We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the comfortable life we had in place at Casa Mendoza and headed to the constitutional capital of Bolivia, Sucre ,which along with Uyuni would be the furthest south we would be during our entire South American jaunt.
Travelling again by night bus to save on accommodation costs, we paid 180 Bolivianos for a full cama in preparation for the 12 hour journey. The route between La Paz and Sucre is such that any bus company would be unable to ensure a smooth journey, the roads are constantly winding and full of sharp turns, and with the added fact that my seat was broken and constantly bouncing me around like a rag doll this resulted in a less than pleasant journey.
We arrived in Sucre at around 7 AM on a Sunday morning, not an ideal time to arrive anywhere. We were able to check our bags into the hostel and then went in search of breakfast and anywhere to keep us occupied until we were able to check in. Being that Sucre centre is very small and easy to cover by foot, we were soon in the very attractive main square where it was evident that nowhere would be open for some time. Lacking in options, and being the devout Christian that I am, we went in to a Church to witness the end of a traditional Bolivian service. Despite it all being in Spanish I was able to relate to it as much as I had any of my previous Church experiences…
After a little more aimless walking we finally found a place that was just opening its doors – the Abis Cafe. We lucked out with this one as I got an incredible tasting and well presented crepe for just 24 Bolivianos (2.40 GBP) and Aisling an equally appealing omelette for a similar price. As it turned out the food generally in Sucre was always of a very reasonable price and generally of a higher standard than anywhere else we had been in Bolivia.
We utilised our rare early rise, Aisling even managing to resist one of her infamous naps totalling a full nights sleep, and headed out towards the little-known Cretaceous Park. This is a park featuring genuine fossilised dinosaur footprints, inadvertently discovered at the neighbouring quarry.
To get there the best option is to take the number 4 bus from the market and it is the last stop on that route. The park itself caters to English speaking tourists and even features a BBC Walking With Dinosaurs documentary as well as replicas that wouldn’t be out of place in the Jurassic Park movie. Although it doesn’t contain the adrenaline buzz it would at a Disneyland equivalent, it makes the most of its draw point and is well worth a visit for ½ a day. The entry fee was 30 Bolivianos and 5 extra to take photographs, and I believe the tour at 1 pm involves walking into the quarry and getting up close to the footprints.
Upon talking to some fellow travellers in the hostel it is apparent that Sucre is the place to go in Bolivia, and possibly even South America, for those wanting to take Spanish lessons. It is possible to get a private one one one lesson for 35 Bolivianos (3.50 GBP) , or 42 for the same set up but in an official language school. With the cost of accommodation ranging around 50 to 60 Bolvianos per night for a private room, and the price of food significantly cheaper (a chorizo sandwich and a small coke in the market would set you back a whopping 85 pence) and generally better than elsewhere in Bolivia it is obvious why people are drawn here to study. Additionally the relaxed nature and aesthetic beauty of the city when compared with La Paz would also suit those wishing to get stuck into studying.
As I have mentioned previously, my Spanish skills at this stage were almost as impeccable as my salsa skills so I gave the lessons a wide berth but Aisling booked in for a week of lessons as I would soon be abandoning her for my trip to the Amazon. We moved into the 7 Patas hostel the next day, where we were able to get a private twin room for only marginally more than the dorm price we had been paying. We ate out at the highly recommended Condor Cafe which is impossible to avoid when in Sucre and aside from the lack of meat it is excellent value for money with it being a not for profit restaurant.
We also sampled a Western standard three course meal, consisting of a Mexican pizza complete with nachos and a Snickers cheesecake on my end, for a total of 100 Bolivianos or 10 quid. Ironically, despite my consumption of questionable pork on a daily basis at the market it was this meal that caused my most adverse reaction to food throughout my entire trip. Tasted good at the time though so it’s ok. As can be grasped from this blog our time in Sucre was largely unexciting, we had worked out that we were drastically over our target budget at this point and with trips to the Amazon for myself, and Machu Picchu for us both still to come, we had to start being better backpackers. Not ones that eat Snickers cheesecake.
I left Aisling to her studies on the Thursday, and took a night bus back to La Paz in preparation for my trip to the place that first inspired my Geography devotion – The Amazon Rainforest.
Sucre Accommodation: The Beehive Hostel – 40 Bolivianos per night for a 4 bed dorm including an excellent breakfast. Highly rated and certainly with a number of positives including the aforementioned breakfast. Location was also decent. Not enough showers for the number of people accommodated and also a bit too much of a ‘mature backpacker vibe’ at times. Words like referendum should not be uttered at any breakfast table. Ever.
7 Patas – Twin bed room with shared bathroom 50 Bolivianos per night. The room was also perfectly located next to the shared bathroom which featured the rare treat of endless hot water due to a gas heater. The hostel had a very friendly vibe, particularly the Lyon supporting Frenchman who was working there during our stay. No breakfast included.
Sucre Verdict: Another city that is of a similar ilk to Arequipa in that it is very easy just to wander around and be impressed with the architecture, particularly if coming from the metropolis of La Paz. It is the cheapest place we visited in our travels when considering all costs for a backpacker, and as stated certainly seems to be the best place to study Spanish. Not a place to go to party, although there are some spots that would get livelier at the weekends, and perhaps not a must-see on a tight schedule but pleasant nonetheless