Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sucre & Tarabuco - Bolivia

Glistening reports had come in from other travellers about Sucre and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  It was large and beautiful with many grand buildings and to top things off, we (Kate, Gaëlle and I) had arrived two days prior to the anniversary of Bolivia’s independence and president Evo would also be in residence.  As we watched the military band and marching processions take place we were even interviewed by a local radio presenter.  There weren’t any restrictions on where we could watch from (other than the road itself) and the proceedings went on and on.  Eventually our stomachs dictated our actions and the three of us headed to a French restaurant called La Taverne where we had an excellent meal, steaks beautifully presented in various sauces all round in a professional setting for around fifty five bolivianos each (about five pound fifty).

The parade announcer

The military band

Eating in La Taverne Restaurant

We spent the best part of the next day getting orientated within the city and that included visiting the bustling market.  The raw produce was downstairs whereas upstairs we helped ourselves to a nice cheap meal from one of the many cooking pot joints, personally going for the cheap meat casserole and Kate having some chorizo.  Gaëlle’s stomach hadn’t been great for some time so she merely had some rice, a local sat with us (this doesn’t usually happen but it was busy) and mentioned that the chorizo would be difficult to digest and that Kate would most likely have the stomach problems from now on!  It all tasted delicious and was unsurprisingly very cheap.   The rest of the day was spent hanging out in cafes playing the South American dice game of diez mille that we had learned from Chiro the Argentinian on our tour of the salt flats.

Workers in the market

Lots of spuds

The taxi driver who took us into town from the bus station when we first arrived had recommended ‘7 Lunares’ as a traditional place to eat and this name had cropped up a couple more times since we had been in Sucre.  It is a traditional ‘chuquisaqueña’ or restaurant specialising in sausages that had its base in the central market.  If we had known it also had a sit down restaurant we may well have headed there but as it turns out we turned up at the market stall where they thrust samples of the delicious pork at us.  Kate and I went for the namesake chorizo sandwich which was delicious.  Gaëlle opted for some more of the ham that they offered initially.  There were many poor people in the market, most of them aged but often children too.  Gaëlle felt for an old lady so much that she bought her a sandwich to her immediate delight.  The poverty is a consistent and upsetting factor in Bolivia and beggars are on practically every street, it’s impossible to give money to all but if we have leftovers following meals we always hand them out and they never stay in our hands for long.  We also try to buy things like chewing gum or any other bits and bobs that we feel we might need from the street sellers rather than bigger shops.   My sandwich was so good that I had to go back for seconds, we then walked to an area of the market where they made fruit salads and ‘liquados’ or what we know as smoothies from a selection of fresh fruit. 

Standing outside 7 Lunares in the market

Kate enjoying her fruit salad

Sunday meant taking a bus with the hostel to the town of Tarabuco for their famous clothes market where we intended to do some shopping for ourselves and for some Christmas gifts to send home.  It was an early start and a bumpy ride but we were soon walking down a street lined with clothes vendors selling the pirated brands that the local people are so fond of here, whereas the three of us were more interested in the more traditional attire on offer.  We had been told to watch out for scams here, the most notorious being a spilling or even spitting scam where whilst trying to clean or dry an affected area after an ‘accident’ you could be lifted of your valuables.  I was fully on guard and it didn’t take long for something bizarre to occur.  I was about a minute off the bus and walking down the street when a middle aged man walked past in the opposite direction and proceeded to lay a firm hand on my rump as he went past.  There was no subtlety there so I have no idea if his intentions were to find a poorly stored wallet or just cop a feel.  No damage done, I ignored it and carried on thinking at least it hadn’t happened to Kate or Gaëlle.  

A rather lively statue in Tarabuco Market

Me posing in front of some stalls

Gaelle haggling with a storeholder

Having had a wander around the market, it was definitely geared to tourists but it also had the kind of things we were after so what did it matter?  If anything our only disappointment was that it wasn’t as large as we had hoped and whilst it had a good range of clothes the selection amazing.  Our first purchases were woollen knitted finger puppets that were just irresistible.  The most expensive items for sale were made of amazingly soft llama wool; they were really well made and came in at about two hundred Bolivianos each or about twenty quid.  They also had teddy bears that were the softest things I had ever touched but undoubtedly a little grubby having been at ground level.   Owing to the amount of tourists who came to shop here there were the usual hassles of beggars and those a step up who merely hounded you to sell you tat you didn’t want and couldn’t take no for an answer.  We soon needed an empanada break before we continued the shopping buying socks, gloves, a hat, a bag and a jumper for Kate, all in all an excellent hall.   

Gaelle and Kate showing off their finger puppets

Some of the alpaca fur throws on offer

Kate enjoying her lunchtime empanada

Having returned from the market and enjoyed our time in the pleasant capital of Sucre, our next mission was to head to the town of Cochabamba on the overnight bus.

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