Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sucre did not disappoint

Our hotel, the second night in Potosi, was probably the highlight of our time there, which was not saying much. The room was really large and we had a king sized bed, but the furniture was so stained that it was hard to feel comfortable sitting anywhere except in bed. So when it was time to check out and make our way to the bus station we were very relieved.

We had thought we had time for a quick snack, but after a quick consultation with a travel agent/tourist excursion booking office we realized that if we got in a cab right away we could make an earlier bus — which sounded like a great idea. Finding a taxi proved to be a bit more difficult than we expected, but we managed to make it to the station with a few minutes to spare. And, even though we were getting our tickets at the last minute, we managed to scoop seats one and two, which was an amazing feat.

The bus was full of tourists and we felt like our luck had finally turned and we were momentarily going to be on our way to a better place. There was one small glitch right away, but luckily it ended up not being a big issue.

The nice lady selling tickets seemed to have over sold the seats on the bus (two other people had tickets with our seat numbers). But for some reason, she was willing to give us priority. The bad news was that she took our tickets in order to figure things out and then disappeared without giving them back to us. The problem with that scenario is that tickets are collected just before the bus arrives at its final destination, which was several hours away. Was the bus driver going to remember that we indeed had tickets when we got on the bus, but they were taken from us from the ticket lady? We managed to forget about this for most of the trip, but, as we approached Sucre, we were getting a bit worried.

But our luck was indeed changing. The bus driver remembered that we had tickets and Sucre was beautiful. Our hotel, The San Marino Royal, was elegant, comfortable, and there were real restaurants and real food. We had arrived in heaven!

What a difference a few hours of bus travel make!

We settled into our lovely hotel room and went out looking for food. We ended up in an Italian restaurant and had, of all things, a pizza and a Greek salad, but both items were actually made with the right ingredients and tasted like real food! We savored every morsel. Still euphoric over the black olives and goat cheese, we walked around the corner and spotted the La Patisserie Salon de Te, where scrumptious French pastries were on display. We ordered the chocolate volcano cake and pecan torte, hot chocolate, and cappuccino and, as soon as it all arrived, we devoured both cakes to the last crumb between sips of our steaming and delicious hot beverages.

It had been so long since I had real coffee that I didn’t sleep a wink that night, but it was worth it!

Marc booked a mountain bike excursion for the next day and I caught up on ketubah orders and email with a nap to catch up on the sleep I missed the night before. Marc was back early afternoon after an exhilarating downhill and strenuous uphill ride with Marlena (from Holland), Janne and her boy friend (whose name escapes us both at the moment) from Belgium and Fidel, their local guide.

We all met for drinks and appetizers at the “Amsterdam” bar to debrief about the day’s events and later moved to a French restaurant that Janne had found on Trip Advisor called La Taverne. All I can say is AMAZING doesn’t even begin to describe the food. I think this may have been the best looking and tasting food we have had so far on this trip. Marlena chose a perfect Bolivian red wine to go with our dinner.

What a wonderful and delicious evening with a lovely group of new friends!

We said our farewells to Janne and her boy friend who were leaving the next morning. Marlena would be joining us the next day for a walk to the local waterfalls, which she and Marc had arranged with their mountain biking guide. We made plans to meet at the square at 10:00 am.

Marlena kindly brought us all hot saltenas (hot pockets of pastry filled with vegetables, chicken or meat) and our wonderful day got started brilliantly! We all hopped on a combi (local bus), which took us to the outskirts of town. From there we walked for an hour or so until we hit the first of three waterfalls. There had been a lot of rain the night before so the water was as they call it here “chocolate” coloured. We climbed from one waterfall to the next and rested viewing the gushing chocolate water as it churned up the brown clay as it moved its way down the mountain.

Our guide had brought a picnic lunch for us which we helped him assemble beside the third waterfall — fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, white cheese, corn, bread, and bananas for dessert. Out in nature after a few hours of hiking, this lunch could not have been more perfect.

From Sucre our next stop was to be Tupiza which was a long bus ride away. Our tour guide kindly took us to the bus station after our hike and helped us choose a bus company that was reliable (remember my post about buses …) we booked tickets for the next evening at 6:00 pm.

We took it easy on our last day in Sucre.

We stopped in at the Folklore museum and then took a walk to the Ricoletta Convent which was at a high point in town where you could view the city. There was a nice restaurant called something like Gourmet Mirador. The food was indeed gourmet! We had a beautiful salad and sandwich combo with fruit juice while taking in the view. Then we walked back to our hotel, picked up our bags and took a quick taxi to the bus station.

The bus station in Sucre is not at all like the beautiful historic centre of town. It is gritty and sour and for the first time in Bolivia I felt on edge and unsafe. I was glad when the bus arrived and we took our seats. 8 more hours to go until we were to arrive in Tupiza at 3:00 am. No toilet on the bus so it was sure to be an interesting night.

More on that later …

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