We were rather keen to leave Uyuni and were on a bus to Sucre first thing the next day. I’m not sure we could have anticipated just how much of an adventure that would be!As we approached the town of Potosi (a stopover on the way) we quickly realised there was a problem with our bus turning around and heading a different direction. As we continued up another road, our driver stopped the bus and looking ahead we could see there were trucks blocking the road. Before we really had any idea what was going on we were all off the bus and on the streets of Potosi, our bus driver giving us no real information but suggesting that we walk to the bus station ourselves! We began walking uphill in to Potosi, realising quickly that walking uphill in the highest town in the world takes slightly more effort than a stroll in the park. After multiple attempts to get a taxi, we all piled into the back of a friendly local’s ute and were finally driven to the bus station. Too bad it was the wrong bus station and we sighed as we were told the one we needed was 40 blocks away.While we pondered what to do next we were approached by several taxi drivers who claimed they could get us to Sucre. In small groups we filled taxis and our driver proceeded to make his way out of Potosi (encountering a road block nearly every second street). Finally, we made it to the highway and were on our way to Sucre! But wait, what’s this? More cars and trucks? You can only take us this far? Arriving to the outskirts of Sucre it was apparent we were dealing with the same problem and we (now as seasoned road block experts), proceeded to walk in to the city. You would think one truck would suffice but no, let’s put 30 odd trucks across the road just in case someone manages to slip through! I wish I had more photos to show just how ridiculous it was! We finally made our way through all of the trucks and with one last taxi ride for the day, we made it to our hostel!Sucre is a beautiful city and the constitutional capital of Bolivia (there is actually two capital cities of Bolivia just to confuse you with La Paz considered the legislative and administrative capital). Sucre is also known as Ciudad Blanca, meaning the White City, as bascially every building is painted white, generally with red-tiled roofs and different balconies. It is well-documented as a city where tourists stay a little longer than expected and this ended up being the case for us, staying in Sucre for 10 days (we also didn’t really have a choice with the various road blockages that were taking place)!Our hostel Kultur Berlin was the perfect place to spend some time relaxing. It is ran by a German named Klaus and was in a really pretty Spanish colonial building with an internal courtyard, pub and café. We spent our days hanging out, walking down to the main plaza for a freshly squeezed juice and we even challenged our brains a little with a handful of Spanish lessons. We had a few drinking sessions and enjoyed the flavoursome Bolivian food which was wonderful after the rather bland food in Chile and Argentina (although Niels and I did feel a little sorry for ourselves after one restaurant outing that had us sick in bed for two days)! We also frequented the Mercado Central, which was fantastic for people watching and walking the many aisles filled with fresh produce. There is an incredible amount of fruits and vegetables for sale, so much so that I think it would feed the whole of Sucre 100 times over! Everything is really cheap and it is hard not to stop for a quick taste test of an avocado or mango, which for the sake of roughly 50 cents you then just have to buy!In addition to the fruit and vegetable section there are other aisles, each dedicated to a different product – some ladies sell cheese, others potatoes, clothing, handcrafted cakes, household goods, spices – the list goes on. Then there is the rows of white-tiled cubicles where butchers chop away at different chunks of meat – cows, chickens, pigs, fish (and not just your normal strip loin cut)! It is a fascinating place and a photographer’s dream however Bolivian’s are incredibly shy when it comes to photographs and we only snuck a handful of shots.Another must-do at the market is the juice/fruit salad section. As you approach, the different ladies compete for your attention as they peel, slice and juice every type of fruit imaginable! The fruit salad comes in a range of sizes and no matter what size bowl you select, you can guarantee it will be piled as high as possible, leaving you wondering where exactly to begin.At the top of Recoleta Hill you can get the best view of Sucre and its surrounds while enjoying deliciously cheap meals at Cafe Mirador. The walk up the hill is testing but the view is certainly worth it and it is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the “White City”. As the days passed by we realised there was still more to explore and walked beyond the main plaza to the french-styled Parque Simon Bolivar. On the walk we passed beautifully well-kept colonial buildings which were surrounded by equally well-maintained gardens. We passed through the replica Triumphal Arch of Paris and walked through the park, where there is also a replica Eiffel Tower with an incredibly sketchy staircase you can climb. It was peaceful in the park which was nice as the one downside to Sucre is the uncanny amount of car alarm sirens you hear all day long (I know the whole sequence off by heart now)! Our time in Sucre was the longest spent in one place so far and was very much a little home away from home. Its beauty had surprised us, its people had fascinated us and its history inspired us but it was time to continue our journey. With the road blocks still continuing we decided to book a flight to La Paz. On our last day in town, the locals were participating in a festival which was the perfect way to say goodbye to Sucre.
An eleven and a half hour direct flight from Sydney and we had arrived in Santiago, Chile – our first destination in South America! After a long queue at Customs, it was just a quick stamp of the passports and we were on our way to Dominica Hostel, our accommodation for the next few days in Barrio Bellavista, a neighbourhood of Santiago full of colourful graffiti, numerous bars and somewhat tattered charm.
With a 14-hour time difference to home, we were rather jet-lagged so limited our exploring to a quick walk and lunch close to our hostel. Our first South American food experience saw Will order a ‘hamburguesa’ and end up with two meat patties, an egg, some onion and some chips but without a burger bun (or some lettuce/tomato) so he was rather disappointed! We shared 2 litres of Escudo, the cheapest of the local beers (at $3 a litre bottle) – and with that and the time difference, we were ready for bed!
Recovered from our jet lag, the next morning we walked to Plaza de Armas, the city square located in the oldest part of Santiago where we joined the free walking tour of the city. We had two rather large dogs escort us to the square – there are so many stray dogs in Santiago! They were pretty awesome though, in that ‘I really want to pat you but I’m also scared you’ll bite my hand off’ sort of way. For the most part though, all of the dogs seem quite friendly and healthy – there are some really nice looking dogs… I think if I moved there I might become that crazy dog lady stealing dogs from the streets. Anyway, the walking tour was ok, we were shown around the various neighbourhoods of Santiago but the guide himself didn’t really seem to know all that much!
The next morning we were up early and walked in Parque Metropolitano, one of the largest urban recreational parks where we walked up Cerro (meaning hill) San Cristobal, where you have a fantastic 360 degree view over smoggy Santiago and beyond. We had some more dogs escort us on the journey and at one stage while we were walking we watched a dog run along the cliff high above us chasing a rabbit only to then fall off the cliff and tumble down 20 metres before landing right near us, getting up and walking off a little dazed and confused.
Back at the base of the hill, we walked to Mercado Central Santiago, Santiago’s fish market where we had lunch before continuing around Santiago, walking up Cerro Saint Lucia and through Barrio Lastarria, a rather pretty neighbourhood. We walked through a few museums and searched through some antiques at the markets before making our way back to Barrio Bellavista. At this point we had worked up an appetite so we decided it was time to try ‘Chorrillana’ – a Chilean dish that seemed very popoular amongst the uni students of Santiago and advertised at every restaurant we passed. For the most part it consists of a plate of hot chips covered in onion, meat/sausage and then fried eggs on top – a really healthy dish! Anyway it didn’t really live up to expectations but really, none of the Chilean food had so far so we enjoyed what we could and washed it down with some more litres of beer!