Monthly Archives: November 2016

Santiago General Cemetery – Night Tour

Having explored the Santiago General Cemetery with Tours4Tips on the Santiago Offbeat tour and returned to wander around by myself about a week later, I decided to visit a third time to join the Night Tours that run several nights per week.  

When the time finally rolled around, I have to admit I didn’t feel like getting off the couch to go (reading an awesome book!) but I’m so very glad I did 🙂

There were about 60 of us for the tour (maximum number=100; I was the only gringo), meeting at the main entrance to the cemetary on Av. La Paz.   After 45 minutes of stuffing around doing who knows what (I bought my book with me to read 🙂 ) and, I suspect, waiting for it to get darker, we met our guide for the evening – the ancient Franciscan monk.

Santiago General Cemetery - night tour

He was a very cool guide with an appropriately somber/nightmarish tone and an evil cackle 🙂   He was also surprisingly spritely and set a cracking pace as we journeyed through the mausoleums to the different points of interest.

I had actually booked the premium tour – “Cuentos Urbanos” – which was a mixture of Chilean history, architecture, sculpture, and ghost stories that were played out amongst the tombstones and mausoleums by actors from the local theatre company: Compañía de Teatro “La Recoleta”. 

One was “La Catalepsia” – the story of a woman with Catalepsy who, because her family thought she was dead, was buried alive.  But when they opened the grave some time later, she was gone…

Santiago General Cemetery - night tour

Another was “El Vampiro” – a love story … of sorts.

Santiago General Cemetery - night tour

Then we chased “La Llorona” through the exceptionally dark Capilla Verde (Green Chapel), which housed several other actors that jumped out of dark corners and made sudden noises to scare the bejeezus out of us 🙂

It was a lot of fun stumbling around the cemetery in the dark after our Franciscan monk, who was further aided by other cloaked figures standing in the shadows. And I’m sure that part of the reason it was so fun was because our monk had a truly awesome sense of humour and really got into his creepy role.

The only issue with the tour was that 60 people is a lot, and we were constantly jostling with each other to be near our monk so we could hear well and see what was going on.  I was actually a bit surprised that people didn’t trip over regularly given the uneven surfaces and obstacles that are prevalent in an old cemetery.  It would be much better if they limited the numbers (on the premium tour at least) to a maximum of 25.  They could even double the price and it would still be totally worth it.

 

Recommendation:  I had a lot of fun on this tour, though your spanish needs to be good to do it.   Fortunately the Monk didn’t speak like a Chilean so he was quite easy to understand and he had a microphone pack so you could hear him.  

You have to be over 18 years old and it is a good idea to book in advance as it seems to be a very popular outing – especially as a “date night” for Chilean couples!

Cost:  5000CLP (~AUD$10)

Time:  The tour itself went for 1.5 hours, but there was 45 minutes of waiting around at the beginning…  I suspect that was because they were waiting for it to get darker

Santiago Metro

I’ve always been a big fan of the Santiago metro.  It get you most of the places you want to go – especially if you are a tourist – it’s clean, it’s pretty cheap and efficient.   OK – it gets bloody crowded during peak hour, but then which public transport system doesn’t suffer under these circumstances.

The main problem is during summer – especially on Line 1 (the main line) – where they really struggle to keep it cool.   Love their “solution” for the platforms – spray mist over passengers 🙂

Santiago Metro

Photo clearly not taken during peak hours

Santiago General Cemetery

I’m not usually one to wander around cemeteries (despite many people loving them for photo opportunities), but I was fascinated by the Santiago General Cemetery after I was introduced to it through Tours4Tips on the Santiago Offbeat tour.  For a start, it is one of the biggest cemeteries in Latin America, covering 85 hectares and estimated to have over 2 million burials, including most of Chile’s most famous souls.   

The thing that actually brought me back was I wanted to spend more time wandering around looking at the amazing architecture and sculptures that are found within the cemetery.   I actually entered through the main entrance this time (not the entrance close to the Cementerios Metro Station), which is fronted by the Plaza de la Paz (Peace Plaza).  Quite the entrance!

