Sucre

After leaving Potosi we headed for Sucre, pulling into town in the early evening. We were all incredibly excited to arrive in Sucre because it meant we would get to hang out with Randall, a good friend and veteran Fat Tire Berlin tour guide. Randall still spends summers back in Berlin but the rest of the year he lives in Sucre where he runs a couple of non-profit organizations: Condor Trekkers and Condor Café, a trekking company and vegetarian restaurant that donate proceeds to local community projects.

We were excited to see Randall and see what he had built in Sucre so we made a beeline for the Condor Café, immediately ordering up some awesome food while we waited for him to arrive.

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We were all so impressed with the Café – the food was incredible, the setting was amazing, and he seemed to have really built something that would have a lasting impact. Since Randall was tied up he gave us directions to a hostel he recommended and we made our way there. Unfortunately when we arrived we realized that the courtyard where we’d thought we could park was much too small for our van. We were able to find a spot on the street but weren’t thrilled that we wouldn’t have a more secure parking option. Ciaran and Anas ended up moving to another hostel when their room didn’t quite allow for enough headroom. We had just enough time to settle in when Randall knocked on our door. We were so happy to see him and we headed out with him for a stroll through town and back to the café where we spent the evening catching up and laughing.

The next morning we dropped off laundry with the hostel owners so that it would be ready to pick up later that evening. We planned to spend the day running a few errands and getting ready for a four-day trek with Condor Trekkers. In addition to gathering supplies we also wanted to drop our car off with a local mechanic that we’d read about – we wanted him to take a look at a few things and do some routine maintenance and figured it would also be an easy way to securely park our car for a few days while we were gone. Wolf and Randall headed over to drop off the car with Gustavo who made a great impression – he’d spent many years living in the States so we didn’t have the usual issue of trying to explain our car problems in Spanish.

Aside from running errands we spent a good chunk of the day at Condor Café, catching up on emails and real life and enjoying the novelty of good coffee, good food, and good company.

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Ciaran, Anas, and I met up at the Mercado Central to wander around and check out the local wares.

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We had fun examining all the different stalls. I was particularly excited about the piles and piles of avocados, as well as dozens of types of potatoes.

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The market was really beautiful and clean and made an amazing impression.

After dinner at Condor Café and a few rounds of beverages we were ready to call it in a night in preparation for our big trek the next day. When we returned to our hostel we stopped into the office to pick up our laundry so we could pack it all into our backpacks. The owner gave us a puzzled look and told us it wasn’t ready yet. Arg. They said we could try again the next morning before we left but since they didn’t put it in the dryer, and instead hung everything out to dry, it was all completely wet. We were so frustrated. We’d specifically asked about timing and followed their instructions and now we wouldn’t have anything to pack for our four day trek… we went to sleep more than a little frustrated.

The pouring rain in the middle of the night didn’t give us much hope that our laundry would be dry in the morning, and lo and behold, the owners had generously left it drying on the line all night. Now, with laundry potentially worse off than when we started, we called Randall first thing in the morning and moved the trek to the following day so we’d have time to actually get our laundry done before setting out.

With and extra day now in Sucre, we had a bit more time to wander and enjoy, run a few errands, and hang out with Randall.

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A wander through Sucre proved to be a good time, and we headed to the Mercado Campesino to gather a few supplies for dinner at Randall’s place.

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No visit to Sucre would be complete without a visit to the neighborhood chicha bar, where we sampled fermented corn beer… not half bad, even though the fermentation process supposedly involves spitting in the corn mush.

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Back at Randall’s place we hung out with two of the volunteers who kindly made us dinner and we all hung out until past bedtime listening to stories about the chicken living in their yard.

The following day we all met at Condor Café bright and early. After a quick coffee we loaded into a microbus and headed out for the start of our four day trek through Sucre’s countryside. First stop was breakfast time at a small chapel near the start of our trail.

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From there, we began walking through some pretty amazing countryside.

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The path wound through rocky mountainsides looking out at amazing, brightly-colored hillsides across the valley.

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Partway through the day we dropped our packs and took a side trail down to a secluded cave full of ancient paintings.

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A bit further on, a rocky outcropping revealed another set of paintings above our heads.

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From there we walked alongside quinoa fields and into a nice Eucalyptus grove for a cozy picnic lunch.

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After lunch we enjoyed a few quiet moments at a scenic overlook and then started descending down into the valley.

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A quick detour to a waterfall and another rest stop helped get us through the next couple of hours.

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We crossed over a fun little footbridge and then walked through small villages and little farms for another few hours.

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Finally we reached Chaunaca, our goal for the evening.

