A Tale of Three Cities

The Sweetness of Sucre

Our first real experience of the beautiful city of Sucre was a trip to the mirador, or viewpoint, a steep walk up a slope at the edge of the city, where a group of friends we’d picked up and made along the way gathered for sangria and beer to watch the sun go down.

The following few days were very relaxed. We visited the Museum of Liberty, and saw a beautiful old map of the continent, made in Madrid in 1775, with the old borders and Inca Empire marked on it. Seeing as the city is famous for its chocolate, Nae and I took the excuse to sample various hot chocolates and bars. We also visited the central market, aiming straight for the juice section with its counters piled high with fruit, where you could mix any juice you liked, with a free refill, so I went for the oddest combinations possible, such as custard apple and tumbo (no I had no idea what tumbo was either: the translation of banana passionfruit meant equally little).

Easter was a quiet affair; apart from hearing a parade go past at half past six in the morning, just as my dad skyped me from Cyprus, little out of the ordinary happened. In fact, most shops and agencies were open.

A local guide took us trekking, and we enjoyed being out of the city, walking through the valley and forest, to reach a series of waterfalls (bit of an exaggeration: more like a series of quite large trickles), each with a deep, milky blue plunge pool. Along with the locals, we stripped to our swim wear, and jumped in.

On our last morning with Deetz and Carl, we were driven to the edge of the city with a guide, and after a steep climb with a stunning view over the city, came to a 22m rock face, and spent several hours taking it in turns to climb routes of varying difficulty.

Moving On, Luggage and All

After almost a week in Sucre we were restless to move on, so we took an overnight bus to the city of Cochabamba, the journey without incident until we arrived. My Spanish has got to the level that I understood that officials and the bus driver were telling us our large rucksacks were at a different drop off, but not WHY exactly. When another coach driver, a couple of hours later, kindly offered to drop us there, we toured the city dropping off cargo, the only occupants of a now empty coach which smelt distinctly of urine, until the incident descended to further ludicrous levels: we pulled into the ultimate bus terminal with more than 25 coaches of the same company parked up, and a large cargo centre. Half an hour later, a man walked in with our rucksacks on his back, unloaded from another coach. And we will never know what happened.

Amid all the cargo

Amid all the cargo

Our visit to Cochabamba was characterised by Nae becoming very ill with food poisoning. We ate exactly the same meals throughout the previous day, aside from the addition of pieces of chicken in her lunch, so I reckon this is conclusive proof: veggies for the win. I went on an expedition to the pharmacy, and felt very proud that I managed to explain all her symptoms in Spanish (a very difficult task, seeing as vomit is vomitos), and spent my free time wandering the main square, eating delicious street food (after all, posh restaurant food made Nae ill), and trawling the large markets for which the city is famous.

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Once Nae had recovered sufficiently, and with good coordination on Deetz and Carl’s part so that they crossed over with us, we all coincided for one last day trip together. We took a micro, a tiny minibus, which drove us out of the city and through the mountains, on roads which became increasingly rough, up and up until the clouds drifting through the rainforest were at the same level as us, and the air was muggy and warm. An accident (we don’t think anyone got hurt), provided a good 90 minute break, as vehicles backed up on either side of a turn in the road and hundreds of the vehicles’ occupants gathered for a look, including at least one news crew.

More than four hours after we left Cochabamba, we reached Parque Machia, the animal rehabilitation park in the rainforest where I volunteered four years ago, working with macaws, capuchin and spider monkeys. It was both an exciting and disappointing visit. I set off eagerly to lead the others to the area where we used to feed and interact with the monkeys, but a landslide had cut across the path and evidently destroyed the whole area. We changed our course and climbed the 1km up to the viewpoint, and along the way met one of the mothers I’d worked with, and saw a fair few other members of the pack swinging through the trees. When we came back to the bottom of the park, I went into the office and found out that all members of both the capuchin and spider monkey pack had survived the landslide and moved higher up into the rainforest, but that there was no communal area anymore. An amazing new aviary for the birds has also been constructed, a huge netted dome with a whole habitat inside, and hopefully soon they will be moved in.

Eager to leave the city now associated with being ill, we moved on overnight once again, but this time, based on a very vague memory I had of the bus company’s name from four years ago, we struck lucky: our incredibly cheap journey turned out to be really luxurious, with huge, soft seats which almost fully reclined, right at the front of the top deck so we had a great view the whole journey. We both had the best night’s sleep on a bus so far.

 

Toucan Town

Yesterday we arrived in Santa Cruz, a city I visited four years ago. There’s little to see or do, so I only have two distinct memories: the pet toucan in the hostel we stayed in, and a colourful ice cream parlour on the corner of the main square, where Anna and I used to have diary writing sessions. Within an hour, we had confirmed that both still existed: we checked into the hostel with the toucan — except that there are now two — and while we waited for our beds to be ready, camped out in the ice cream parlour. I have no idea if the older toucan, Manuela, remembers me, but we made friends again quickly, and she felt comfortable enough to annoy us as we ate our food last night and make typing up the blog this morning considerably more challenging.

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