Santiago General Cemetery

Main entrance – Santiago General Cemetery

Santiago General Cemetery

Amazing statues in the Plaza de la Paz

This entrance immediately puts you in the heart of the beautiful, old part of the cemetery.  The massive mausoleums here were constructed by the very rich families of the late 1800s and early 1900s, who made most of their wealth through saltpetre mining back in the day.   You can find all sorts of different architectures here, many of which were designed by a handful of masters – it really is amazing to wander around these magnificent structures.  

Santiago General Cemetery mausoleums

Incredible architecture of the mausoleums in the old part of Santiago General Cemetery

Contrast this with the “highrise” graves of more regular people, who even then consolidate multiple burials in the one place to keep costs down (and to have the family all in one place I assume).

Santiago General Cemetery

“Highrise” graves of more regular people. There are 3 floors in each tower, each of which are 4 graves high

The Capilla Verde (a public space) is a fancier looking version of this type of burial, and was built in the 1900s (the same time as the immense mausoleums) to house the remains of those that could not afford such opulence.  No, they don’t make them like they used to!

Santiago General Cemetery

There are also plenty of underground tombs – so you do really have to watch where you are walking!

Santiago General Cemetery

The Santiago General Cemetery is actually a city within a city, complete with plenty of tree-lined streets.

Santiago General Cemetery

And corner stores.

Santiago General Cemetery

Although most of Chile’s most famous historical figures are buried here, the memorial of Salvadore Allende (who was ousted as President of Chile in 1973 in the coup of Augusto Pinochet) is perhaps the most visited.  

Santiago General Cemetery

Memorial for Salvador Allende in Santiago General Cemetery

There is also a stone plaque with the following passage from Allende’s final speech (translated) to the nation over Radio Magallanes.  

“Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again where free men will walk to build a better society.”

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to do one of the Cemetery tours that are offered during the week, but even so – it is a fascinating place to walk around.  You can also grab a couple of self-guided tours from the website (19th Century and 20th Century) to help!

And don’t worry that people will think you are disrespectful if you walk around taking photos – nobody looks at you weirdly at all, and often you find people having parties with their buried loved ones 🙂

Cuarteto Latinoamericano

I’ve always loved classical music but rarely do I find myself listening to it (though I love it when I do), and even more rarely do I go and see it performed live.   I think the last time was a few years ago when I went to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing their free Summer Concerts at the Myer Music Bowl.

So when I arrived in Santiago and saw that one of the most famous Latino Quartets was playing – Cuarteto Latinoamericano – I figured “why not”.  

Actually, the most concerning thing was what to wear given my extremely meager travel-clothes pickings!  Scraped together an outfit – black skirt, black top, red shawl (shoes are the hardest) and added the latest piece of jewelry that I purchased on the streets of Santiago for $4 just 2 days ago.  Quite fitting no?

Santiago Jewelry

It was a fairly short concert at the Nescafé Theatre of the Arts (yes, you read that correctly), where they played relatively contemporary compositions from Latin American composers.    My favourite was “Gavota” by Manuel M. Ponce (México)  though I was truly intrigued by some of the techniques they employed to perform one of the other pieces – including using the violin and cello essentially as drums!

Cuarteto Latinoamericano

Although more a fan of Haydn, Mozart, Bach, etc – it was very nice to hear some classical music played exceptionally well.  Need to do this more often!

Air Supply Concert – Movistar Arena – Santiago

One thing you quickly realise as you travel through Central America on public transport, is that these countries seem to have a bit of an obsession with Air Supply – an Australian band from the 1970s and 80s.   You are almost guaranteed to hear at least one of their songs on any bus you travel on, and there was this weird experience I had in Nicaragua where they were the subject of one of the questions in a Pub Quiz!  You almost never hear about them in Australia, and haven’t done so for probably 20 years, but in Latin America…

Now, I admit, I was a massive Air Supply fan when I was a kid, and I spent innumerable hours karaokeing to my “Air Supply’s Greatest Hits” cassette tape in my bedroom, way before karaoke was even a thing!   So when I saw they were playing in Santiago only a few days after I was originally going to leave town, I decided to extend my stay so I could go see them live.   Because, well, why not 🙂

Air Supply concert - Santiago, Chile

There was actually quite a decent crowd at the Movistar Arena for the concert – not quite full, but not far off it.  And they went waaaaaay crazier than I expected when Russell and Graham came onto the stage.   After all, Air Supply sing love ballads – they aren’t exactly a rock band.

