We spent one night in Uyuni to relax and get some rest after three long days on the Salar de Uyuni tour. The bus terminal in Uyuni was no more than a street corner with a few offices. The bus operators shouted their destinations on the streets. We picked one and bought a ticket to Potosí for just a couple of euros.
We left Uyuni at 2 PM and within three hours we reached Potosí. The bus ride through the Bolivian mountains of the alti plano was very beautiful. The city of Potosí is the highest in the world at an altitude of 4060 meters! As it is built on many hills, we decided to take a taxi cab to our hostel. The Casa Blanca hostel was a few blocks from the main plaza. We got a private room for less than the price of the beds in a dormitory! We settled ourselves and headed out to take a look at the city. Potosí is famous for its silver mines, which have been operating since the Spanish conquistadors invaded South America. It also used to be home the Bolivia’s national mint, which is a museum nowadays. As it was a Sunday night and Easter, it took quite some time to find a restaurant that was open. I had Pique Macho again (French fries covered with sliced meat, sausages, vegetables and peppers), and it was spicy this time! We shared a bottle of Potosina: the “highest” brewed beer in the world from Potosí.
The next morning we went out to explore the city once more. The national mint museum was unfortunately closed. However, we heard about a special train that would leave for Sucre. The “truss” is a combination between a bus and a train. At the train station we couldn’t find any information about it, apart from a sign that was hidden in one of the offices. We decided to take the bus instead, being faster and probably more comfortable. We enjoyed a typical Bolivian lunch for Bs 15 (€2) per person! A maní (peanut) soup as starter and milanesa (schnitzel) as main, and not to forget with an included drink.
After our lunch we got picked up at the hostel for our tour to the silver mines. The small tour operator was run by ex-miners. We got a full set of equipment: jacket, pants, boots, helmet and a lamp. When we had changed our set of clothes we visited the miners market to buy souvenirs for the miners. We could buy coca leaves, lemonade, and dynamite (Potosí is the only place in the world where you can buy dynamite in shops). I got to try the alcohol the miners drink too: 96% pure alcohol. It tasted like fire. With a small bag of “souvenirs” we set out for the mines. For the next two hours we walked, crawled and climbed through the mines. And we got to see a small handful of miners doing their jobs. A very interesting experience. The miners work in an insanely unhealthy environment, and often die around the age of 40. They do not earn a honest wage: they have to sell the silver and minerals they collect during their days work in the mines. We concluded our day — and visit to Potosí — by having dinner in 4.060. Although it was very touristy, the food was excellent. The steak was prepared to perfection.
We left Potosí behind us halfway through the next morning. We bought two tickets to Sucre — the capital of Bolivia — at the new bus terminal of Potosí. After waiting for 45 minutes for our bus, the woman of the ticket office walked up to us with a pair of new tickets. Our seats were sold to another bus company, and we had to wait for another 30 minutes before our bus would leave. Finally on the road, the scenery was very beautiful once more. It reminded me somewhat of what I have seen in the Mediterranean. Fifteen kilometers before we reached Sucre we came to a stop. Apparently there was a strike going on, and the protestors had put up a roadblock. Everyone had to leave the bus and walk past the road block with their equipment. We got a taxi cab at the other side to the KulturBerlin hostel, where we would be staying for three nights.
Once we were checked in at the hostel, we quickly went to the market in town for a late lunch. Because of the delay due to the road block we missed our late lunch. We had another typical Bolivian lunch and returned to the hostel. There we met the two Swedish girls (who we met in Mendoza) again. We had a couple of drinks together and joined the barbecue that was being hosted by the hostel. As always it was very nice to see fellow travelers again.
The breakfast buffet in the hostel was excellent, as long as you got there early. They served a large variety of fruits, which is always nice to have at breakfast. We set out to explore the city on foot. The hostel was just a couple of blocks from the main plaza. The plaza is lined with beautiful white classical buildings. Sucre is known for its architecture and young student crowd. We explored the neighborhood for a while, but couldn’t visit any museums. Because of the siesta all museums were closed between noon and three o’clock. We visited the market again for a cheap lunch and to take a better look. The selection of goods that are for sale at the many markets stalls, dwarf many a supermarket inventory.
After the market we walked to the Parque Bolivar. According to our travel guidebook it should be surrounded by classical French architecture. The only sign of anything French we saw was a small replica of the Eiffel Tower. We returned to the hostel for a while to wait for the museums to open. We visited the Casa de la Libertad. An important place in Bolivian history: the Bolivian Declaration of Independence was signed there on August 6, 1825. It was but a small museum, and without a guided tour we missed out on a lot of background information. We went out for dinner to Florín, a restaurant with a Dutch background. It is named after the Florijn — the old Dutch gulden. There I got to try a beer made from quinoa. It tasted quite normal actually.
We saw most of Sucre yesterday, so we planned to visit a nearby attraction. We took it easy in the morning and arranged our bus tickets to our next destination at the hostel. We went to the supermarket to take a lung with us and hailed a taxi cab. After a long drive we arrived at Las Siete Cascadas — the seven cascades. Although we did only see four of the seven cascades, they were a pretty sight. We enjoyed the sandwiches we bought with the view. From the cascades we had to walk for quite a while before we could haul a taxi cab again.
At the end of the afternoon we visited Florín once more. We had some drinks and tried a typical Dutch dish: patatje oorlog. French fries covered with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and chopped onions. They did a good job preparing it! We stayed at the restaurant/bar until early evening. We returned to the hostel for a while and strolled around the streets of Sucre. We had dinner at a Churrasquería — a Bolivian twist on a steak house — in the same street as our hostel. Funnily enough we bumped into a Dutch couple we met in San Pedro de Atacama. We just said hi, and enjoyed our dinner.
For a “party hostel” the checkout was awfully early: 10 AM. Our bus wouldn’t leave until 5 PM, so there was a long day ahead of us. We didn’t plan to do any activities, thus we had to kill time differently. We spent most of the morning catching up on Dutch and international news, and got in touch with friends and family at home. We planned for a late lunch, as we wouldn’t get any food served during the bus journey. We strolled around the city for a bit, and we visited a crafts market. I bought my amazing llama sweater there as souvenir! We went by the market for one last look. Last night we passed an ice cream shop where they sell frozen yoghurt, thus we made a quick stop for some ice creams.
We had our lunch at the Joy Ride restaurant/bar. Which, like many other places in Sucre, had some connection to the Netherlands. The wife of the owner is Dutch. Angelo had a chicken satay and I got a burger. As dessert we had to try another typical Dutch dish: Bossche Bol. It was OK, but it could never be as good as the original. We stopped by the hostel to pick up our backpacks and took a taxi cab to the bus terminal. We could finally leave Sucre behind us and travel to our next destination: Samaipata.