Saturday, February 25, 2012

Three Days Of Carnival In Sucre

Do you want to get bombarded by water balloon, blasted by super soakers, have pails of water dumbed on you from over head balconies, get sprayed relentlessly with some type of spray foam, watch small rowdy random groups of people march in the street banging drums, blasting horns and getting wasted on Liche de Tigre. Well Sucre during Carnival is the place for you.

Sucre was one of the towns I was looking forward to visiting for a long time. I heard great things about it from so may travellers I was pretty excited all things considered. However, on the list of great colonial towns in Latin America it was a bit of a lunch bag let down. After a gut check in the chaos that was the La Paz bus terminal, a sleepless 14 hour overnight bus ride to Sucre, a hostel room that was confirmed then no available and now the Sucre let down, my mettle was now being severely tested. Time for a very cold beer.

Sucre does have great colonial buildings, outstanding churches and squares and an archway into the main square which reminded me of Antigua Guatemala. However this was once the capital of Bolivia so it has smog belching buses, electrical wires that are nested on every home and utility pole, broken sidewalks, rutted streets and more cars then are absolutely necessary. I was just getting into hating the place when I was pelted with my first water balloon. Gringo, welcome to carnival yelled a kid with a huge grin and no more that 15 years old. It was then I took a few minutes and notices the real chaos that I was surrounded by.

On every corner possible there were people selling bags of water balloons. Shops selling the biggest super soakers I have ever seen and beer, lots and lots of beer. I was just wandering getting into the mood when I got blasted by a stream of water and no sooner did I turn around to see a shop owner laughing I was then drenched from above by a bucket of water. Oh man this is just stupid fun. Have you ever gotten hit in the back of the head by a water balloon tossed with great velocity, it freaking hurts..well for about a nano second.

This is what I endured for three days. Everyone was into it .I saw a young kid no more than 5 get blasted point blank in the face and she looked stunned for a second and then just giggled. The various roving bands of people marching in the streets likes packs of wolves was cool but they all played the same freaking song over and over. I did notice that some of the lads were pretty smashed, I mean fall down and cant get up drunk and it was still early afternoon. I could not reason why until I found it. Leche de tigre, Tigers milk. This is some type of bitter milky native moonshine sold in open litre bottles for about a buck. I needed to see what the fuss was all about. Well I am no rookie when it comes to having a drink, but holy mother of god. I had maybe 6 ounces and I could actually feel myself loosing the ability to speak. I gave the bottle to the closest drunk guy, focused and went  home to bed. It was about 7 and I slept right through the night.

As I said, this went on for the three days I was there and by the third day it was getting kind of old. The locals were just having the time of their lives. I visited the crazy market when I got heaps of food for about $2, a few churches just to escape the water barrage, might have even prayed to have it stop, escaped the central core and found some great cobblestone side streets and enjoyed it the best I could all things considered. I will not lie and say I was pretty happy when it was time to leave. I had a bus ticket to La Paz and was anxious to get my shit together and plan my trip back to Canada.

One small passage about the Sucre Bus station and the overnight bus ride back to La Paz. The Sucre terminal is smallish but don't let that fool you, they have orderly chaos down to a science. I dropped my bag off at the company office and went for the standard friend chicken and fries dinner. I had a few hours. My bus left at 7 30 from aisle 9. I double and triple checked that this was the case. I was assured go to aisle 9 at 7 15. Well there were buses from 5 different companies leaving every 15 minutes to La Paz. The chaos and the gringo fear was all around me and made for great television.

Different bus companies were leaving from different departure aisles and my company Copacabana was leaving from 9. All was cool. The I noticed the long rope with the gaff hook hanging over the second floor. They were taking bags from the second floor and lowering them to be loaded one floor below. It worked and was a bit mesmerizing to say the least. Well the 7 15 buses left and the 7 30s pull in. You guessed it, Copacabana pulled into both number 9 and 10. Whoo hoo, this was going to be excellent. There were a couple German girls on the verge of tears, a Norwegian couple that looked an me, shrugged and said well this should be interesting. I like travel veterans.

Being a bit confused but assured I was set to leave from row 9, I got on the bus to find my seat 1A occupied. A brief and friendly talk with the native had me realize that this bus was Semi Cama, I was on the Cama bus leaving from number 10. Hell of course, all the reassurances I received from the company office would mean nothing and I should have know that. What is a guy to do. The Norwegians who were in the same predicament that I was, and I figured lets just watch for our bags to come over the top and what ever bus they  go on, that is the bus we would go on. It was pretty fun to say the least. Finally my crappy Chinese red and black not going to last a month rucksack come over the top and where did it go. On bus number 10 of course. In I went and settled into my seat. Next stop Lap Paz, 7 am.

Once on board I was informed that there was no heat and that there were two broken windows on the bus. I was given a blanket to keep warm. Remembering we are at 11 000 to 12 000 ft it was going to be cold. I had my fleece and jacket pulled up tight, the blanket over me. There was an older lady sitting next to me with her kid of about 5 on her lap. She offered me a drink of something hot and sweet from her thermous and I happily took it.

After all we were all in this together.

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