So many beautiful fabrics – Sunday market in Tarabuco, Bolivia

Since we’ll be living in Sucre for a whole year, I figured we might as well explore the communities around the city.  There are lots of different places to go and activities to do.  For example, you can go learn about agriculture in the countryside, take a dip in the pool in the warmer communities down in the valley, check out dinosaur footprints, or swim at the bottom of a waterfall.  Last month, we decided to check out the famous Sunday market in Tarabuco.  It’s located about an hour from Sucre, and people come from many of the different surrounding cities to sell their wares every Sunday in Tarabuco.

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Left: City sign Right: So many textiles!

Cost: 10 Bs. ($2) for public transport (each way) – plus whatever you buy from shops/food

Travel time (one-way) from Sucre: 1 to 1.5 hours

Time needed for activities: 2 to 4 hours

Activities: Shopping and lunch

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Views of the countryside between Sucre and Tarabuco.

Leaving Home

We met at our house with a fellow volunteer from Canada, Anthoine-Maude (she works for a different Canadian NGO/local partner, and we met here in Sucre, Bolivia).  We met at 9:15 and decided to take a taxi.  We had to wait for a little while to get one, but we found one a block from our house.  It’s a bit annoying but in Sucre you have to pay per person for a taxi (which is usually 5 Bs. – $1), so its cost 15 Bs. ($3) for all of us to get to Parada Tarabuco (Parada means stop in Spanish).  On the way, we encountered a cute, little plant market on the side of the road that I’m definitely going back to check out.  Once we were there, we waited to some of her friends to show up.  Eventually, all three girls made it to the stop.

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Left: The taxi in Sucre had really sweet floormats! 😉 Right: The plaza in Tarabuco has many Foosball tables for the kids in the city.

Travelling to Tarabuco

Once the 6 of us were together at the stop we got into one of the micro-buses.  However, since we were the first ones on, we had to wait for it to fill up before leaving (and it holds about 14 passengers).  We waited, and were finally able to hit the road about 10:05am.  The journey is not too bad.  The roads are well paved and there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  We stopped a few times along the way to drop-off/pick-up passengers and pay tolls.  It’s a really interesting view along the way, and you can see different small communities, farms with livestock (cows, chickens, etc.), herders with flocks of sheep or goats, large mountains, arid desert valleys, rock faces, and tall trees.  Something we also saw was lots of pipelines (for irrigation water I’m assuming) and old railway tracks (which are no long functioning unfortunately), along the side of the road throughout the journey – I wish there was still a train connecting the cities. We ended up arriving about an hour and fifteen minutes later – around 11:20.  As we left the micro-bus at the last stop, we each paid 10 Bs. ($2) and headed into town.

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Various stalls and shops in central Tarabuco.

Shopping!

Where the micro stops isn’t too far from the main square.  You simply need to walk downhill for about 2 blocks and then turn right and you’re right there.  The main plaza is similar to any you’ll find in Bolivia (which are also common in Spain and the rest of South America).  There’s a large square, with diagonal crossing paths, benches, some landscaping, and lots of historical statues.  My favourite (and by that I mean the craziest) statue that we saw is one that tells the story of a battle.  The statue is of a local person protecting the city from invaders and shows him ripping out the guy’s heart and eating it!  The plaza is also surrounded by vendors who have set up their wares on blankets, and small carts selling food like popcorn, cold drinks, and other snacks.

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Some of my favourite statues.

The city isn’t very big at all, so it’s really easy to see all the shopping options really quickly.  Basically, there are shops, and also street vendors, but they’re all selling the same types of things.  The most common items found are made from textiles, which the area is known for.  For example, you can buy llama sweaters, ponchos, blankets, purses, scarves, or stripy pants.  You can also find other items like jewelry, keychains, books, figurines, or anything else you might want as a present from Bolivia.  The centre of town isn’t very tricky to navigate.  All of the shops are either right around the plaza, down one street on the far side of the plaza, or down the streets to the left and right of that one street.  There is more to the town then those 4 streets, but it’s more residential or shops selling things for local people (like vegetables, second-hand clothes, and spices).

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As you can see, most of the shops look pretty similar.

Time for Lunch

By about 1pm, Steve and I had visited all of the shops, and bought all of our Christmas presents for family back home.  We found the girls and we all decided to go get lunch.  Our friend, Anthoine-Maude, had a picture from a friend of a cute little place with a courtyard, but we didn’t know the name or the location!  So, we showed the picture to a few people and they pointed us down a street near the plaza.  The place was cute and less than 2 blocks away.  They had a menu del dia, with a sopa and Segundo (soup and main course), but we all decided we didn’t need soup, so I think the meal came to about 12 Bs. ($2.50) for just the main plate.  We had a choice between roasted chicken or chicken milanesa (battered and fried, similar to a piece of fish in fish+chips) with rice or another side of our choosing.  We got some of each, and they were both really good.  The food came pretty quickly, and we all enjoyed it.

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The courtyard of the little cafe where we had lunch.

Warning: Apparently, a tourist or two has been known to be stranded in Tarabuco.  This is why they recommend that you go in the morning and leave before dinner-time.  If you try to leave once it’s getting dark, there may not be any vehicles left, and you may have to get a hotel for the night.

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Left: Our bus home.  Right: A little piggy running towards some food.

Getting Home (Sucre)

The girls decided to stay for a bit more shopping but we had bought everything we needed.  We headed back to the bus stop where we got off but there were no micro-buses – damn! But there was a driver with a bus (a normal Sucre city bus that was going to Mercado central) so we waited for that.  And waited. And waited.  We alternated between standing outside and sitting on the bus.  While sitting outside, I watched the various animals.  Some dogs chased a family of pigs, but the vendors scared them away, and the donkeys were loaded up with supplies to carry along the road.  For some reason, most of the people who ended up getting on were other foreign couples.  After about 45 minutes the bus decided to leave even though it wasn’t full (thank goodness) at around 2pm.  The bus travelled a lot more slowly and stopped to pick-up/drop-off more locals along the way, so it took about an hour and 45 minutes to get back to Parada Tarabuco. From there, we walked the 15 minutes back to our house and checked on our laundry.  After it was all hung to dry, we ended up relaxing in bed watching Netflix, the perfect end to a Sunday!

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Left: Pig family beside the bus.  Right: Lots of donkeys are used to transport heavier loads of goods.

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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One Response to So many beautiful fabrics – Sunday market in Tarabuco, Bolivia

  1. Pingback: Life as a Traveler vs. Life as an Expat | Expat Coffee Club

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