Air Supply concert - Santiago, Chile

But the crowd was totally into it!  And not necessarily who you might think.  For example, of the couple on my left-hand side – the woman was clearly enjoying the concert but it was her husband that was singing his heart out at the top of his lungs 🙂

And why not – despite Russell and Graham being pretty decently old these days (it is the 41st year of Air Supply) it was a great concert!  I’d actually forgotten how many incredible songs they had – and it turned out I could still remember every single lyric even though I hadn’t really listened to them for ages.

Air Supply concert - Santiago, Chile

One of the funny things for me was to check out who was in their band.  I don’t think any of the guys could have been older than their early 30s, which means they weren’t even born when Air Supply was at its peak.   And one of them had a mohawk – not quite what you’d expect for love ballads…

There was a point about 3/4 the way into the show where they both came down into the audience while they were singing.  The crowd went crazy!  And many of the people in the expensive seats actually raced around to follow them as they moved through the crowd.

Air Supply concert - Santiago, Chile

It was also fascinating to look around and see how many people were recording bits of the concert.  I guess this is a very common sight no matter which concert you are at these days…

Air Supply concert - Santiago, Chile

Had an absolute blast re-living my childhood and singing along with the rest of the Chileans at the concert.   Absolutely worth spending the extra days in Santiago 🙂

Chile vs Latin America

I know, I know.  Each country in Latin America has its own special uniqueness.   But I have to admit that having traveled through Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia in the last 9 months, Chile (well, Santiago) is quite a different beast!

Here are some brief observations from my first 2 days back in Santiago:

  • It is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more expensive.  Some things are even up there with Aussie prices – and that’s not a good thing!
  • The people are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more difficult to understand.  I’ve pretty much understood 100% of what people have said to me over the past 9 months without even trying.   In Chile, I reckon I’m running at about 80% – and that’s with me really focusing and listening hard!
  • The prevalence of smoking amongst the population is orders of magnitude higher than in other countries
  • The footpaths (in Santiago at least) are lovely and wide 🙂
  • Trees and grass that you are allowed to walk on!
  • Public displays of affection … everywhere … all the time.  I’d forgotten the romance
  • You can flush toilet paper!
  • Most of the movies at the cinema are subtitled, not dubbed 🙂
  • Although the markets are still brilliant by Australian standards, they don’t have the diversity of produce that other Latin American countries have (leaving Cuba out of the equation for the moment).  In fact, the best produce market I saw in the last 9 months was the San Pedro market in Cusco … though its diversity is perhaps partly because of the tourist trade…
  • You get fast walkers as well as slow walkers (everywhere else in Latin America there are only slow walkers). The trick is to follow in the slipstream of the fast walkers and not get trapped behind the slow walkers
  • Consumerism everywhere.  Many of the shops would not be out of place in central Melbourne or Sydney.

More Bolivian Food

As you might expect, I didn’t stop sampling Bolivian food even though I’d overstuffed myself on the Foodie Tour in La Paz 🙂   Here are some of the other Bolivian delicacies I tried in my 3 weeks in the country:

Salteñas

It doesn’t get much better or more Bolivian than this!  Essentially a baked empanada with what seems to be a slightly sweet dough and different fillings inside.  My favourite by far was the spicy chicken salteña from the salteña shop just up from the Alexander’s Coffee shop, right near the Plaza Avora in Sopocachi neighbourhood.   One of my all-time favourite street foods for only 7 Bolivianos each (~AUD$1)!

Spicy chicken salteña - Bolivian Food

Tucumanas

I found these to be quite similar to not-very-flavourful Samosas – deep fried pastry filled with meat, egg, onion and potato.   Turns out that instead of putting the flavouring in the filling, they allow you to choose your own by serving the Tucumanas with a variety of different sauces (olive, peanut, chimichuri, llagua, another that is a mixture of mayonnaise, tomato sauce and mustard) as well as onion salad.  6 Bolivianos each (<AUD$1).

