El Mercado y La Plaza Principal – Sucre!

Colonial Bolivia Sucre Colonial Cupala Roofs-1

(l) Overlooking the courtyard of Catedral de Virgen de Guadalupe in Sucre, Bolivia

With time to kill I set out to explore Sucre. Staying in immaculately clean accommodations, the Colonial Real Hotel is is just 4 blocks from the Plaza Principal and the heart of Sucre’s bustling but tranquil government and business district. This central district is punctuated by a swash of colonial buildings. Most everything is white or whitewashed and the city is incredibly clean by South American standards. Everything is walking distance for me. And for me I have an incurable appetite for spending hours walking around South American (or any third world) markets.

Sucre Mercado Veggies

These colorful and kinetic meeting and shopping places provide locals with virtually anything they need: produce, fruit, meat, household supplies, freshly squeezed juices and quick “counter” meals. Though usually housed in large open air structures or buildings with elevated roofs to provide for ventilation, there are parts of every market where certain pungent aromas may be offensive to some. The market in Sucre is surprisingly clean. The seemingly endless vendors are packed close together and more or less clustered by product. That is, walking through one section and yours eyes will be feasted on raw meat and large animal parts hanging from hooks or sprawled out on counter tops. Butchers wield bloody knifes and don leather aprons while tender Bolivian woman colorful fashioned in traditional layered skirts neatly finished with the traditional “somebreros” resting precariously on top of their heads with braided pony tails framing round faces and big brown eyes.

Sucre Mercado Amiga

Always quick with a smile and greeting many of the vendors are quick conversationalists armed with the usual questions: Where are you from? How long will I be in Bolivia? What do I think of their country? One vegetable vendor on the upper floor gave me the okay to take her picture. Soon the adjacent vendor wanted to know why I wasn’t taking her picture. So as the camera snapped away a passing customer offered to shoot the ubiquitous shot with me and the Bolivian woman. Before I knew it the woman grabbed her hat and propped it atop of my head. Never to fall into the trap of paying people for the privilege of taking their picture, I felt compelled to purchase something. I grabbed a small ripe specimen from the top of a large pyramid of tomatoes and asked how much? After some joking and quoting ridiculous amounts of Bolivians, the woman told me it was a gift from her — for taking her picture. This was highly unusual. Typically indigenous or otherwise, people want to be paid for their photo. It’s a bad habit, but important to ask before blatantly snapping photos. Otherwise you could fall into a deep hole and be surrounded with ill will. In fact, while filming the battery magnate of Potosi, an adjacent shoe repair man mistakingly thought I was shooting pictures of his shop and his wife. His aggressive verbal attack was a bit alarming at first. I explained my plight and he withdrew.

Sucre Helados Boys Sucre Man Sucre Generations

(l to r) my students from Plaza Principal and their ice cream; (2) Indigenous man walking streets of Sucre; (3) A generation apart taken at the Recoleta in Sucre

It’s a fact of life as a traveler or a gringo in South America: expect to be solicited for everything. Compared to other cities, Sucre is tame. But walking through the plaza I soon was offered a shoe shine, hard candies, newspapers and asked for money. One boy was persistent, as most are. I told him I couldn’t read his newspaper in Spanish. Others, I explained I needed to save my money to buy a battery. Still others I simply offered marketing consultations on how to better solicit products and services. This tongue and cheek advice is always received with a smile. I teach them a few English words and help them practice. I soon had an ad-hoc school in the plaza of four young boys aged 7-12. After my lesson and rather than purchase their goods, I took them to a nearby ice cream stand and let them choose whatever they wanted. Not that these boys needed an coaching to get them smile, but with ice cream in hand they simply glowed.

Sucre Skyline

Skyline: Sucre Bolivia

Sucre IglesiaAs for the new battery for Doc, thanks to my brother a new battery should arrive by DHL by the end of the week. This means a few more days in Sucre which isn’t a bad thing. As for Jeremiah, he left Brazil nearly three weeks ago. He made his way south through Paraguay then into Northern Argentina and into Bolivia. On his way to Sucre he stopped in Potosi and connected with two of the medical staff who had helped me in Tica Tica in January. The doctor, Silvia is now working as a nurse for a boarding school outside Potosi and Moises received his doctoral credentials and plans to move to La Paz for work.

