Bolivia: Entry 5

8 December 2002: Sucre, Bolivia

Subject: Bolivia

Still in Sucre

We're still in Sucre but will be leaving tommorrow morning to go to Potosí, the famous city that was once the fourth largest in Christendom when its mines were producing more silver than the rest of the world put together.

La Glorietta

Yesterday we went to see La Glorietta, another "Versailles of the Americas" built in the 1890s by a Tin Baron. It is somewhat run down, but not totally neglected, and it could even be that some of it is being restored. It has some lovely guilded ceilings with carved bat motifs on them, parquet floors that would look great with just a bit of pollish, three quaint-looking towers and some pleasure gardens. I reckon it needs a gang of people who know how to plaster and fix roofs to come and spend a week's "working holiday" on it.


Today, for a change, we went a bit further afield to Tarabuco. Guess what. It has a famous market on Sundays, full of weaving....

The journey there was quite interesting. We were supposed to go on a tourist bus organised by the place where we were staying, but by ten the previous night it hadn't got back from that day's excursion, so it was cancelled. So we ended up sharing a taxi with six Bolivians. It took me some time to work out exactly what was peculiar about the vehicle: although the driver was sat behind the steering wheel on the left hand side, the dashboard (speedo etc) was in front of the passenger on the right hand side!!!! Yes, this was an imported second-hand Japanese car that had been "converted" for left-hand-drive operation, moving only the most important bits!

Anyway the drive - about and hour and a half - progressed uneventfully, and the driver was actually quite good by recent standards, until we heard the distinctive hiss of a flat tyre. Oh no we thought, now we're going to have to wait at the side of the road for hours until they can fix it or some overloaded lorry turns up that we can clamber on board to finish the journey. I was even more pessemistic when we realised that there was a spare wheel but no jack. But no! These Bolivians aren't the sort of wimps who need a mechanical advantage to lift a car. A suitable large rock was selected from the side of the road and three people, two of them random passers-by, lifted the car up while the driver put the rock underneath. The wheel was changed in no time and we finished the journey without further incident.

The market was interesting. Most of the stuff that was for sale was old: ponchos, mantas and the like that presumably people have got down from the attic now they know that tourists like them. There is quite a range of designs, and it is likely that quite a lot of them specific to particular small villages or areas where weaving has since died out. The three or so styles that you can buy newly-made are probably only the tip of the iceberg of what existed fifty or a hundred years ago. Anyway, we made a few purchases....