Tucumanas - Bolivian Street Food

Buñuelos

Turns out that Bolivian buñuelos are very different to Nicaraguan and El Salvadorean buñuelos, and I’m afraid to say – nowhere near as good 🙁  Instead of nice fluffy balls of deep fried dough, the Bolivians make a flat pancake of deep fried dough to serve with syrup.

BUÑUELOS - Bolivian Street Food

Cuñapés

A cuñapé is kind of like a cross between a biscuit and a cake that is made out of either corn (the more yellow one on the right) or yuca and has a very strong cheese flavour.   They are more traditionally found in the jungle or the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia, but I came across these awesome ones in Sucre.  Very moreish!

Cuñapés - Bolivian Street Food

BTW – selling food out of little sidewalk displays like this is very common throughout Latin America.

Humintas

Wandering around the Mercado 25 Mayo in Cochabamba one night I came across a lady selling corn-based products with about a million clients surrounding her all hustling to be served.    I eventually pushed through to the front and asked what was on offer and what were the differences between the different products, as they were all called humintas.

Humintas - Bolivian Food

Bought a baked huminta and headed for the central park to eat it.  Oh my – it was heaven!  Promptly went back and bought 2 more of these and one of the boiled humintas to try (still really yummy but not as good in my opinion).   Was kicking myself for not finding this lady earlier in my stay in Cochabamba (it was my last night).  There was no question why she had such a crowd around her!  I reckon she would have sold everything she had within an hour.

Fruit Salad and Icecream

The upper levels of the Mercado Lanza (Central Market) of La Paz are a fruit-salad-and-icecream lover’s heaven!   Tons of fresh fruit that is sliced up in front of you (mine had banana, watermelon, orange, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, mango, papaya and apple), jelly, cereal, yoghurt, cream and icecream served all together in a massive parfait glass.  What more could you want?!  Given the number of locals that are up there and indulging at all hours of the day – apparently not much!  So I had to join them and do it 🙂  And all for only 10 Bolivianos!  That’s about AUD$1.50.

Fruit salad and icecream - Bolivian Food

Cinnamon Icecream

Speaking of icecream, the most typical flavour of icecream in La Paz is cinnamon.   I have to admit it really smacks you up the side of the head to begin with, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not initially, but after a few spoonfuls and once your mouth goes a bit numb from the cold, it’s really quite nice 🙂

Helado de Canela - Bolivian Street Food

Jelly and Cream

I don’t know what this is actually called, and I have to admit that I didn’t try it, but one of the most popular street foods in Bolivia is cup of brightly coloured (and flavoured, I imagine) jelly with masses of whipped cream on top.  Loads of people buy it and it is sold everywhere.

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Fresh Orange Juice

Fresh orange juice is a staple street seller throughout a lot of Latin America – and nothing we have in Australia comes even close to being as good as this.  In Bolivia, they make a great show of the peeling of the oranges – displaying the long peelings on the cart and scenting the air with a wonderful citrus smell!  About 7 Bolivianos (AUD$1) for a large cup.

Fresh orange juice - Bolivian food

Sopa de Maní

One of the most typical dishes in Bolivia – peanut soup.  I tried it in Cochabamba (where it originated) and it was OK, but nothing to write home about I have to say.  It was thick and creamy, but it really didn’t taste anything like peanuts…

Sopa de Mani - Bolivian Food

Fricasé

On the recommendation of Carlos at Hostel 3600 (great hostel!), I headed up to J&L restaurant (in a very small street off Boquerón in Sopocachi area – full of locals) where he goes every week for lunch.   I had intended to try the Chairo (which is what he has) but there was only Fricasé on offer – good thing was that was another food on my list to try.

Fricasé turns out to be very tender pork (again) with black rehydrated potatos and white corn in a soupy sauce.  It was absolutely delicious but they gave me about 4 times as much as I could eat!  This plate cost me 35 Bolivianos (~AUD$5).

