Our stay in Potosí was short and sweet as we’d had to change our itinerary after the drama in Salta but I think the more I see of Bolivia, the more I love it!
Whenever I haven’t heard of a place, I assume it’s a small little town. Potosí has proved me very wrong! Potosí is the worlds highest city in terms of altitude at just over 4,000m above sea level. It is a city of both run down houses but with modern developments happening everywhere, all along the side of a steep mountain.
In the 17th Century, Potosí was the richest and biggest city in the world. The reason for this is because of the amount of silver mining that happens on the mountain. The silver was found by accident by a farmer who was lost and saw something glistening on the ground. Once the word spread, many people moved here and became so wealthy that they could build their own churches and chapels which is why it is possible to see one on almost every block!
On our first night we went to a restaurant called 4.060 (which I’m assuming is because it is 4,060m of altitude!) and we all ate very well! Ammun and I both went for Mexican food as it the first time we’ve had the option and although it was quite spicy, it wasn’t too much for me to handle so things are looking a bit more promising for when we go to Asia!
After 3 nights of bad sleep, I finally got the most amazing sleep ever and I felt so much better after my little bit of altitude sickness the day before. Many of us have blocked noses from altitude and a few people are starting to develop flu symptoms so I made sure to have as many of my five a day as possible at breakfast!
We stayed in the hotel until the last minute relaxing and catching up on everything that has happened in the real world in the few days that we haven’t had wifi. Although it’s nice to spend time with a group and there isn’t at least one person half on their phone and half paying attention to the conversation, it is very weird going 3 days without hearing from friends or family or seeing how my blog is doing or reading BBC news. We went for a wander to the main square, Plaza 10 de Noviembre and got some lunch, cash and flu medicine for one girl and it was such a sweet little bit of the city.
As we were about to leave, a guy in the group went around the few of us that were sat there and asked our favourite thing about Potosí. Most people said their dinner the night before but (although my dinner was incredible) I think my favourite thing was how little the city had been affected by western culture. Most of the people wore what I would describe as traditional Bolivian clothing instead of jeans and branded track suits etc. And although I’m no fashionista, I would say that the people of Potosí wear the best headwear of anywhere I’ve been. 99% of people wear hats and they are either traditional hats or woolly hats which I can only assume are made of alpaca or llama wool. It was so nice to see a place that has stuck to its roots for so long.
After a short 3 hour bus journey, we arrived in the country’s constitutional capital, Sucre. (The administrative capital is La Paz, where I’ve just arrived now.)
The first thing we did after checking into our hotel was a brief walking tour of the city’s highlights. We started in the central market which has everything from food to toys to alpaca wool clothing. We paused in the fruit section and tried some mango and chilemoya fruit. They were both so fresh and the chilemoya fruit was so sweet! Outside of the market, we were told that Sucre has the best sausage in the world. Quite a bold statement but we couldn’t really judge before we’d tried their famous Siete Lunares sausage.
We then moved to the main square, Plaza 25 de Mayo. I’ve wondered for a while why so many roads and squares are named after dates in South America but the lady told us that this square is named so because a revolution started in the square on the 25th May 1809. In the centre, there is a statue of Antonio José de Sucre who was the second president of Bolivia. If you haven’t worked it out, the city was named after him.
Our guide also told us about a Prince and Princess who came from a different country but were loved by the people of Bolivia when they adopted 60 orphaned children. Just outside of the city there is a pink palace that belonged to them. She also mentioned how important the university was to Bolivia. It was the 2nd university to open in the whole of South America in 1977.
