After finishing up our Salt Flats trip in Uyuni, our next destination was Sucre, Bolivia. After being constantly on the go for quite some time, we were looking forward to spending a decent chunk of time in one place and taking things a bit slower. We had heard good things about the city itself and it is also an extremely popular and affordable place to take Spanish classes. Pravin signed up for a week of classes, and I was excited to spend a week poking around town, and had great plans to take advantage of the well-equipped kitchen in our Airbnb and cook some dishes from home that we had been missing.
As luck would have it, I came down with a terrible stomach bug, and didn't manage to eat much of anything all week, let alone cook. The only bright side was that we had a nice place to stay - it would have been miserable to feel ill all week in a bunk bed in a dorm so if I had to get sick, our own apartment was the best place to be.
Fortunately, Pravin was kept occupied with learning Spanish grammar at school, doing homework in the evenings, and eating his way through the local market in the afternoons.
The market food was plentiful and cheap, and Pravin tried a bit of everything. Most dishes were $2-4 CAD, and consisted of several types of potatoes, beef or pork, rice, and a garnish of fresh veggies. Some of the highlights were soltero, mondongo, simples, salteñas and picante de pollo. The other favourite at the market was the fresh jugos, or juices. For $1-2 CAD, you get your choice of delicious tropical fruits blended into a smoothie made with either water or milk. The best part was that once you finished your first glass, the juice lady would then pour the rest of the blender's contents into your glass for another full serving!
After seven days in Sucre, we went six hours northwest to Cochabamba by night bus.
The highlight of our time in Cochabamba was catching a big fútbol match in the local stadium. We actually didn't know about the game at first, but as we were exploring the city we passed the stadium and saw tons of people hawking tickets outside. I approached a local girl about our age who had just purchased tickets, and quickly checked in with her to find out how much we would be paying and to make sure that the tickets would be legitimate. $50 CAD later, we had tickets to that night's Copa Libertadores match between Bolivia's Jorge Wilstermann club and Brazil's Palmeiras club.
The stadium itself could not have been any more bare-bones - no running water and bare cement seats all around. No running water meant that you flushed the bathroom toilets with a bucket, and also that there were no food stalls, only local women selling their cooking on portable stoves set up on the floor.
However, we had a great time at the game! There was a large brass band at each end of the field in the stands, and the enthusiastic fans would unravel rolls of toilet paper into the air and set off coloured smoke bombs at every possible opportunity. Each time Bolivia scored, the noise was deafening and the pitch would become obscured by the amount of newspaper strips flying through the air in celebration. There were many, many Brazilians in town for the game, and although Palmeiras was favoured to win, the vast majority of the crowd was overjoyed when the hometown Wilstermann club came away with a 3-2 victory at the end.
Aside from fútbol, we also couldn't pass up the opportunity to see the world's second largest Jesus statue, Cristo de la Concordia (34m tall). Normally there is a chairlift that runs to the top of the hill on which the statue is located, but due to a recent mechanical fire, the chairlift was out of operation. We couldn't fathom climbing the 2,000 steps in the hot mid-day sun, so we simply took a taxi to the top of the hill. The statue was indeed quite large, but even more impressive was the view of the city. Although truth be told, the highlight of the afternoon was probably the ice cream we had at the top!