Jeremiah arrived her late last night. A bit weathered and worn. I haven’t seen him since the day he left me in Daniel Braccamante Hospital in Potosi a couple days before my evacuation. We’re discussing traveling together through Bolivia and perhaps beyond. A cheerful reunion over cold beers and perhaps the

Bolivian Flag Sucre

best meal I’ve had on this entire trip — and that includes the first ‘leg’ — at a Churrasqueria called El Chaqueno. For those travelers to Bolivia who stumble on this site, do yourself a favor and go way off the beaten track of downtown Sucre and find El Chaqueno. it’s on Avenida Rene Barrientos 749 in the Barrio Petrolero. Well worth the trek. For $4 each we had a huge prime steak, two large 1L Huari beers, amazing potatoes, salad and rice cooked with a tad of cheese. Delicious.

I’m planning on borrowing Jeremiah’s battery and making another trip to Potosi tomorrow. This way I can get the bike in Sucre and have a chance to do basic maintenance and repair a few odds and ends. When the battery arrives I’ll be ready to tackle Bolivia — and the Salar de Uyuni.

Sucre Paper Boy Sucre Lovers

One of the Plaza “paper boys” and Bolivian lovers using the Plaza for what’s best.

note: click photos for larger images!

4 replies
  1. Johnny A
    Johnny A says:

    Way to go Jonathan! Just last night, Kendra said, “…can’t someone ship Allan a new battery?” Glad to hear that you’re doing a little ‘re-entry acclaimation’ down there Allan before hitting the dusty trail.

  2. Venturello
    Venturello says:

    Back in business!! Great report, hope you get back on Doc soon. Thanks (as usual) for sharing with us what is, for many of us, a dream. Take care,
    Juan Miguel Venturello

  3. Jonathan Karl
    Jonathan Karl says:

    Johnny A,
    Thanks for the good word, but, well … There’s been a glitch with the battery.
    I ordered the battery for Allan from the folks at http://www.batteryweb.com on Monday afternoon. The owner, Dave, said he would try to get the battery out to DHL Monday night. If Dave had done that, Worldrider would probably be powered up and on his way.
    Dave seemed like a great guy; he checked out the Worldrider website and wrote Allan an email on how he might be able to bring the dead battery back to life. He knew Allan was stranded and seemed like he wanted to help out.
    But …
    I got a call on Tuesday morning from Jeremy at http://www.batteryweb.com. He said the DHL number I had given them was not correct. I was a little alarmed, worried that we’d missed day, but I gave him my AMEX number and asked Jeremy to use that. We lost a day, but at least the battery was now on its way to Bolivia and World Rider would soon be on his way.
    Not so fast.
    On Wednesday I emailed batteryweb to ask for the DHL tracking number. No response. Allan e-mailed. No answer.
    On Thursday morning, I called batteryweb. No answer. So, I emailed again. No answer.
    By Thursday afternoon, I called again and asked for Dave. “He’s not in the office,” I was told. Jeremy picked up the phone: “Your battery is going out today via UPS.”
    What? The battery hasn’t gone out yet??
    UPS takes twice as long as DHL to get to Bolivia … I had explained this to Dave. Why had the battery not gone out yet? I had ordered three days earlier.
    I couldn’t believe it. Jeremy said it was all because I gave them the wrong DHL number on Monday. I asked for Dave, the owner. Jeremy put me on hold for several minutes. I hung up and called back. Hold. Again. Hold. Finally, Dave picked up the phone. Dr. Jekyll had turned into Mr. Hyde.
    “The reason why I started me own business,” he told me, “is so I don’t have to deal with #@#%&s like you.” I protested: “But my brother is stranded. Can you please get this out today —” Click.
    So much for http://www.batteryweb.com.
    By now it was 4:30 Thursday afternoon. Fortunately, I got ahold of some very helpful people at Bob’s BMW in Maryland. They packed up a battery and got it on a DHL truck within and hour.
    The battery, we hope, is on its way. We have a DHL tracking number … and we are told it will be there Wednesday.
    Enjoy Bolivia for another week, Worldrider!

  4. Joseluis
    Joseluis says:

    Thanks, Dalene. It was a good birthday I get the irepmssion there are lots of holidays and festivals in Bolivia . well, actually ALL of Latin America now that I think about it.Stephanie The Travel Chica recently posted..


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