After a long wait in Uyuni after the salt flat tour, (7 hours trying to entertain ourselves in a small town and tired from the 4am wake up), the group parted ways and I boarded an overnight bus with Marion to the City of Sucre. We arrived early in the morning at the Beehive hostel. After a short nap, we were up and ready for breakfast – the BEST breakfast ever!! Fresh fruits with yoghurt, cinnamon porridge and raisins. Yum, no better way to start the day!
Sucre is a beautiful city with old white buildings, lots of green open parks and surrounded by rolling hills. What was initially intended to be a couple of days stay, ended up being my base for the next ten days – I fell in love with the charm of the city! I decided to start taking two hours of Spanish lessons each morning with a girl called Claire – at only £6.50 for two hours they truly were a bargain. Despite my total of ten hours of lessons, I am still at the very beginner stages, but hey, I know more than before so that is progress!
I would recommend everyone who visits Bolivia to take a trip to this white city and I defy you not to fall in love with the markets and slow pace of life. But bewarned…the altitude will initially make you feel like the most unfit person in the world as you huff and puff up the hills in the city. Here is a little run down of some of the activities I got upto whilst in Sucre:
– The area of the city called Recoleta sits half way up one of the mountains surrounding the city and has a nunnery sited there, as well as being a mirador (viewpoint) for sunset. The nunnery can only be viewed on a somewhat awful tour consisting of a lady randomly pointing at bizarre artefacts and literally stating what they were with no explanation – a 2.5million year old fossil of the top of a femur from an elephant type animal; a set of coins, some fabric…you get the idea. It was interesting to see inside however, and at £1,40 I can’t really complain for a couple of hours entertainment!
There is also a local craft museum and shop situated here which showcases local ladies weaving skills. It was absolutely fascinating to watch a local lady in action as one tapestry can take 3-4 months and unbelievably the ladies do not follow a pattern but simply make it up as they go! Incredible when you take into account that the tapestries are symmetrical. A somewhat overpriced cafe sits at Recoleta where you can watch the city from above and admire the sunset – a lovely way to end the day.
– In the central square there are several viewpoints to overlook the city and watch the world go by with a birds eye view. The parks are beautifully maintained with an array of trees and bushes and despite the constant harassment to buy friendship bracelets, are a lovely place to relax, read a book and people watch.
– The week I arrived there were free theatre tickets everynight. So in a typical English style, not wanting to miss a freebie, myself and Marion got two tickets to see 120kg of Jazz. What we had envisaged was a jazz show with a fat guy being the lead musician..in fact, the show was an hour and a half one man stand up comedy involving a skinny guy pretending to be a fat jazz musician…my spanish only stretches so far, so most of the jokes that did not involve some kind of visual imagery were lost on me!
– Every lunchtime a group of us from the hostel would head to the central market for lunch and more specifically “sopa de mani” – an amazing peanut soup with potatoes, vegetables, meat and pasta and all for only 40p! Bargain. Women call out trying to entice you to their food stall (all this food stalls have exactly the same menu so we tended to pick the places with the most full tables). You are sat on long tables amongst locals so it really is quite the experience and some of the best food you will get anywhere. The central market in itself is amazing. Split into different areas, there is a fruit sector, bread sector, vegetable sector, meat sector, cake sector, spice sector, dried fruit, nuts, pasta and rice sector and the list goes on. It has an absolutely amazing atmosphere, bustling and vibrant and you can get lost wandering through the food markets. The city has two other markets with clothing, electrical, kitchen ware and artisan products – more than several afternoons can be spent exploring the markets and the strange goods on offer.
– At the top of one of the mountains surrounding Sucre sits a Jesus statue that is visible from the centre of town. One afternoon a few of us decided to brave the climb up to the statue. Unfortunately for us, we missed the stone staircase that leads straight up to the statue and ended up walking all the way around the back of the mountain where there isn’t a path, clambering over rocks and reaching the statue from behind a few hours later than expected! It is no Christ the redeemer statue as I saw in Rio, but a large monument with a Jesus statue on the top. Unfortunately some of the views of the city were covered by overgrown trees, but it was still a pleasant venture and the staircase on the way down meant we were back in civilisation fairly rapidly.
– During my stay, unfortunately Sucre suffered a disruption to its water supply. Apparantly a landslide had occurred breaking a water supply pipe and renewing the city without running water. This slightly hideously fell at a time when about four of my fellow hostel mates were having digestive issues. After 24 hours our hostel managed to source dirty water to enable us to flush the toilets, but we had no water for washing hands, showers or cooking. Fortunately the local cinema had its own water tank, so toilet trips and sink washes were had here! After two days the city began to smell…so in a bid to escape, a few of us planned a hiking trip to the mountains to escape the ever growing stench…
– Our hiking trip began with an hour and a half bus ride into the mountains before we started our short three hour hikes complete with large backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. In total there were eight of us on the trip including the guides. We arrived at our village, set up our camps and then went in search of the local children to play an epic game of football. We played in mixed teams and the local girls were absolutely incredible. All of the children generally showed up our lack of fitness! I managed to score three goals, although one was an own goal! In the evening the family cooked us dinner – quinoa soup with vegetables followed by potatoes and vegetables. Quinoa is one of the main cereals in both Bolivia and Peru, but unfortunately an ever increasing export market is pushing the price up for the locals. After dinner, we made a large bonfire and roasted marshmallows with the children before heading to bed. The next morning, the family prepared us fresh bread for breakfast, the children helped us pack up camp and then we took the hike to a local town where a huge market is held every Sunday. The market is full of artisan goods – alpaca jumpers,scarves, gloves, hats, socks, and more. After exploring the market, we had a sit down lunch and then returned to Sucre where we were in luck – the water supply had just returned!
– The food in Sucre was incredible, particularly the street food and fresh baked goods in the market. People had told me the the food in Bolivia was bland – I beg to differ, the food is simple, but beautifully flavoured and the best and cheapest food of all is always found where the locals eat – in the markets.
– The dinosaur museum is situated just outside of Sucre near to a cement factory. I had read that Bolivia is full of dinosaur footprints and that many remains had been found here. Having never seen a dinosaur footprint before, I was eager to make a visit to the attraction. The museum and attraction is a little bit of a let down…it is less of a museum and more huge models of dinosaurs. But we still managed to have fun! The dinosaur footprints are sited on an almost vertical wall – apparantly disruptions in tectonic plates had caused this. Our guide showed us the various footprints, but I couldn’t help but being skeptical that the dinosaur footprints are in a vertical surface next to a cement factory….
After good food and good times with new friends it was time for me to move on – Phil was to arrive imminently in La Paz and I needed to be there to meet him.
Unfortunately, the night I was due to catch my bus, I happened to pick the only taxi driver in the city who didn’t seem to know where the bus terminal was even when I pointed at it on a map repeatedly. After being driven in circles for half an hour I eventually got to the bus station, only to be told I had just missed my night bus. Thankfully they let me on the next one for no extra cost…and so I headed to La Paz – the highest capital city in the world to meet Phil.