Friday, June 24, 2011

To Sucre

There’s official time and there’s Bolivian time. If, for example, you’re told that a bus journey will take 14 hours, you can safely assume that this means 18. Leaving Santa Cruz behind to move to Sucre, I’m informed that the overnight bus will be in Sucre (still the constitutional capital of Bolivia) by 7am so I anticipate a noon arrival. It’s a 17 hour journey and within an hour of being on the bus I’m being squeezed from the front and behind for good measure - the prick sitting in front of me has already reclined his seat fully and there’s a kid sitting on his Dad’s lap behind me and is kicking my seat with monotonous regularity. There’s not much that you can do on a 17 hour bus journey but grin and bear it. There are roughly three stages to a bus journey like this;
1. Stage I - The ‘Wow, it feels wonderful to be on the road again, getting the chance to see the countryside pass me by and seeing the locals go about their business on the charming villages which litter the route’ stage.
2. Stage II - The ‘Christ, I’ve only been on the bus for 7 hours, I can’t sleep even though everybody on the bus seems to be in a deep slumber except for the child behind me who is still kicking the back of my seat with the aforementioned monotonous regularity and when do we get to stop to take a piss?’ stage.
3. Stage III - The ‘Only 5am in the fucking morning - wasn’t it 4.30am three hours ago - driving through yet another tedious fucking village, 7 hours from our destination, neck and back no longer on speaking terms, unsure of whether I’d rather eat or vomit’ stage.
All of this and a road surface which must surely have been used for quality control testing of landmines mean that by the time I get to Sucre (not long before noon strangely enough), all I want to do is leave again. But Sucre is wonderful, a beautiful old city with magnificent colonial buildings, dazzling whitewashed facades and a little bit of history around every corner. In common with most Bolivian cities it also has a wonderful central plaza where the young and the beautiful sit around (and me too) eating ice-cream and sipping on freshly squeezed orange juice. There’s a fantastic market where you can sit and drink freshly squeezed juices for the day if you so wish.
Now that I’ve left the security of Santa Cruz, it’s sink or swim time with my Spanish. On arrival in Sucre, tired and grumpy I make my way to the hotel and will have to utter my first official words in Spanish without having someone there behind me to clarify that what I’ve just said was indeed Spanish. I’ve even visualised the scene a few times, strolling into the foyer, casually enquiring; “Tienen habitaciones libres para dos noches?” However, by the time I get there not even I understand what comes out of my mouth, yet somehow I’m understood and I leave the reception, key in hand feeling like the road to fluency will be a short one. I almost feel like going back to reception and engaging the receptionist in a breezy conversation but, hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Mañana, quizá mañana.

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