Sucre, Bolivia’s Constitutional Capital

Founded by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, Sucre’s historic rise and decline was linked to the  Potosi silver mine. With its year’s round mild climate and lower altitude (2,800 metres), Sucre was the preferred place of residence for the wealthy involved with Potosi’s silver trade.

Sucre is Bolivia’s constitutional capital and home of the high court (La Paz is Bolivia’s seat of government). Sucre is also the capital of Chuquisaca Department. With its historic buildings, museums, good restaurants and pleasant climate, Sucre is a popular place to visit and stay. After Santa Cruz, Sucre became my home for four weeks this March as I took Spanish lessons (gracias Faby!) and enjoyed the atmosphere of the city in general and The Beehive Hostel in particular.

Sucre’s Mercado Central (Central Market) was a regular destination with its fruit and vegetable, general produce and juice stalls.

Sucre, Bolivia

One of many juice stalls lined up next to each other at Mercado Central Continue reading

Tropical Relief in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Being bedridden with altitude sickness in La Paz, I knew I had to escape to a lower altitude. My chosen destination was Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s second largest metropolitan area and home to the country’s largest international airport. Viru Viru International Airport lies away from city centre and on the taxi ride in, I saw several rhea, large flightless birds related to the emu and ostrich.

Santa Cruz is in Bolivia’s tropical lowlands and shares the same climate classification as Darwin, Australia. Although Bolivia is famous for its high altitude, two-thirds of Bolivia’s land mass is actually lowland.

Santa Cruz, Bolivia

The city of Santa Cruz as seen from my approaching plane Continue reading

Bolivia’s Constitutional Referendum, 21 February 2016 and the Evo Morales Personality Cult

On Sunday the 21st of February, Bolivia held a constitutional referendum. The referendum determined if the 2009 constitution should be modified to allow the president and vice president to serve third terms. President Evo Morales, after winning the 2015 election, could then nominate for the 2020 election and serve until 2025 should he win. Although Morales was serving his third term at referendum time, his first term did not count as it began in 2006, prior to the 2009 constitution.

Bolivian 2016 Constitutional Referendum

An advert promoting referendum participation on the back page of the BoA airline magazine Continue reading

Mount Chacaltaya, Moon Valley and Altitude Sickness – La Paz, Bolivia Part 2

While in La Paz in mid February, I took a day tour to Mount Chacaltaya and Moon Valley. Little did I know what was to follow.

Mount Chacaltaya’s peak is more than 5,400 metres high. From La Paz the road is narrow and windy, passing landscapes both stunning and stark. The road ends at 5,300 metres where there is a refuge. My tour group experienced a bumpy voyage to the refuge in an ill-suited van. From the refuge one must hike to the top.

Chacaltaya was the world’s highest altitude ski resort until its glacier melted. Now the mountain hosts an observatory and is a tourist attraction. On clear days the views are amazing. The views this day were obscured by cloud, as is more likely during the summer wet season. In contrast, winter is colder and drier.

Mount Chacaltaya, Altitude Sickness, BoliviaThe narrow road up Mount Chacaltaya Continue reading

An Amazingly Situated City – La Paz, Bolivia

From Carnival in Cochabamba, in mid-February I caught a day bus to La Paz, Bolivia’s political (but not judicial) capital and most famous city.

Bolivian buses often feature salespeople temporarily coming on board to sell their wares, usually drinks or snacks. However, I have also been in the audience of a man selling a tonic (ginseng?) and cookbooks and a boy busker singing. On the Cochabamba-La Paz bus I bought Charque de Llama from a woman. Charque de Llama is a traditional Bolivian meal featuring dried llama meat, white cheese, corn kernels, boiled potato and hard boiled egg.

La Paz, Bolivia

Charque de Llama on the bus from Cochabamba to La Paz

The road to La Paz passes by spectacular Andes scenery and high mountain passes, including one over 4,500 metres above sea level, or twice as high as Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko. Continue reading

Carnival in Cochabamba, Bolivia: a Riot of Colour, Movement and Sound

Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia. Cochabamba is in the Andes but located in a valley so it’s altitude is only 2,500 metres. The city is not on the main tourist trail although it does have a Jesus statue larger than Rio de Janeiro’s. I did not come to Cochabamba for the statue but for the 2016 Carnival festival, as Cochabamba has Bolivia’s second best Carnival, after Oruro’s.

Carnival centred on a parade that went around the city’s centre. Along the route temporary stands were built just for this day, Saturday the 13th of February. I sat in a stand next to a television station’s event broadcast facility. Seats were expensive in Bolivian terms and many locals peered through the stands to glimpse the festivities. It was a hot and sunny day and the parade went for almost 12 hours, making the performers in their often heavy costumes sweat.

The parade featured dancing troupes interspersed by big bands. Some of the groups had practised all year in preparation for the day while others were not so polished. All participants were having fun, despite the heat.

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

A kid spraying foam at an already drenched victim. Note the swimming goggles to protect his eyes

Spraying foam is only legal in Bolivia during Carnival time and kids (and some adults) had a great time spraying others and deploying water balloons and other weapons. I managed to avoid serious attack.

2016 Carnival, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Outrageous costumes featured in Cochabamba’s Carnival parade Continue reading

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Cochabamba, Bolivia: Long Bus Rides, Carnival and Amazing Andes Scenery

On the seventh of February, from Ushuaia at the very bottom of Argentina, I flew three hours north to Buenos Aires. The next day I caught a bus to La Quiaca, Jujuy Province, a town bordering Bolivia at the very top of the country. Carnival in Bolivia was calling!

The Balut bus took 31 hours to reach La Quiaca as rain, blocked roads and the Andes mountains took their toll. The Andes may have slowed the journey but they also provided stunning views.

Argentina to Boliva Andes

A diversion caused by a blocked road in northern Argentina

Argentina to Boliva Andes

A disused railway line next to a swollen river and an Andes mountain range Continue reading