Finally arriving at Potosi was a relief not least because the bus was freezing, I was burned to a cinder and to top it off we were both folded into a bus seat designed for an Oompah Loompah. We arrived from blistering heat to a heavy cold downpour. Simon fought through a mountain of luggage like a man possessed in order to find our rucksacks, pile me into a cab and get us to our rather overpriced hotel. With my skin literally sizzling I took my salted self into the shower. As anyone knows that if you think you are sun kissed before a shower after one you will look like you have been laser peeled.
The next morning in the cold light of day it was clear I had followed the Clarke family moto once more; 'We Never Learn'. The lobster hue of my face was embarrassing enough but matching hands and feet meant it looked like I was wearing a beige onesie. This was the least of my woes. It hurt to smile, to blink. My lips in an emergency protective manaeuvre had inflated to double their size. With my new face balloons any conversation was a little hard to understand as well as vocalise. Lucky for me my patient and sympathetic other half was able to express his concern through taking videos and hiding his snort of laughter in his muesli and yoghurt.
Anyone who has ever suffered a facial disfigurement no matter how temporary it might be will know how hard it is to leave the house for fear of ridicule and judgement however being already a giant amongst the more meagre proportioned population of Bolivia I was already used to scaring small children and dogs.
We continued our days of pootling about Potosi. It is here that we learnt a valuable lesson in our relationship. The way one mooches needs to match or else one feels he is route marched and she loses the will to live with all the dawdling. As such Simon sat and people watched in squares, lined up perfect photos, meandered in alleys whist I did my ferret impression in all the backstreets. The important thing to note is that we both fell in love with Potosi; the city in the sky. It was our first real insight into Bolivia, one of the poorest nations in South America and also the one most firmly planted with it's roots and origins. The steep, narrow, dusty, cobbled streets of Potosi are lined with round women in big bottomed layered skirts of bright sunshine colours, with an apron like your Nana wore, long black plaits reaching almost to their bow legged knees which are encased in thick wooly saggy socks, wrinkled at the ankle. The final masterpiece of this eccentric ensemble is a perfectly crafted felt bowler hat. Entering Potosi is like entering a new world full of imagination and fairytale you never knew existed. Church towers lined with bells, plazas full of costume and daily drama, markets laced with llama meat, fruits of all kinds, fresh cut flowers, baked goodies. Dusty brown shops and houses with crumbling door frames, precarious wooden balconies and thick wooden doors like you were entering an ancient palace. Roofs of thick higgledy terracotta tiles. Dogs, children, locals and tourists all muddled together negotiating tiny pavements, noise and bussle. Simon put it perfectly into words. "This place has blown my bloody doors off".
At a ridiculously high altitude a few days of mooching feels like you have climbed K2. Your lungs don't seem to want to work and your legs feel like granite. We huffed and puffed and decided enough was enough. Time for Sucre. Only a three hour bus ride but with slightly less altitude we arrived to a clean cut, white washed city. The hussle and bussle was less hussly bussly, pavements wide and buildings uniform and fresh. Familiar bowler hatted ladies still meandered every corner though, their babies strapped to their backs with fluorescent blankets. The plazas were still the hub of life.
Simon and I signed up for a week in a mini apartment and 5 days worth of Spanish classes. It was embarrassing to get out dictionaries, mime, draw or point for the simplest of things. Most of all I wanted to understand the menu. We took our chance to unpack our bags for the first time in 2 months, pop to the market for supplies, find a local laundrette and pretend we weren't bums.
Daily we made the 20 minute stroll with the Sucre commuters from our little apartment to school to meet our teachers. Simon found lessons a little tough with a non-English speaking teacher unable to explain the foundations. My pre-GCSE Spanish was enough to make the most of Jhamile and her ever patient approach. Despite feeling more and more weak and run down through the week I loved my lessons and whilst I have no talent in languages it's a lovely thing when you can have a small exchange that's actually understood.
Afternoons after class were spent climbing the viewpoint that overlooked the shallow green mountains in which Sucre in all its white washed beauty nestled. We meandered the markets where you could sit on thin stools whist ladies in uniform made fresh fruit salads decorated with towers of cream, nuts and bright pink yoghurt. We sat in our shared courtyard talking to other travellers. Simon stayed awake all night because of persistent dogs. Amazing how even after days and days they don't lose their voice. I, to Simons great annoyance, had the usual narcolepsy. I cooked in our little kitchen whilst Simon sorted out my IT idiocy (wiping 800 photos from his memory card. Fortunately he retrieved them. Luckily he didn't throttle me). We would have been more focused on our homework if it were not for the great restaurants and our highly influential friends Angela and Scott who managed to twist our arms on several occasions to red wine or even flaming Sambuca shots in martini glasses.
The last day at school and I was fed up of being poorly and Simon was sick of seeing my "face like a slapped arse". Simon had concentrated on the essentials like how to order a strong coffee with only a little bit of milk. I had learned how to say to a doctor I think I have a urine infection. Handy because I did in fact have a urine infection. After our final lesson and only a few hours before our bus was to leave for La Paz Simon insisted I actually get checked over at a hospital. After a blood test, wee test and a very efficient system I was dosed up and on my way.
A week in Sucre and we both feel our Spanish has improved. We certainly like the coffee more.