Work and play in Sucre

I flew from La Paz to Sucre – the capital of Bolivia – because it was relatively cheap and I didn’t fancy risking potential protests on land – a regular occurance in Bolivia. It turns out there were none during the time I would have ridden the bus, but I was pleased with my decision due to the great views I was treated to in the air of snowy mountains and winding rivers. Once landed, the process of retrieving my bag didn’t take long as the airport in Sucre is very small. I sought (or rather one sought me) a taxi and a pleasant man from Sucre drove me the interesting and scenic route to the colonial heart of the capital where my hostel was. I chose to stay in Kultur Berlin on Calle Avaroa because it had a small reputation for being a bit of a party hostel from what I could tell from reviews on Hostelworld. First impressions were good in terms of its appearance. I entered through the connected cafe which operates all day and much of the evening as a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It seemed to have some charm, as did the hostel itself with its large cobbled courtyard area, a funky colourful mural on one wall and some German style artwork. The staff weren’t overly friendly or outgoing but certainly weren’t rude. I’d arrived early and couldn’t yet check in so I spent the afternoon getting to know Sucre a bit.

Sucre is generally very easy to navigate. The majority of streets run parallel so it’s just a case of walking down one in a straight line and you’ll reach the next one you want quite simply. From the hostel it took me about five minutes to reach the main plaza, but before then I could see Sucre’s appeal and beauty. Whitewashed colonial buildings surrounded me, the sun was beaming down and traffic was, for the most part, controlled and civil. Zebra crossings were actually being used by pedestrians to cross the road and cars actually stopping! I walked to the market in search of some fresh fruit and to have a curious snoop around. Outside there were stalls with everything from stationary to hair accessories, CDs and sweet treats. I walked inside and realised the enormity of the market, with a ground floor dedicated to a huge variety of raw meat (not for the faint hearted), decadent cakes, nuts and various herbs, toiletries and much more. I wandered deeper and to my delight, discovered a large area dedicated solely to fruit juice stalls. I picked one at random and the young girl was keen to serve me what i desired: a fresh mango juice.

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I quickly drank it up and she topped it up for me. Around me were mainly Bolivians and just a few tourists but at this point in my trip I really wasn’t bothered to be a minority. I’ve become very used to being stared at by now! As I sat sipping my juice, some kids came up to me and performed juggling tricks in exchange for money or juice. I wondered why they were here and not at school and didn’t give them what they persisently requested, unsure as to what scheme I would be fueling by doing so. This continued to be a theme throughout my time in Sucre as whenever I would sit in the main plaza, the same children would always approach with shoe shining kits and beg endlessly for money or ice cream. It became tiresome and I was never sure whether I should give in.

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On the topic of ice cream, Sucre ice cream parlour in the main plaza serves the most delicious ice cream and I think I ate here almost every day during my two weeks in Sucre. As the weather is very hot during the day in Sucre, ice cream served as a great morning, afternoon or evening snack. I would highly recommend the coco, maracuya and tramontana.

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As well as the ice cream parlour, Condor Cafe satisfied my hunger cravings during my stay. I had lunch here every day because it was so cheap, delicious and healthy. They do a menu of the day 7 days a week for 25 – 35 bolivianos which includes a soup, main course and fresh juice. Also featured on the menu is a great garden salad, the traditional papa rellena, a giant cheese empanada and other tasty choices. It’s a very popular choice amongst tourists for obvious reasons: the staff are incredibly friendly, the decor is nice and the food is consistent. Just don’t expect the WiFi to be consistent!

Sucre is fairly limited in its selection of activities and so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying for as long as I did, but it’s a brilliant place to relax amongst beautiful architecture and great weather. A popular activity and many people’s main reason for visiting Sucre are the Spanish lessons on offer at various schools. I had 5 days of lessons at the Sucre Spanish School which is affiliated with Kultur Berlin hostel. My teacher was called Maria and she was extremely friendly, attentive and a generally fantastic teacher. I paid about 900 bolivianos for 20 hours of lessons which is very reasonable and in my opinion, was totally worth it. Plus the building was gorgeous!

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Aside from Spanish school, I did a day tour through Condor Cafe (they also have a tour company) to the Parque Cretacico and the 7 waterfalls. The park was enjoyable as we had a VERY enthusiastic guide who was keen to help us to understand the history and genetics of dinosaurs as much as he did. And of course it was great to see real dinosaur footprints. From the park we caught a bus and then began a two hour walk through nearby countryside to our lunch spot. The landscape was interesting and very dry and dusty. After lunch amongst some trees, we walked another two hours to the waterfalls. Dissapointingly, they were lacking a lot of water due to it being winter and therefore the dry season. Nevertheless, they were pretty and I was one of two people in the group to jump into the freezing cold water. It was incrsibly refreshing but bordering on painfully cold!

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Another pleasant way to pass the time in Sucre is a visit to the cemetary. Lush green trees and well kept plants and grass line the walkways making it a really pretty setting for the numerous graves. I’d never seen a cemetery like this as the way the graves are laid out is very different to the UK and so for me, it was very interesting. Bolivians place huge emphasis on religion which certainly translated into the cemetery and a lot of effort is put in to keeping it a peaceful and beautiful place for people to visit their loved ones. I usually want to stay far away from cemetaries, but I was glad I saw it and it seemed an appropriate way to spend a Sunday afternoon despite not being religious myself. Plus it was nice to walk there and back through some of Sucre’s pretty streets.

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Other than the activities mentioned, I spent my time chilling in the hostel, plaza or Condor Cafe. One evening myself and a couple of friends walked up to the mirador (view point) to watch the sunset and it was really incredible. The sky swapped between many shades, from oranges and yellows, pink and blue candy stripes and then a deep blue once the sun had set and the lights of Sucre came on. It was cold at the top but really beautiful.

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We also spent an evening doing a free salsa lesson at the hostel which lasted about two hours and in my opinion, was so much fun! We learnt various steps and put them all together to create a whole routine. I even got picked to demonstrate a couple of moves! Overall my stay in Sucre was very relaxing which probably comes down to the fact I indulged in far too many mojitos and tramontana ice cream…

 

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