Fricasé - Bolivian Food

Chairo

I ran out of days in La Paz to go back to J&B Restaurant to try their Chairo, so had it instead in the market in Cochabamba.   Hmmm… will need to give it another go at J&L Restaurant the next time I’m in La Paz I think, as this one didn’t live up to the expectations set by Carlos.  Basically a soup with meat, vegetables and lots of different grains in it.  

Chairo - Bolivian Food

 

 

Mining Cerro Rico – Potosí – Bolivia

The city of Potosí in Bolivia has 2 key claims to fame:

  1. at 4090m above sea level, is one of the highest cities in the world.
  2. it is the site of one of the richest silver mines in the world – Cerro Rico

Well, it was until they dug all the silver out of the mountain, actually reducing the height of Cerro Rico by about 400m.  

Cerro Rico - Potosí, Bolivia

Cerro Rico standing tall over Potosí

Back in the day (16-18th centuries), the silver was used to essentially bankroll the Spanish empire, making Potosí one of the largest and richest cities in the world.

How times have changed!

Potosí is in dramatic decline and there is a not-so-faint air of desperation about the place these days.  Especially since it is believed that Cerro Rico only has a few years of mining left in it, and is in danger of total collapse given how “Swiss-cheesed” its interior has become thanks to 500 years of the activity.

Cerro Rico and the mines are, of course, the main reason to visit Potosí, so after donning gumboots, helmet and headtorch, and an overcoat and overpants that were 6 sizes too big for me, we headed up to the “Miner’s Market” to stock up on some “gifts” for the workers who allow us to tour their operating mine.  The suggested gifts were soft drink, water, coca leaves (they chew these rather than eat while they are working in the mines to stave off hunger and to avoid eating the toxic dust), and explosives.   How often do you get to buy explosives 😉

Miner's Market - Potosí, Bolivia

Everything a miner could need

From there we went to one of the numerous processing plants in the city – all but 4 of which are currently closed – to learn about how the silver is extracted from the ore.

Silver Processing Plant - Potosí, Bolivia

And we each were given a “silver ring” as a souvenir, though I have to admit that I “lost” mine within about an hour 🙁

Silver Ring - Cerro Rico - Bolivia

We then headed up Cerro Rico to the mine we would be visiting.   Given the mines are all still active, we had to keep out of the way – not only to avoid annoying the miners, but for our own safety.   The ore carts are incredibly heavy when they are fully laden and almost impossible to stop.

 

Each ore cart has 3 guys working it.  The first guy running out the front – he’s doing that to make sure there are no rocks, etc on the tracks that could potentially derail the cart.  The 2 guys on the back are there to try to control the cart a little.  

All three of them work to unload the cart (by flipping the barrel sideways) and then drag it back into the mine once it is empty.  

 

There is only one rail track in the mine, so these guys also work together to overturn the empty cart to get it off the tracks if there is a laden cart coming out of the mine.  Laden carts have right of way.  They then need to hoist the cart back onto its wheels and onto the track to keep going.  

This is what it looks like from within the mine – the front runner has already gone through.  Note the wad of coca leaves in their mouths. 

 

In the main exit tunnel, there would have to have been a cart a minute on average coming out – usually more.   It was surprisingly busy!

We visited a few different areas of the mine including a place where the crew were preparing for a new blast.  

Preparing to blast - Cerro Rico - Potosí - Bolivia

We watched while one of the miners sorted the dynamite, and then hid around the corner with crew, waiting for the blast to go off.   I felt the compressive blast wave before I heard the dull thud of the explosion – it was quite an experience – and more than a little scary given the thought of the mountain potentially collapsing on top of you!

While the crew waited for the majority of the dust to settle (about 2 hours), we headed up a different tunnel to visit El Tío – the spirit of the underworld of Cerro Rico.  He is the protector of the miners who offer him cigarettes, alcohol and coca leaves to keep them safe and help them find the next vein of riches.   Clearly he finds his job quite difficult given that Cerro Rico is also known as “the mountain that eats men” due to the number of deaths that have occurred there.

