So Saturday and Sunday turned out to be a couple of different days for me. Usually, my days are action packed, but Saturday and Sunday proved to be far from it. On Saturday, I had planned to visit the Casa de la Libertad (the Museum of Liberty), which details the history of Bolivian independence from Spain, and the Museo del Chocolate (the Chocolate Museum), but was completely sidetracked by some kind of bit on my leg.
Now I first noticed by bite (a tiny red mark) on Wednesday, the last day of my three day Salt Flats/Andes Highlands tour. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but on Thursday morning I notice it the readiness had spread and it was quite hot. Uh oh. I figured I would keep my eye on it and if it didn’t get worse, I figured I was fine. Now what was weird is that I managed to spend a week in the Amazon without a bite so I never expected anything to bite me in the frigid Andes Highlands.
Anyway, by Friday it was not better and by Saturday the redness seemed to have spread. I asked the gal at the front desk of my hotel if there was a clinic nearby where I could have someone take a look. She did one better. She called a doctor, who said he would come to the hotel in about an hour. That would take me to 10:30 so I was rapidly losing my morning.
The doctor showed up and spoke little English, but took one look and said spider bit. HUH? (Fortunately, the lady at the front desk acted as a translator.) The doctor figured I had an allergic reaction so prescribed some penicillin and a dose of allergy medicine. 200 Bolivianos later (about $28 USD) I was heading to the local pharmacy to have the prescriptions filled. (Yea that’s right $28 USD for a house call!)
Unfortunately pharmacy number 1 did not have enough penicillin pills, so I was sent down the street to the next pharmacy. I never did find that one, but remembered I had seen one a few blocks from the square so tracked down the Farmacia where the pharmacist could not have been nicer. 61 Bolvianos laster and I was on my way. By now it was 11:00 a.m. so I thought I still had time to head over to Casa de la LIbertad, but when I arrived, the museum was closed for some private event, but would be open in the afternoon.
So I figured I would try the Chocolate Museum since it had tours at 11:30 and 12:!5. I tracked down a cab, which turned out to be a shared taxi (i.e. the cabbie just keeps picking up and dropping people off), however, I managed to convey to him if he took me directly I would make it worth his while.
Now the trip was a little weird. I thought the museum would be close by. Instead we drove about 10 minutes from the downtown Sucre area, through some rather sketchy commercial and residential areas (not a tourist in site), but low and behold the young man got me to the museum.
I walked in and went upstairs to the reception area pulled out my wallet only to be told that I could not join the tour. HUH. A woman who spoke English was summoned and she explained to me that the tour was only in Spanish and it was full for the 11:30 and 12:15 tours. As a consolation prize, the woman offered me some chocolates and ordered me a cab back to the city center. (I told her I could probably manage the Spanish tour, but they wouldn’t budge.)
So no sooner had I arrived, than I was back in the cab (with chocolates) heading in horrendous traffic to the plaza. At this point, I was beginning to think that the say was a complete waste. However, once back at the square, I found a great little restaurant, Pizzeria Napolitana Restaurante, and the day seemed to be looking up. (Fantastic pizza).
After lunch, I wandered over to the Casa de la Libertad only to find it did not open for another 40 minutes. (I thought it opened at 2:00). I ended up wandering over to Helado (ice cream parlor) and order a cold ice cream drink. (It had actually been really warm in Sucre).
I wandered back to the museum and finally, it opened at 2:30. Unfortunately, the English tour did not start until 3:00 p.m. So, more waiting. Fortunately, the tour turned out to be really fantastic. We started in a room with a lot of artifacts to receive an overview of Bolvian history. The guide explained the relationship between the Spanish, the slave trade and the indiginous people none of which was particularly flattering to the Spanish. Then it was on to the Salón de la Independencia, which was originally a Jesuit chapel, where the Bolivian Declaration of Independence was signed. We were able to see the original document, which is kept in a beautiful gold case and mounted on a large granite stand. The room included huge paintings of Simón Bolívar, Hugo Ballivián and Antonio José de Sucre.
In an adjacent room, we learned about the heroes of Bolvia’s fight for independence, including a remarkable woman named Juana Azurduy de Padilla. She led large groups of indiginous peoples in the fight for independence and was posthumously awarded the title of General Field Marshal. Her remains and that of her husband Colonel Manuel Ascencio Padilla rest in the hall adjacent to the Salón de la Independencia. We also saw the original charter that established the various government branches (executive, legislative and judicial).
The last room contained the various Bolvian flags over the decades, culminating in the present national flag as well as the multi-coloured indiginous flag as well as a picture of each president of Bolivia. In addition, each room we visited contained myriad of artifacts including furniture, clothing and military weapons from the 1700s and 1800s. All in all, the tour was absolutely fantastic and the tour guide Paola was a wealth of information.
By now it was 4:30 so I wandered back to my hotel and ended up hanging outside on the deck until sunset watching the PGA championship on my computer. At this point, I was done in so called it a day.
I was up early on Sunday (and happy to report the redness around the bite was subsiding) to catch my flight to Santa Cruz, Boliva where I would be going on a two day tour of the Jesuit Missions. The flight was a quick 25 minutes and by 11:30 I was at my new hotel in Santa Cruz.
Now a unique thing about the cities in Bolivia. When it is Sunday, there is absolutely NOTHING open. It is like a ghost town (same with Uyuni last week). I did end up wandering down to the main city plaza were there were a number of stalls set up with women selling crafts and some food. I ended up buying a wonderful chicken empanada.
I wandered through the square and took in the beautiful Cathedral before stopping into a restaurant, complete with Spanish singer and had the buffet lunch (which was the only thing on the menu), which include sopa de mani (peanut soup) and was the only reason I went into the restaurant. The food turned out to be very good with the soup being my favourite.
After my late lunch, I wandered back along the deserted streets to my hotel where I watched the PGA final round on my computer and ended up falling asleep after the golf was over and did not wake up until 8:30. Definitely a couple of rather laid back days, but I was looking forward to returning to a slightly more “normal” routine.