Very nice stop, comfortable and reasonably priced. Then to The best restaurant in Bolivia (maybe South America but that will take further debate) La Taverna. Do not miss this place if you are in Sucre! We were absolutely spellbound by the quality and flavor of our steaks which were only about $7. La Taverna is ridiculously amazing!

It was still a little early to check out the discotheque scene so we headed to Amsterdam Bar that we had seen a couple blocks up. It was absolutely nothing Amsterdam but they made the very nice mojito and white Russian cocktails. As our lucky usually has it, the only seats left were at the bar and we felt like we owned the place. After a few drinks we walked the block to Stigma, but the club wasn't opening until 12:30am even though the advertised 11pm. Typical Bolivia. It's okay though because we were on the strip and we saw a cute bar just a couple blocks away. Of course, the posh little bar had two seats for us and a good vibe and nice salsa. It was very crowded though so back to Stigma with the pathetic $1.50 cover. At 1 am there were maybe 15 people and okay Latin music. We danced and danced as people started pouring into the open space. Just as we were about to leave we met a rich Bolivian man that spoke English and liked to tell stories. We ended up staying until the club turned on the lights. Upon arriving at our hotel, we found it dark and locked up. We didn’t know what to do as the streets were dead so we banged and banged and banged on the door. After a good 20 minutes the German owner finally opened the door to let us in. We were both upset and relieved. He should have told us that our key worked for the front door as well instead of us waking him up at 5am. (We felt kind of dumb when he told us considering we didn’t even try it. But in our defense, it was pretty late.)

Sucre day 2

Good thing there was breakfast at the hostel because it was a struggle just to get downstairs. It was defiantly a day of recovery and blogging. Raymie got $1.50 champagne and $.50 Tampico for our Sunday mimosas yet they tasted like gross $1.50 champagne and $.50 Tampico. Disgusting! Afterwards we headed to the Plaza de Armas to get a pizza from Cossolonis which did the job (not the best food however) and to a funny grocery store with arrows on the floor so we knew which way to go. Haha! Nothing like a Sunday night movie and pizza party.

Sucre day 3

Breakfast at the Casa Verde is always nice and comfortable. It was almost a shame to go to the bus station to buy our tickets for Uyuni but it was necessary. There were only a couple of companies that go from Sucre to Uyuni so it was easy to make a choice. The area around the bus station is not very enticing so we took a cab to the cemetery. It was way more spectacular than we had even read. Amidst a beautiful park-like setting, the plots and mausoleums are well maintained with regular flowers. The statues and structures are very interesting (such as all the company mausoleums for dedicated employees). Definitely a must stop!

After strolling for a couple hours, we wandered back to the center of the city in search of an artisan cheese store for a parque picnic. After not finding such a store we entered the crazy-packed Mercado Central to buy cheeses, funny fruit, sandwich, chocolates and wine for our picnic in the hostel courtyard.

Just one more place to see in Sucre before our time here is done and that was the Recolota Mirador and cafe. What a great view of the city during the sunset. The coffee was just okay but the service was great. Raymie had wanted Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner so we had a huge decision to make. We could either return to La Taverna or try a new place, Conchas y Tapas (a Vinoteca) that claimed to have good pasta and wine. Due to our explorative nature we had to try the new place rather than go back to the best restaurant in all of Bolivia. Bad choice! The pasta was subpar even by Bolivian standards, and expensive. This just reaffirmed how good La Taverna is.

All that was left to do for the evening was to complain about the food and pack for tomorrow’s next adventure. Good times even in our most difficult hours.

Sucre day 4

After am early rise and a quick breakfast we were shuttled away in a taxi for our 7 hour bus ride to Uyuni.
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