Sucre er helt konge!

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Thursday, August 4, 2005

For the third morning in a row I have found my way to Locot's, a newly opened cafe, bar and adventure excursion outfit in central Sucre. I am enjoying a delicious breakfast of granola mixed with a wonderful frutilla yoghurt, a fresh chicken salad baguette and a bottle of water. At a total of about US $2.50, it's not extremely cheap for Bolivia, as this is more of a Gringo hangout than your typical Bolivian establishment (who in Bolivia would eat granola and yoghurt for breakfast?). But consider I would get something like half a bottle of water in Norway for the same price, it's something I can live with.

Bolivian Angel run's the place with his Norwegian wife and a Dutch colleague and his Bolivian wife, so I guess there's no wonder when you can enjoy a beer to the tunes of Postgirobygget or Gyllene Tider (Jag ser på dig, och du ser på mig. Och jag säger, ja ja jag vill ha dig. Jag vill känna din kropp imot min..) They have just moved back to Bolivia after ten years in Stavanger, Norway. They have lots of plans for the place, but the competition is pretty stiff. Sucre isn't that big, and they already got Joy Ride Cafe (another Dutch run Gringo hangout) to compete with. Joy Ride Cafe, more or less a nightlife institution in Bolivia (similar to Mongo's in La Paz) after just four years of operation. No matter what, I found the people working at Locot's a great bunch, and I am sure they will succeed if they give it some time.

I found Locot's more or less by accident (since it's newly opened it's not in any guide books yet, something that is pretty important for a Gringo hangout unless you happen to be located in one of the main bar streets). I was sitting on a bench at the plaza trying to do some people watching, but it didn't take more than a few nanoseconds before I was surrounded by 10-12 year old shoeshine boys as well as a bunch of old street vendors. One of the shoeshine boys spent 10-15 minutes fixing up my old hiking boots (my second shoeshine on the entire trip, remember Rio??) for the total price 10 cents. It was the usual stuff, where are you from? what's your name? how old are you? can I touch your bald head? ...and so on. Many tourists tries to escape in these situations, but I quite enjoy them, and then it's a cheap Spanish lesson as well. So this time I ended up buying all 14 of them their own glass of fresh lemonade, at a total price of 50 cents. You can't beat that!! When about to leave, one of the shoeshine boys told me about Locot's (they get about 12 cents for every customer they bring). Sometimes I am a bit skeptical when getting recommendations like this from people on the street, but this time I ended up checking it out. Which was good I guess, otherwise I would have never met Angel and his crew, and found out why "Sucre er helt konge!" (translates to something like; Sucre rocks!). Well, at least that's what Angel claimed in perfect Stavanger dialect.

So why would you want to open a Gringo hangout? Well, if you do it right, at the right time in the right place in the right city, then it's a given goldmine. I am sure it's lots of hard work and you may fail miserably, but it doesn't look like rocket science to me. First you have to find the right country for you, then the right city, get to know some locals who you can work with, and take it from there (well, that's sounds a bit too easy :-). Having travelled around here for ten months now, visiting a "handful" different establishments, it's easy to see what most Gringo tourists want. More or less the same as back home, in food, drinks, tunes and atmosphere. Add a book collection and exchange, magazines and newspapers, some local information and maps, board games, movie nights, live music now and then, the typical cool interior, a patio or similar (depending on the location), a happy mixed crew of locals and Gringos, and maybe combine the shop with a hostel or adventure excursion outfit (backpackers like to organize tours from their hostel or a place like this), doing some hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, rafting and so on (again, depending on the location). And that's it, you are bound to have customers rolling in and out from breakfast to table dance hours!! So again, why would you want to open a Gringo hangout down here? Well, this is a "top secret", but you know what? Gringos attracts other Gringos as well as locals (many locals like to party with and get to know Gringos). Gringos typically have a bit of money (they are not all shoestring backpackers on ten year trips around the world), and they spend it not just on the weekend like back home. No, they are on holiday, so they go out to have fun, eat and drink up to seven times a week. Some of them even eat out 3-4 times a day (or am I the only one?). So what's a good place for a goldmine? If the safety situation in Colombia continues (they have seen a large increase in the number of backpackers visiting the last year or two), tourism here is bound to explode (after the backpackers you know who's coming). It's an amazing country with lots of potential. In fact I think most countries down here got potential. Like Argentina, although it would have been perfect to do something here a couple of years ago (around the economic crash 3-4 years back, they had about 10 hostels in Buenos Aires, now there's somewhere between 50 and 100). But it's not too late, so if you happen to have a briefcase full of unmarked bills you want to get rid of, lets have a chat. And then I will be off to Spanish school once again...

So, is "Sucre er helt konge!" true??? I guess so, La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) is beautiful and energetic. It seems to have a wonderful climate, and it's another UNESCO World Heritage cultural site, similar to Potosi. All in all a great place to chill for a few days. So that's what I do, I walk around the city, idle at the plaza, Locot's and Joy Ride Cafe, visit Casa de la Libertad (it's Independence Day in two days), take the Dino Truck to Cal Orck'o, a limestone quarry containing the world's largest fossilized dinosaur tracks on a 25.000 square meter wall. Apparently there's about 5000 impressions of dinosaur footprints, from 320 different animals on this nearly vertical wall, discovered in 1994. I join up with Anthony (it's like he is the twin brother of one of my best friends back home. His looks and behavior is almost identical, scary stuff!!) from Switzerland and James for a couple of days. James is a guy from New York who I met in Potosi, on a two months trip around Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. He is one month into his trip, and is considering to head home earlier than first planned. "Next time I'll go to San Francisco instead", he keep on saying. He seems to enjoy the different sites, but is still not happy with his trip. I am unable to find out if it's the hassle, food or something else that's the cause, but I guess Latin America isn't for everyone. Anyway, he is the first person I have met so far who isn't enjoying his/her trip 100%. And then it's the shoeshine boys. If this was my first trip to Latin America, I would have thought that Sucre is the shoeshine capital of the world. But I know better, as I have been to places like La Paz and Cuzco before. On the Dino Truck I meet 12 year old Guillermo, the shoeshine entrepreneur. He is not just hanging around the plaza, no he goes with the tourists to the dusty limestone quarry, and shine their shoes to perfection on the way back into town. And then we have Santos, Leonardo, Carlos, Henry and Juan at the plaza. I was stupid enough to promise Leonardo that he could shine my boots tomorrow, and since all his friends heard, I now have a shoeshine appointment for five days in a row. We have Mr. viernes, Mr. sábado, Mr. domingo, Mr. lunes and Mr. martes. So I guess I'll have to stay to Tuesday, unless I can maybe negotiate five shines in a row for a discounted price. At something like 9 instead of 10 cents a shine.
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