Through Sucre to Potosi, Bolivia
Date: Lodging: Distance: Total:
02/09/2001 Hotel Colonial 497 KM 207923 KM

On our drive to Potosi, we passed through gorgeous Andean Mountains, where vegetation lessened as we climbed higher. This still-in-use suspension bridge dates back to the Colonialists.

Thousands of people attended the Festival of Santa Rosa, but we saw no foreigners there besides us. We were prey for pickpockets. Jim’s phone was stolen when he was in a maddening thick crowd and my bag was slit with a knife, but fortunately my additional interior pocket kept the knife-wielding thief empty handed. A tag team used an old trick on me: someone poured a sticky sauce on my arm, another pointed this out to me and the third thief cut my bag while I was distracted. Since we were going from Sucre to Potosi in a taxi, we couldn't leave our belongings in the car, as we would normally have done. We were both furious over Jim’s robbery and the attempted one on me.

Many people in Bolivia continue to extol the positive effects of the unprocessed coca leaf. It is legal here and they have been using coca leaves for hundreds of years since coca has been proven harmless and even beneficial in its unrefined state.

The matador at the Santa Rosa festival

Jim tries the traditional Bolivian alcoholic drink called chicha.

We visited the Festival of Santa Rosa, taking place 20 minutes from Sucre towards Potosi, where we will spend the night. The festival was packed with vendors selling the likes of ponytail holders, as pictured here, food – especially popular was pig – and plenty of juices and sodas. The highlight for the locals was the bullfight.

A tree indigenous to Sucre, which looks much like a jacaranda

La Recoleta, a Franciscan church and monastery founded in 1601, was one of the earliest religious structures in Sucre.

17th century Cathedral – Sucre is known as a must-visit for fans of colonial religious architecture, but we found most of the extraordinary cathedrals locked even on Sunday.

A member of the band with his “Real Capital” drum – the fact that La Paz is the legal capital, although not the actual one, isn't lost of the Sucrenses.

Males wear traditional boots, which sound of clamorous tap shoes due to the metal pieces that click together, and carry leather whips as they practice their moves for the upcoming festival.

A Sucrense plays his horn during festival practice.

Sucre residents, who call themselves Sucrenses, practice for an upcoming festival. Females dance in the front followed by fewer, but showier male dancers in the rear.

From La Paz, we flew to Sucre, since we regretted not seeing “Bolivia’s most beautiful city”, according to so many locals. Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, but for the last 100 years, La Paz has become the unofficial executive and legislative headquarters. This colonial structure was once the official capital of the country, but now it is the local capital building.

2 September 2001 – After touring Sucre, we took a taxi to the Festival of Santa Rosa, 15 kilometers outside of town. Here, thousands of people shopped, walked and socialized among the hundreds of small stalls selling produce, goods and ready-to-eat meals. Jim and I love this kind of scene, filled with energy, excitement and movement.

While walking through a packed square on the way to the bullfight, I noticed for a third time, the same woman in front of me and wondered what was going on. Then a man tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out that I had some kind of thick sauce on my sweater sleeve. I did what I was supposed to do – I began to rub off the sauce with Jim’s handkerchief and then I noticed that woman in front of me again. I was a target for a team of pickpockets. Then I saw the sauce on the back of Jim’s jacket and knew someone was preying on us. Jim checked his jacket and I felt through my bag. We missed nothing – so far. Again, the same woman, with short brown hair wearing a tan sweater and pants, stood before me. A large shawl draped around her upper body covered her hands and I grabbed them to see if she carried the sauce poured on us as a distracting ploy. Her hands held nothing and I felt paranoid, foolish and guilty for assuming she was a thief. No matter, I wanted to get out of the packed scene and we walked briskly, as quickly as possible in a mad pack, to the bullfight. Jim made a call on his cell phone. If only he hadn't pulled out such a prize.

I continued to have a shaky feeling over that reappearing woman. I even warned Jim not to enter the tight crowd at the fence surrounding the bullfight, but I suppose he thought I was overly suspicious, as he walked right into the mob so he could see the matador tempt the bull. Planted in an open area, I found myself looking left and right knowing the woman would appear again, and at that moment, I saw her standing to my left with another woman. Wanting to show her I knew she was up to something, I walked and stood beside her looking directly into her eyes. Right then, Jim came towards me, “My phone’s been stolen”. Immediately he began walking back and forth searching for anyone with a phone. I used my phone to call his hoping we would hear the programmed Ode to Joy ring. After several seconds I looked to find that the woman-thief had vanished. I now realized she had pointed out Jim to a fellow thief, so he or she could steal his phone. By now, Jim no longer thought I was paranoid!

On our departure through the crammed walkways, cluttered with pig parts and juice concoctions for sale, I kept my bag in front of my body feeling inside to make sure nothing was missing. (I normally would not have taken the bag into such a crowded scene, but neither Jim nor I knew of this festival and jumped to attend via a taxi when we heard it was taking place.) Then I discovered a sliced six-inch gash in my bag! Someone in the group of thieves had used a knife to cut my bag in an attempt to rob me. Fortunately my camera and other things are zipped inside an interior pocket, so when the pickpocket put her hand into the opening, she found not a thing.

My heart raced knowing someone wielded a knife trying to rob me. And, of course, Jim was angered and shocked over the loss of his phone. Both of us felt violated, and yes, even foolish, for allowing the pickpockets to prey upon us. But as Jim pointed out to me later, “If a stolen phone and a sliced bag are the worse things that happen to us on this trip, we will be the lucky ones.”

Sucre and Festival of Santa Rosa
  Sucre - Part 2 (Jim)
  Potosi (Jim)
  Sucre - Part 1(Jim)