After signing up for activities for the next few days we all went for another traditional dinner. I’m joking, we went to the Thai/Chinese restaurant that had filled our nostrils with beautiful smells the second we got off the bus! Although I have liked the food in South America, we all agreed it was nice to have something different. We then went to the shop and bought FOUR bottles of Kohlberg Malbec 2012 wine which Kike told us was hard to find as I think it is only brewed in Tarija where we stopped for dinner on our way from Salta to Uyuni. After a bottle of wine and a bottle of vodka between 5 of us, we attempted to go out to a bar. Turns out, we were too late! Instead, we somehow ended up getting drunk in Plaza 25 de Mayo with 4 teenage boys. It was all a bit weird how it happened as I was the only one of us that spoke Spanish and only one of them spoke English! We played Michael Jackson, did a lot of cheers/salut and basically communicated through the list of Spanish swear words that the guy from our group had on his phone! Although Kike and these boys had told us it was fine to drink in the park, at 3am we started to believe otherwise when the police showed up! After crossing the park three times to avoid them, we left for the hotel (getting our Sprite but not the vodka confiscated in the process) and then found out that 2 of the boys had been taken away and need to pay a 60 boliviano fine!! (About £6) I feel sorry for them but the night was so weird and hilarious!
The next day, Ammun and I released our inner dare Devils and went on a 3 hour quad bike ride in the mountains. We shared a quad bike which was fun as one of us could take pictures and we could chat and we stopped occasionally as a group to see the sights. As if that wasn’t enough adrenaline, I agreed to go on the back of a quad bike with a guy in our group who works with motorbikes and in his free time rides anything that goes fast. We went super fast and skidded sideways and overtook everyone and it was so so fun! Mum, I’m sorry for fulfilling a mothers worst nightmare.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Restaurant Florin and I ate my first Llama burger! It wasn’t too dissimilar to beef but tasted a bit lighter somehow. Would highly recommend! After our crazy night the night before, Ammun and I decided to go home for an earlier night but Kike insisted that all of us go to a bar. Most of us walked down the road to a restaurant/bar called Joy Ride and, because Kike knows the owner, we had 2-4-1 drinks all night. I don’t know what happened but somehow everyone decided to just let go and everyone’s crazy dance moves came out. There was shuffling, the running man, slut drops… You name it!
The next day we had to check out at 11 but we had the whole day still before our bus at 7pm. Sadly, I woke up with a bad cold and the constant feeling like I was going to be sick so I struggled but powered on! We first went to the market and tried some Siete Lunares which was basically just a chorizo sausage. It was very nice but I don’t think I can say it’s the best sausage in the world. Sorry Sucre. We then walked (very slowly) up the hill to La Recoleta to see the city from above. There was a church, a plaza, a small market and a cafe with cute gardens. We had a wander around and took some photos and then looked in the market for alpaca jumpers. The guys selling them we very forceful and as there wasn’t one that caught my eye, I walked away. However, while we were looking, suddenly we heard loud dog barking and then a child screaming. We looked over and it looked as though a dog had bitten a young boy in the face!! Everyone around the market watched helplessly as his family screamed and grabbed him. It was so horrible to watch and I pray that this poor boy doesn’t have rabies now as South America doesn’t have the required medicine to treat it.
Our next stop was Bolívar Park which had grassy areas, food and drink stalls and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. There was also a cute moat around the tower so I can imagine that when the tower is lit up at night, the park is swarming with overly affectionate couples. The park was named after Bolivia’s first ever president, Simón Bolívar who, again if you haven’t guessed, gave Bolivia it’s name.
Earlier in the day when we had just been using the hotel wifi, we spoke to some guys who were doing the same tour as us but in the the opposite direction and they described the night bus as being the worst bus ride ever. We all laughed in their faces and then told them about our unplanned return to Salta (which we all now refer to as ‘Fucking Salta’) because of the landslide which has still not fully been repaired! Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised by the most luxurious seats my bum has ever travelled on!! They we so wide and leaned back really far and apart from the fact I had to sit with a sick bag at the ready, I was so comfy and actually slept pretty well!
I can’t believe how fast these last 2 weeks have gone! Other than being poorly and being bitten by that bloody horse, I’m loving every minute!