July 28, 2010 – August 1, 2010
When we stepped out of the plane we felt the warm air suddenly hit our face like it was welcoming us. Like when mum stepped out her expression changed completely, it changed from relieved, because when we were landing we were going so fast so we only stopped about half a metre from where the landing ground stopped, to comfortably relaxed. Sat 31st July Seicar, is a very well behaved dog.When you walked her you didn't have to use a lead, you could call to her and she would follow. The people who owned the home stay that we were living at for the next 4 days would let you walk her when ever you liked and aparntliy she is a very good tour guide. Today we went to a cafe with wfi so mum and dad went to get some info and leave us in the cafe for about 20minutes "they said". But just as they went out of the door 'bing' the ipad went out of power. So i had to wait in a cafe for there "20 minuets" my and everyone else's 2 hours. Sun 1st August Today we took Seicar for a walk up the Seicar mountain which she was named after. On the way up lots of territorial dogs started barking at us so we had to try and scare them off or eventually through stones at there feet when they start getting really aggressive. At the top we met some people who didn't do football or rugby for their sport they do mountain biking or paragliding! When going down we saw the same dogs that were really aggressive to us but now the owners were here and they seemed really nice and nearer the bottom we met Seicar lover Peter. Peter would follow Seicar every where until the owners would catch him and bring back and peter did so until we got down half of the hill and then Peter gave up. Mon 2nd August Harry and dad went quad biking while me and mum staid in Surce and downloaded Avatar onto the ipad so in the evening we watched it but only half because half way through the movie it stopped so mum got really cross because it had just got to the really good bit!
It's good to see trees again. In the main square there are 4 fountains, two statues of revolutionaries, a band-stand, two bronze lions for the children to climb on and about 100 beautiful trees of different sizes and shapes. There is even some real grass and ordered flowerbeds tended by gardeners. Sucre is colonial like Arequipa. It is filled with young people as it is a university town, and it seems more European than any of our other destinations so far. The climate is lovely, warm enough for a T-shirt and sandals in the daytime and a fleece or jacket in the evening. Beautiful warm mediterranean-type sunshine - such a relief after the freezing and burning of the salt plains. There are many similarities with Arequipa in Peru: whitewashed regular facades, but the cars are less numerous, newer and better behaved. There is also a slightly French Napoleonic feel to some of the buildings reflecting the time Bolivian independence was achieved, and the Parisian education of some of the leading Bolivian revolutionaries. The flight from La Paz was the most enjoyable of my life. I had heard that pilots needed to be particularly skilled to take off from La Paz due to the altitude and the surrounding mountains. I had not foreseen that the blue of the cloudless Andean sky would afford us a clear view of the landscape throughout the flight. Immediately after take off we banked steeply round 180 degrees or more. Being on the lower side of the plane we were able to see stunning panoramas of the city layout whilst being eye level with the tops of snowy mountains. Only when facing in the right direction did the pilot climb to a usual cruising height, but we could still see the earth below, crenelated and creased into browny red contoured peaks with dirt roads balancing on the ridges and rivers glittering up from the troughs. Small towns were usually straddling the roads high up and vegetation was sparse everywhere. The landing at Sucre was also quite dramatic. Again we banked steeply before finding our line into the landing strip. Then once on the ground the pilot seemed to forget to use the brakes initially, and only remembered just in time as we eventually stopped with less than 5 metres of runway to spare. Several passengers crossed themselves and there was some nervous laughter as everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Will said the pilots did it on purpose just for fun.
In one of the cafes there was an advertisement for quadbiking. "How about Harry and I going?" I halfheartedly said to Lyn. "Only if you look after him." she replied. I was taken back a bit as I was sure she would say no. I booked up the 6 hour "extream" tour which they said needed no previous experience and no driving licence for the fourteen year old. Over night I woke up a few times worrying about weather this was entirely safe letting Harry on Bolivian roads at 14 with no insurance or driving licence on a 500cc motorbike with no previous experience of motorbikes or road regulatons. I know what mum would have said(sorry mum , but I just egnorred your silent advice. ). In the end he got the hang of it quickly, looked left and right, and handled the steep bumpy bits better than me .