Tio - Cerro Rico - Potosí - Bolivia

In fact, the working conditions of the miners (~15,000 men each day work the mines inside Cerro Rico) are very, very poor with minimal protective equipment.  The average life expectancy of the men is only 40 years due to Silicosis from breathing in the dust, and I have to admit, you don’t get very far into the mine before you notice that it is much harder to breathe and the air has a faintly “sweet” smell to it – apparently due to arsenic in the dust.

In another part of the mine we found a miner (the guy with the bandanna) taking a break from drilling holes for dynamite sticks.  We ended up chatting with him for quite a while about the pension he was expecting at the end of his lifetime in the mines.  It will be ridiculously small, and he was one of the well-off miners who are actually part of the mining cooperative!  The majority of workers get essentially nothing for having ruined their health in the mines.

Drilling - Cerro Rico - Potosí - Bolivia

All in all it was a fascinating look into working silver mine, but also a very sobering experience to understand the conditions in which these guys work and the limited prospects for their future.

 

Recommendation:  This is an interesting but confronting and slightly heartbreaking excursion.  If you are claustrophobic, you may find that you will not be able to cope with entering the mine, which is dark and the tunnels generally less than 2m high.  Even I walked through much of it slightly bent over and I’m only 165cm tall.  We had 2 people from our group of 8 decide not to enter.  I went with Koala Tours who have tours in the morning and the afternoon and were a good outfit.

Cost: ~US$15 (with Koala Tours 15% of profit goes to mining community) + you are expected to buy some gifts for the miners at the Miner’s Market. 

Time: ~4 hours

Exploring around Sucre – Bolivia

While I was in Sucre, I really wanted to do another multi-day trek – but unfortunately the companies I emailed never responded to my enquiries (a very common and frustrating occurrence in Bolivia).  I subsequently told one of the companies about this and the person I was talking to seemed genuinely horrified that nobody had gotten back to me.  He went and found my email in their system, and sure enough – there was no reply.  He apologised profusely.  I pointed out (though not quite in as many words – too nice for that) that had someone replied, I would have been able to join the trek that was scheduled and they would have made more money.

Anyhoo – this left me with limited options of getting out of the city to explore the surroundings.  So I popped my head into most of the agencies in town to ask what they had going on over the 4 days I’d be there.   Turns out, all but one had absolutely nothing.   Now I realise it is low season, but there were a reasonably large number of gringos in Sucre … how can they not have any groups going anywhere??!!  So I signed up for the 1 day tour with Cretassic Tours.

The main reason I was keen on this tour was that you got to walk part of the Inca Trail that exists in Bolivia (just to be different, I’m keen to walk the less-well-known Inca Trails that traverse a lot of the Andes in South America 🙂 Like when I hiked the Inca Trail in Ecuador ).   Actually, it turns out this trail near Sucre was built by the Yuras well before the Incas (hence it is actually known as the Pre-hispanic trail), and is quite different to the typical Inca trail.   In particular, it is much wider and does not have any stairs.   This was because its original purpose was for trade between the highlands of Bolivia (quinoa) and the jungle regions (coca leaves) and was designed for the llama herds that would transport the goods between the two.

Pre-hispanic (Inca) trail, Sucre, Bolivia

When the Incas came to this part of Bolivia, they simply acquisitioned the trail and improved upon it, including adding some features to help with water management.

Pre-hispanic (Inca) trail, Sucre, BoliviaGiven that we started at the highest part of the trail at Chataquila, it was a very pleasant 1.5-2 hour hike down to the valley floor at Chaunaca.  The upper reaches of the trail are mostly original and made of quite large rocks placed together to form the path, but towards the bottom the trail has had to be reconstructed, and they have used much smaller rocks for the job.   Give me the orginal trail any day!  It was much easier to walk on.

Pre-hispanic (Inca) trail, Sucre, Bolivia

Almost original part of the pre-hispanic trail. The rocks making it up are quite large.

Once we’d reached Chaunaca, we jumped back in the 4WD and headed to Maragua for lunch at what seemed to be a deserted hostel, and then to the lookout over the Maragua “Crater”. 

Maragua Crater, Sucre, Bolivia

Can you spot the “crater”?