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Randall and Johnny let us to a couple of buildings and we set up shop for the night, happy to be resting after a long day’s walk.

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Randall, Anas, and I dropped our bags and walked around the corner to go see the beer lady, who was perhaps the cutest thing I’ve encountered.

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When we arrived in front of her home/store/farm, she was sitting outside, seemingly waiting for our arrival. She only speaks Quechua, but understood that we wanted to buy cerveza, so we followed her inside, revealing a courtyard/barnyard with chickens and ducks and dogs running around, as well as a cage housing dozens of bunnies and guinea pigs, just in case we felt like roasting a few for dinner.

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Inside her one room house, half the space was full of various food items, and the other half was clearly her bedroom.

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She was so kind and giggly and happily sold us a few cold beers. Randall asked her age and she reported that she’s 98… she certainly inspired me. Whatever she’s been doing, she’s doing something right.

Back at our little compound we sat outside and enjoyed the cool evening while we laughed about the day and rested our sore muscles.

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A few of the locals came by to help us sort out a little situation with the keys to the houses and we enjoyed the last light in the valley before moving inside.

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Johnny and Randall made dinner and then we all set up mattresses on the floor before passing out for the evening.

 

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The next day we packed up said goodbye to the folks that had helped us the prior evening.

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On our way out of town we returned our beer bottles to the beer lady and thanked her as well.

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From there, we walked on, down more dusty paths, and through more lovely scenery.

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Randall showed us a plot of land where he dreamed of building and eco lodge, and we checked out the amazing A few hours down the road we stopped for lunch near the river and everyone crashed for a quick nap before moving on. We crossed another Indiana-Jones-esque bridge across the river. This time we ended up directly in the garden of a nice family who told us that the normal route had been washed away and was being rebuilt.

They suggested an alternate route which led us to a river carving its way through a rocky cliff face. We all leapt across the river and continued hiking up the hillside.

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We stopped to check out a waterfall and got a bonus view of a sleepy frog perched on a branch.

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We climbed and climbed up the hill, albeit through some lovely flowers and lichen-covered rocks.

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At the top we were rewarded with a view back through the valley we’d just hiked and a shady outlook where we rested for a few minutes.

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Randall saved the day by pulling out some fancy Bolivian chocolate to share, and Randall and I had a good time giving each other a hard time. My type-A, schedule oriented mentality and Randall’s Australian, laid-back, we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there personality couldn’t be more different but we had a lot of laughs about our differences.
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After a break we walked on, stopping to chew on a few coca leaves to help with the altitude and lounging with a few local animals.

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Our next obstacle was a washed out trail across a crumbling hillside. Perhaps not the most stable hike, but certainly a lovely sight, with purple-hued sandy hillsides dropping down into a deep bowl fed by a picturesque waterfall.

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More lovely hillsides led us to a small well where a couple of smart kids were waiting to sell us bracelets and weavings.

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They were so cute that we broke down and bought a few before filling up our water at the well and walking on to our next stop – Marawa.

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Marawa sits in a valley that looks almost like a dormant crater the way the surrounding hills have lifted up.

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Once we arrived in town we wandered to a few different stores to find supplies, crossing back and forth across fields and the purple-washed river before finding someone at home.

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From the outside it certainly looked more like a storage shed than a store, but still, open for business and with a super-friendly owner.

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Our second night we stayed in some lovely cabins and were joined by a second group of Condor Trekkers. We were all so wiped out that we napped before dinner and went to bed early. In the morning we left our packs at camp and strolled down to check out a nearby waterfall first.

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More great views of the valley and a fun little path down to a little grotto and cave behind a waterfall provided an awesome start to the day.

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Grabbing our packs again back at camp we started heading up and out of the crater, which turned out to be deceivingly steep and hot and challenging.

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Partway through we stopped for a quick break, needing to regroup and take a breather.

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Shortly after reaching the peak we came across another set of cute kids and were suckered into buying still more bracelets.

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We hid with the kids behind a building and waited out a brief rainstorm before continuing down into the next valley. The sky remained dark and ominous and pretty soon there was another thunder and lightning show going on – Wolf managed to capture a donkey and I reacting in exactly the same way to a huge clap of thunder – we were both equally freaked out and running for cover.

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A few minutes later we reached one of the highlights of the trek – a huge stone slab with dinosaur footprints!

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It was amazing. With a few different sets of visible prints you could see a series of huge prints as well as a series of prints from much smaller feet. It was amazing to see these prints that had been preserved for so many years, and here we were, scrambling around these treasures like they were any other rock. I was completely amazed. Johnny explained a bit about the different dinosaurs and told us that there are several similar sites throughout Bolivia.

