Hi Alex here, taking over again to tell you about our stop in Sucre.
Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia, although the Government is based in La Paz and it is the much larger of the two. Sucre is a lovely city though, a small university town with lots of old colonial architecture and beautiful countryside all around.
From La Paz we’d decided to catch a plane to Sucre, this was a 35 minute flight as opposed to a 12 hour bus and only cost us £50 so not too difficult a decision! We arrived to a much more temperate climate and a lower, more manageable altitude. We were met by Jorge, the owner of the place we’d be staying in for the next few nights. We found the room through Esmee, whose friend had stayed with a friend of Jorge’s previously. Don Jorge’s Rooftop Rooms has a big roof terrace with a great view over the city and had space for all five of us.
We unpacked and met a couple of German girls also staying at the same place, we had a chat and exchanged travel tips, before Chris and I headed into the city centre to explore. We went to the central market first and had fruit smoothies and a big fruit salad with yoghurt. The market was huge, organised into fruit, vegetables, meat, flowers and all sorts of other amazing things like giant bags of spices and huge cakes with colourful icing. We spent a while wondering around and decided that since there was such a great variety of fresh food and we had a kitchen for the first time in a while, we would cook. So then we had great fun choosing vegetables and spices and bargaining with the ladies on the stalls. We were looking for limes, but could only see fruits that looked small and green and very much like limes, but that all the market holders called lemons. We asked for limes and were told they were sold with the fruit, this probably should have been a warning but we went to the stall anyway and managed to find ‘limes’ which were larger and yellow. Totally confused by the local fruit we paid up and left the market with fully laden bags.
We next headed to the Casa de Libertad, a museum recommended in our guide book where we learnt a bit more about Bolivian history and Sucre. We then went into a supermarket, the first proper one we’d seen since Lima! We bought the rest of supplies for dinner as well as a bottle of Bolivian red wine, Chris was slightly dubious about this but it was the only place we were going to be able to try it so I insisted!
When we got home we chilled out for a while, and then began making dinner, always an interesting task in an unfamiliar kitchen with only the basics. We successfully made a very tasty fajita and dips meal, discovering that accidently buying pre-sliced ‘plastic’ cheese is actually a good thing when you don’t have a grater, much easier to slice it small! When squeezing the ‘limes’ into our guacamole we discovered too late that they tasted very sweet, a completely different taste, not even like lemons. Chris had to run around the shops nearby and ended up finding a proper lime at a local restaurant to save our meal!
The next day we went on a day trip tour run by Condor Trekkers, a not-for-profit tour agency in Sucre, the girls had found it the day before and booked us all in. The company uses local buses to get around so our first task with our guide Rogilio was to find and board a local minibus. We eventually found one going the right way and took over the back row, waiting as we slowly made our way through town and out to a big cement factory. The tourist attraction we were headed to was right next to the factory, and actually discovered by accident due to the cement works whilst trying to quarry limestone. We were headed to the world’s largest collection of dinosaur footprints. They are on a vertical wall of rock, originally the footprints would have been on flat ground but some kind of geographical change in the landscape (this trip is making me wish I had taken geography beyond year 9 to be able to understand all the weird and wonderful landscapes we’re seeing!). They were pretty impressive, even though we couldn’t get close as the rock is fragile. We saw lots of life size models of dinosaurs and spent a while pretending we were in Jurassic Park.
We then headed out into the countryside for a walk to some waterfalls. This was a lovely walk with amazing scenery but it was very hot. We stopped for lunch by a river and had some fantastic fresh food, the advantages of using a not for profit vegetarian restaurant come tour company! We finished the walk at a set of seven waterfalls, we only had time to see a couple and the brave ones took a dip whilst I just dipped my feet in the freezing water.
We had a quick turnaround back at Jorge’s place and headed out to play a popular local sport called Wally, a Bolivian version of volleyball where you can use any part of your body and the walls to hit the ball around. Having never played real volleyball we were at a disadvantage, especially as the other tourists playing were a Danish couple and a guy from Lichtenstein who were very good! We got the vague hang of it though and enjoyed running around trying to whack the ball back over the net. After an hour of this and our full day of walking, we were ready for a well earned dinner and headed into the centre of town for some pasta.
The next day was our last in Sucre, we decided to visit a couple more unusual tourist spots. We started with a visit to El Castillo de la Glorieta, a bizarre 19th century country house designed in a mish-mash of architectural styles. We had a guided tour in incredibly rapid Spanish but managed to gather the vague back story: The house was owned by a rich couple who couldn’t have children and who built an orphanage across the river from the castle, they at some point met the Pope who gave them a principality for their work with the orphans, so they became Prince and Princess of the area. When they died the house was abandoned and much later opened to the public, a surprising amount of the features we saw were original. We had a good time wandering around taking photos and trying to spot the British and Dutch inspired elements (a mini Big Ben tower and a weirdly designed stables respectively).
We headed back into town and visited the local cemetery. This was really interesting, with large ornate monuments for richer families. For everyone else there were large plain structures with coffin sized slots in, about four or five rows high, with sort of windows in front of the coffin for dedications and decorations. We found a very sad wall of young children’s graves where people had left toys and bottles of fizzy drinks in the windows. We wandered around for a little while before the skies clouded over and we had to head back to the hostel.
On returning to the hostel we quickly packed away our washing before sitting under a small metal roof cover on the roof terrace to watch a lightening storm over the hills. The storm moved closer and closer over the next hour. I saw lightening hit a tree on the hill opposite our viewing point, lighting up red for a brief moment. It was loud and a little scary to watch from our rooftop viewpoint! We watched as it passed and then sheltered in the room until the rain eased off enough for a walk into town to get dinner. We went back to the Condor Trekkers place as they had a vegetarian restaurant with some tasty cheap food.
The next day we were up early and waiting for our taxi that Jorge had called in advance for us. It hadn’t showed up after a while so he called them, only to find out it wasn’t coming! Luckily a random taxi driver pulled up and said he had an 8 person van and could take us for 30Bs each (a much cheaper offer). Jorge seemed to think this was all good, so we said our goodbyes and squeezed the five of us in the taxi, heading off across Sucre. We eventually made it to the promised larger taxi and loaded up our stuff. We set off and a short while later pulled into a petrol station. The driver then informed us it was 30Bs each but only if we filled the van with eight people. We said we’d rather just get going as we were already a bit behind time, and agreed to pay 40 each (about £4!) to just head off. By the time we’d translated this to and fro in Spanish, English and Dutch between everyone, the driver had found one more person so the price went down a bit anyway. By this point we were all a bit confused, and realising we were haggling over less than a pound so we agreed we were happy to pay and left! Finally, after almost an hour’s detour, we were out of Sucre and heading to our next stop of Potosí.
As our taxi drew into Potosi it became increasingly clear that our driver didn’t know where our hostel was. Chris had gone to the trouble of marking it on the map on his phone, but was on the back row pf the van and there was no way that the driver could hear him over the noise of the engine. When the driver eventually decided to stop and ask for directions Chris jumped out and went and sat in the front seat next to the driver. Chris gave the driver directions and we eventually made it to the hostel!
Chris will be back in a few days with the story our time in Potosi and his trip into Cerro Rico, the most dangerous mine in the world.