A Bolivian Band And The Stunning White City Of Sucre
The flight from La Paz to Sucre, in Bolivia, is not for the faint-hearted. Not long after takeoff, with barely ten thousand feet between the plane and the ground, the pilot performs a huge U-turn, causing a bumpy and turbulent first ten minutes of our journey.
As a nervous flyer, to say I’m crapping myself is an understatement. I literally squeeze the blood out of poor Dave’s hand and bury my face in his shoulder until we make it above the clouds and level out. We could have taken the bus, I think to myself. Then I remember, the bus was a twelve-hour ride, as opposed to the short fifty minutes I’ll have to sit on this plane. This knowledge set in my mind, I stick my nose in a book and try to block out the occasional lurches that cause my stomach to drop.
Never happier to get off of a plane, when we arrive in the small Sucre airport we collect our backpacks and catch a taxi into the city, about a thirty minute drive away. Sucre used to be the capital of Bolivia, and is now known fondly as the country’s most beautiful city. Driving through the streets, it’s immediately easy to see why.
Sucre is full of large white buildings with stunning architecture, that are so bright in the midday sun it hurts your eyes to look at them. The pavements that rise up and down hills are well maintained and clear from dirt and litter, as are the main tarmac roads we drive along. Mediterranean-style terraced buildings, painted white and pastel colours, line the streets and offer an escape from the heat with modern restaurants, pubs, hostels and boutique shops. In comparison to polluted, hectic, and grey La Paz, it’s like another world.
We pull up at our hostel, Celtic Cross, which is just a five-minute walk away from the main plaza. The owner lets us through a large wooden gate and immediately makes us feel at home, urging us to take our bags to our dorm and come down to complete all the paperwork later on, once we’re settled. Celtic Cross is built around a small courtyard and it feels homely and friendly as other backpackers greet us while we walk through. I’m already beginning to love Sucre.
Without the weight of our backpacks, Dave and I head out to explore the city. We wander down to the main plaza, appreciating the large cathedral that sits on the corner. Dave buys freshly-squeezed orange juice from a small Bolivian lady with a cart, then we tour the grid system streets for a couple of hours, stopping to eat crepes in a dessert parlour along the way. The atmosphere is relaxed and the local people are very friendly.
Now, there are plenty of activities to do in Sucre. You can visit dinosaur footprints at a nearby tourist attraction, take a motorcycle or ATV tour, and learn Spanish for ridiculously cheap prices; less than five pounds an hour, including accommodation!
Unfortunately, Dave and I are only here for two nights and at this point we’re completely gutted about it, because we both would have enjoyed staying put for a month, improving our Spanish and enjoying such a wonderful place.
Still, our tour to Salar De Uyuni is booked and we need to make it to Buenos Aires in three weeks’ time, so our plans are set in stone. Also, while we’d love to take an ATV tour, investigation reveals that prices are quite expensive and we need to watch every penny now, so we’ll have to give it a miss this time.
Returning to the hostel, we get chatting with many other travellers and agree to head out that night to a local bar, where a Bolivian band will be playing live. First though, we visit a viewpoint a five-minute walk from our door, to see Sucre from above while the sun sets. It’s a gorgeous view, topped off with a couple of beers.
Following this we pop back to the hostel and cook ourselves a tomato sauce and pasta concoction, before making our way down to the pub with pretty much everybody from Celtic Cross.
We don’t arrive early, around 10.30pm actually, but the band aren’t scheduled to play until 11pm and judging by the fact that nothing in South America is usually on time, we know we’ll be waiting a while until they start. In the meantime, we find ourselves a spot at the top bar and order plenty of happy hour cocktails, in addition to the free (terrible tasting) drinks we’ve been given upon paying for entry.
Three hours later, with us considerably drunk and having a great time, the band finally arrive on stage. Apparently, they had been for dinner and gotten a bit worse for wear themselves – how rock and roll. In spite of this, they play an awesome set of Spanish reggae music and the crowd lap it up. I wish I’d made a note of their band name to share with you, bad blogger practice on my part, sorry! Anyway, we leave in the early hours of the morning to stumble back to our dorm and fall into bed, having had a great and sociable night.
The following day, our heads are not thanking us for our drunken antics, particularly as high altitude makes it more difficult to rehydrate. Dave and I completely fail at being energetic backpackers, and only drag ourselves out of bed after midday. Once we’re finally fed and dressed, we catch a taxi to the bus station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s journey to Uyuni. The plan is to then visit a nearby park, which holds a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower. However, just as we’re leaving the bus station the heavens open and rain pours down, rumoured to last the remainder of the day. We abandon our sightseeing plans and return to the hostel to tend to our lingering headaches. A complete fail – I know.
That night, the whole hostel comes together in the courtyard for a Bolivian barbecue, hosted by the owners… Who aren’t actually Bolivian, but still. There’s mountains of food, including steak, chorizo hot dogs and homemade garlic bread. It’s an absolute treat! We eat, play card games and then a group of us settle in the lounge for a movie, while the more hardcore go out for round two of drinking. It’s been a lovely couple of days in which both Dave and I have felt very at home in Bolivia, and we’d both love to return to Sucre someday.
In the morning, we’ll be going to Uyuni by bus and touring the incredible salt flats, home to 50% of the world’s lithium. I am beyond excited as this is the thing I’ve been waiting to do since we left home, fingers crossed it’s just like the images I’ve seen on Pinterest!
To find out whether Salar De Uyuni is as uniquely breathtaking as images suggest, head to my next post! Feel free to ask questions about Sucre, or travel in general, by leaving a comment too.