I say “crater” because this feature is not caused by a meteorite or a volcano or anything as sudden and dramatic as that.  Apparently it is an example of where several geosynclines are meeting in the one area.   And to be honest, it is nowhere near as obvious and pronounced from the ground as the other craters (meteoric and volcanic) that I have seen.  I miss studying geology!

After our short visit to the “crater”, it was off in search of more dinosaur footprints.

In search of Dinosaur Footprints, Sucre, Bolivia

First up though – were more marine fossils.

Marine Fossils, Sucre, Bolivia

As we were walking along, our guide, Grover, was telling us how he very recently discovered the biggest dinosaur footprint ever found.   Given the amount of joking around he’d done throughout the whole day, we all went “yeah sure”.    We didn’t get to visit that footprint (though it was quite close by), but instead visited more trackways, similar to what I’d seen in Toro Toro National Park.  

Dinosaur Trackways - Sucre, Bolivia

They really were lots of them, and all over the place.

Dinosaur Trackways - Sucre, Bolivia

More Theropod tracks (believed to be Carnotauro Sastrei),  Sauropod tracks (believed to be Saltasaurus Loricatus) and Ornitischia tracks (believed to be Ankylosaur).

Dinosaur Footprints - Sucre, Bolivia

They were cool – as dinosaur footprints tend to be – but I think I was a bit dinosaur footprinted out by this stage :-/    The craziest thing was hiking away towards the car and looking back to see the local kids playing soccer on the dinosaur trackways.

Kids playing on dinosaur trackways - Sucre, Bolivia

We stopped off at a beautiful lookout in the Cordillera de Frailes to break up the trip back to Sucre – and this is where Grover proved with news articles that in fact he did discover the largest dinosaur footprint very recently.   This, after me telling him about “the boy that cried ‘wolf'” earlier in the day 😉 

Cordillera de Frailes - Sucre, Bolivia

 

Recommendation:  I highly recommend the one-day trip, particularly if you haven’t stopped off in Toro Toro National Park.   It gets very hot so take lots of water as well as sun protection.

Cost:  250 Bolivianos which includes an English-speaking guide, transportation and lunch.

Time: 8 hours

 

 

Cooking Class – Papas Rellenas – Sucre, Bolivia

Turns out cooking classes are very difficult to find in Bolivia!   However, upon looking at all the pieces of paper pinned on the noticeboard in Condor Cafe (highly recommended place to eat!) in Sucre, I came across an offering by La Boca del Sapo (the Toad’s Mouth).  

Moises, who runs the classes, decided to run cooking classes to help save up while waiting to obtain his visa to the UK- very entrepreneurial!  And he runs them out of his own kitchen, with a maximum of 4 participants.

Unfortunately I was really not feeling well this day, but went along anyway to learn how to make Papas Rellenas – one of the most popular and common street foods in Bolivia.   As the name suggests, these are mashed potato balls that are filled with something – in our case egg or cheese.

It is a remarkably simple dish, the most “difficult” part of which is making the sauce that accompanies it.  And even this is not difficult – chopping up tomatoes, onions and capsicum and then cooking them.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The fiddly bit is getting rid of all the eyes out of the potatoes, but then they too are super-easy — you just cook them in water until they are ready to mash.  The trick is to get the mash very fine – which turned out to require a fair amount of shoulder power when using forks to achieve this end.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

Meanwhile, we also made some llajua – a spicy Bolivian sauce that is served with just about everything.   Crushed tomatoes, chilli and herbs basically – but I thought this stone and crusher that were inset into the bench were super-cool!   Had to be careful though not to crush fingers!

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

We then got a production line going with making the potato balls that had the egg or cheese (and in a couple of sneaky cases – egg AND cheese) inside.  These were then dipped in egg wash and flour before being deep fried.

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

The final product!   

Papas rellenas - La Boca del Sapo - cooking class - Sucre

To be honest, papas rellenas is far from my favourite Bolivian dish.  Quite bland in fact…  But it is what a lot of Bolivians eat!

 

Cost: $100 Bolivianos (assuming 3 or 4 people)

Time: 3 hours