Day 92: Sucre, Bolivia
“Senorita, shoe shine? Shoe shine?“ The first boy, about 9 years old, called my attention as he ran toward Lin. As she looked up, she saw two more boys following him, all scrambling to be the first one to shine my shoes. She couldn`t help but laugh. The proud owner of only 2 pairs of shoes (and one being flip flips), the shoes in question were my trusty Keen hiking shoes. The first two boys gave up pretty easily after a few “No, gracias amigos“ but the third was bound and determined to show me that her shoes were indeed quite dirty and definitely needed a shine. He took his finger and swiped it across the black rubber toe bump and showed it to Lin. “Mira! Mira! Shoe shine?!“ Stiffling a laugh, she shook her head. “No gracias amigo. Esta bien. Ciao,“ hoping to send him on his way to someone with shoes that are actually able to be shined. The little man stood there in utter disbelief that Lin didn`t also think he shoes needed to be shined. After a few more seconds, he moved along to find another customer. Whew, he was a tough one, Lin thought laughing to herself.
She had been sitting in the square waiting to meet up with a new travel mate who was supposed to share a taxi with us to Potosi (cheaper than the bus, faster, more comfortable but definitely need to split with 3-4 people to make it worthwhile for the driver). Saben had to make an ATM / Chocolate run but it was time to meet in the square so Lin waited in the square, incessantly accosted by shoe shiners, snack vendors, and beggars.
Finally, Saben reappeared and had run into our travel mate who had informed him that he couldn`t go to Potosi this morning with us. We hunted for a taxi for just the two of us but none wanted to make the 2 hour drive so we headed to the bus station. About 10 minutes after we had bought our tickets, who do we run into but the 2 Danish girls, also taking the same bus! It`s fun to run into people when you`re halfway around the world, not expecting to know a soul.
Potosi was colder than we ever expected. And though it`s reputed to be the highest city in the world (and city it truly is), we certainly weren`t expecting to have such difficulties with the altitude. We huffed and puffed our way uphill (everything is uphill!) to find a hostel since our first choice was booked. Stopping for a literal “breather“ in the square about halfway up the hill, a man in his late 50s approached us and began chatting away about himself and how many languages he knows (primarily Dutch and Spanish but also another 4-5 on top of those). His English was supplemented with Dutch and Spanish but we didn`t mind his desire to practice his English or his obvious desire to discuss himself–we couldn`t breathe enough to talk anyway! With chattering teeth and just enough air in our lungs to move a bit further uphill, he detached ourselves from our chatty visitor and found a tourist office with a tiny bit of heat and a recommendation for a hostel. As we were about to leave, he said “Where you from?“ When we answered, he laughed really hard and shook his head. “Oh! Crazies, crazies.“ Yeah, yeah, we know our countrymen and women are known for being a bit crazy. But we fooled him because he first thought we were Australian! In fact, we`ve not been thought to be Americans even once in nearly four months we`ve been traveling. Most commonly we are mistaken for Australian, French, Dutch, or Scandinavian (well, Saben has anyway!).
Taking as big a breath as we could, we stepped back out into the freezing icy cold (ok there wasn`t ice but it was freezing!!) to find the Koala Den Hostel. We asked for a private but due to a miscommunication, the receptionist took us to a 4 bed dorm with a private bath. And imagine our surprise (and certainly theirs, too) when we open the door to see the Kiwis from the Pantanal and Sucre that we`d seen just yesterday! This is beginning to be more weird than just coincidence! Warming up enough in the actually heated hostel, we gathered enough body heat and air to venture abck outside for dinner. Going down the stairs, we ran into none other than the German guy and his English friend who was supposed to share our taxi this morning! It`s beginning to feel like the Twilight Zone, `round the world edition!