We were the other side of Potosi now and just 3 hours away. But mobs were still protesting (we never found out why) and it had turned into a bit of a riot with stone throwing and some reports of sticks of dynamite being thrown at bus's. It may be closed for a week or longer, such an important historical town and I so wanted to "pothole"the mines under the silver mountain and lite dynamite with Harry. For five hundred years they have been mining silver from a small mountain that had unusually high concentrations of silver ore. In 1650 it was one of the biggest cities in the world. The silver was sent up the coast, across the narrow Panama and then back to Spain on the "Spanish main " All you " Pirates of the Caribbean" fans owe your love of Jack Sparrow mainly to Potosi. The wealth of the silver coming back to the old world kept the Spanish King pay rolled for centuries. The Spanish Armarda would not have happened with out Potosi as well as the romance of the Caribbean pirates who hijacked the silver as it passed through. "Pieces of eight" was a Spanish silver coin minted in the new world and was worth eight Reales and was later called the Spanish Dollar which the US dollar was based on. Sorry potosi that I did not visit you.
We were back in La Paz unexpectedly! There was a miner's strike in Potosi (our planned destination) and they had blockaded all the roads in and out, so yesterday's bus from Uyuni was cancelled at the last minute and we were all given our money back before the ticket seller padlocked her office shut and took the day off. After a lot of milling about and chatting to other tourists about the situation in the sunshine of a bus station park bench, we booked tickets on the night bus to La Paz (surprisingly comfortable as it turned out) and then arranged flight tickets for lunchtime the following day from La Paz to Sucre. Will then rearranged our accommodation by phone. Nothing else to do now but write a few postcards in the early opening Alexander's Coffee on Ave. 16 de Julio and wait 'till it's time to catch a taxi to the airport.
Last week there was a fiesta near our Hotel in the Recoleta district culminating in a party last night. Each evening we would walk up the hill from town between the market stalls of toys, shoes, gadgets and food. There were kebabs of marshmallows or strawberries covered in chocolate or toffee, popped peanuts or popcorn and greasy black furnaces roasting parts of pigs or llamas. In the evenings it was crowded with happy people, mostly families with toddlers buying soft toys or young couples eating candy floss. Every so often blind musicians sat on chairs in the middle of the street providing the soundtrack except where pirate CD stalls drowned them out and they had to move on to a better spot. In the tiny square at the top there was a fayre with toddler sized merrygoround rides powered by the muscle of the owner, handing round the bars between the circling animals, trucks and planes. There were also some shooting galleries with pop guns and chances to win bolivianos if you dropped a 10 centimo coin on the right square. It was lovely to feel part of Bolivian life in Sucre rather than just the tourist crust. Today Harry and Will are quad biking so Lisa and I are taking it easy in cafes and I hope later to drag her to the textile museum!
Our last day in Sucre was lovely. Will and I went to the Casa de la Libertad where Bolivian Independence had been declared in 1809. It was a beautiful building on the main square with its own central cobbled courtyard and fountain. There was a crowd outside when we arrived and a very loud slightly out of time brass band giving the patriotic music a mildly ironic quality that for me lifted it beyond the dull accuracy of our own northern mining town brass culture. A crocodile of reception-age children was filing down the street and round the square, into the museum. The traffic was mostly held at bay by a lady policeman in green overalls with a leather belt and gun, though a few cars did manage to get through to process with the children. Most wore smart school uniform but some were dressed in various home interpretations of National Bolivian dress. The crowd was, of course, predominantly parents who were not allowed into the museum with their children, but the security guard kindly let us through and we listened to the teachers' explanation of where liberty was declared and that Bolivia has 2 papas, Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose Sucre, after whom the city was named. The situation in Potosi had worsened and spread to Oruru since our arrival in Sucre so we could not visit the silver mines there. We decided to fly a day early to Santa Cruz to ensure catching the overnight train to Brazil.
Unfortunatly due to rioting in potosi we could not go there to vist the mines and even if we got threw the riot there was nothing to do because minors were the people on strike .they were rioting because their wage was very low compared to what they were used to .this was because the place where they were mining (a giant silver ore mountain)had started to run out of silver ore and the big compainise had moved out . this mountain was mined first by the spainish supplying them with a steady flow of silver during the weaker times ,the silver was so aboundant that even the queen of england (elizabeth the first)supported and funded pirates like sir frances drake to robb these slow moveing ships and bring the treasure back to england.England was not the only people robbing the spainish pirates started appering in the cararibbean like the famous black beardand many moremaby only neading to robb one ship and live wealthy the rest of there life. so we had to go around potosi and and back to la paz there carry on our journy in sucre .this suprisinly gave us an extra day and so my dad book me and him up with a quad biking tour not knowing that the bikes were 650cc .we had a great time going over rocky tracks and going as fast as possible on the roads .when we got back with a thick layer of dust on our face we went back to mum and pretended that it realy wasnt that bad and that she would have enjoyed it.