After the excitement of dinosaur footprints we were all worn out – lunch led to another nap before moving on.

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The path took us through more beautiful countryside, full of sheep and frogs and all sorts of fun wildlife, as well as beautiful, colorful hillsides.

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We stopped at a school where Condor Trekkers had helped build the water system, stopping to fill up water and enjoy their handiwork. After another stop for chocolate we pushed on for the final stretch.

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The last few miles rewarded us with more colorful hillsides – white and red stripes as well as deep red washes… the scenery was incredibly striking, and full of more fun creatures including a few colonies of caterpillars, and plenty of sheep keeping watch.

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We stopped at a local farm to chat with the family, and we all fell in love with a black and white lamb that was just six days old.

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It was difficult to move on without taking the lamb with us but reluctantly, we continued on, just a few minutes later reaching the town where we would spend the night. The farm animals seemed to have free reign of the streets, with cows and pigs and goats and chickens and pretty much every other animal you can think of roaming the streets or tethered on corners.

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Once again, we found an open store and stopped to buy supplies from another cute old lady.

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A few minutes later we rounded the corner into a lovely courtyard with a few cottages where we would spend our last night of the trek.

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We sat out on the patio together, celebrating the end of an awesome few days and some quality time together.

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After a nice dinner we stayed up solving all the world’s problems before finally giving in to our exhausted bodies.

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The next morning we took a quick stroll through town, making friends with more donkeys and dogs and pigs on the way as we fought through the morning rush hour, consisting of a herd of sheep passing through the town square.

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Packed up and ready to go, we said goodbye to the countryside and boarded a bus that would take us back into Sucre.

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It was fun to pass by some of our favorite sites from the hike and see how far we had come. More traffic in the form of goats held us up occasionally, and as we neared Sucre we stopped to take in one more view and grab a picture of our crew, along with the other group of Condor Trekkers hikers that had joined us partway through.

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Back in Sucre we all enjoyed lunch at Condor Café – the pastel de quinoa and sopa de mani that Randall had ordered especially for us. We parted ways in order to find accommodation, check on our car, and run a few more errands, planning to meet up again later that night. Checking in with Gustavo to see how our car was doing, he reported good news – he had done a few little things but overall everything had checked out ok.

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He asked about the body damage we’ve been carting around with us since California and told us he could see about getting that fixed for us as well. We loved the idea of getting our damaged rear panels fixed on the cheap in South America and after making a few calls, he told us that his friend could get the job done in just a couple of days. We hadn’t planned to hang out in Sucre much longer but we figured we’d save a few thousand dollars by getting the work done in the middle of Bolivia, and that would probably be worth a few more days in town, so we committed ourselves to two more nights. Aside from the body work, we were also waiting for an adaptor for our propane tank – Gustavo was having a custom adaptor made for us and it was due back at the end of the day.

Later that night we all met up again back at the Condor Café. Randall had put together a little party to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of the organization.

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A few alumni volunteers had showed up for the festivities, as well as most of the current guides, volunteers and employees. It was great that we were able to be there to celebrate with Randall and it was awesome to see him in his element – making speeches, kissing babies, and connecting with so many people impacted by the project.

After celebrating Condor late into the night, most of us were off to a slow start the following morning. We hung around the café most of the day, did more laundry, and enjoyed another day of doing next to nothing. Late in the afternoon we met up with Randall for a visit to the Mercado Campesino for a little shopping.

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We had tons of fun buying a few souvenirs to bring back from our travels. Dinner at Randall’s that evening had quite a few fun characters – a few folks who had come into town to celebrate the anniversary, a few friends, a few volunteers… Randall made us an amazing eggplant-soy-ginger dish and we were sad when we had to say our goodbyes in order to head back and pack up before leaving town the next morning.

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On our way back to the hotel we dodged more hordes of young people who were out in the street celebrating Carnival – with water balloons, water guns, foam spray, and above all huge bands that had been marching through the streets all week, followed by a massive dance party and general non-stop reveling. Earlier in the week I’d been attacked by a horrible kid wielding foam spray, so I was just about done with Carnival and all its ridiculousness.

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Back at Gustavo’s bright and early, we learned that the body work guy had never bothered to show up. We were beginning to understand a bit more about how Bolivia functions.

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Then, when we started the car, the power steering seemed to have vanished completely, even though they had just replaced the hoses. Disappointed, we waited for Gustavo to show up and do a bit of tweaking before we all agreed things were back in good shape. After a few false starts we were finally back on the road and headed out of Sucre.

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