Finding Sweetness in Sucre

12 May

Sucre architecture

The ride from Uyuni to Sucre was long but nevertheless rewarding. The first 45 minutes to an hour were rough, with bumpy dirt road causing the old bus to sway back and forth. Considering that it was five hours to Potosí, it felt like we were going to have sore bodies by the time we arrived to the world’s highest city. Yet by the one hour mark we turned on to what must have been a main road, any by comparison it was suddenly smooth and enjoyable. From then on we were treated to the stereotypical scene of Bolivia—high mountain peaks, deserts and valleys of intense color and depth.

Originally I had wanted to spent a night or two in Potosí and visit the mines, known the world over for their miserable conditions. Yet talking it over with Alex and Faye made me realize that it was kind of patronizing to come to a miner’s work place and gawk, taking photos as if they were in a zoo. I don’t approve of slum tours either, because in my opinion they demonstrate just how separated we let ourselves feel from people who have to live in poor conditions, rather than trying to help. So I scrubbed the mines from my plans and went with the girls to Sucre. Just as well, because in passing through Potosí I could see that it wasn’t a particularly attractive destination and had an odd feel to it.

View from the hostel

From Potosí it was another three hours to Sucre, this time descending a bit and going through green valleys which, with the right lighting during sunset, somehow reminded us of Tuscany. By nightfall we were in the disputed capital of Bolivia, and adding on a Slovenian girl named Ana to our group, I haggled with a taxi driver who laughed as I bargained him down to slightly above the going rate to the center. Along the way he gave me a good run down of city life in Sucre, explaining the traditional food, local activities and what sureños like to do.

Even though it was night, I could already tell that I liked this city. With colonial influence in the center, it reminded me of Cusco and Cuenca, which are both also located in the south of their respective countries. We walked around looking for a restaurant to please the vegetarian needs of Ana, and once we found an extremely touristy resto-bar, I made a grave mistake. I thought because it was a place for tourists that I could eat anything, and I naively ordered the chilli con carne. This would prove to make me quite sick for the next few days.

Our first day got off to a late start because we really needed some extra time to recuperate, especially after days of waking up before dawn on the Salar tour. Previously I had considered spending the night in Sucre and then in the afternoon heading back to Potosí, but after the long and tiring trip to Sucre (which had always been too far away to visit in my plans), I decided to make the most of it and spent two nights. After all, it was a nice place anyway, so why not enjoy myself? Thus, we leisurely headed to the central plaza by noon, but not before stopping in at Para Tí, one of the most well known chocolate shops in Sucre. An unlikely destination for chocolate, Para Tí actually has an excellent selection, as well as coffee and other caffeinated beverages which run for close to $1.50 or so. There are two locations in the center, and we wound up going to both that day.

Our goal was to visit the Dinopark, which houses fossils and dinosaur tracks lodged into the side of a hill. They used to be flat, but as the Andes Mountains are the youngest mountain chain in the world, they have over time been elevated and now make it appear as though dinosaurs could defy gravity and walk up cliffs.

Dinosaur park

The park itself is nothing special, and the guided tour is 30 minutes long in one small room, though the guide tells you about the fossils and how they were probably formed. The cost of $30 bs is debatably worth it, and the extra $5 bs you have to pay if you want to take pictures is definitely not worthwhile. Especially when you consider that, if you’re a sneaky ninja like Alex, you can simply take out your camera when no one is watching and take a picture. I wasn’t so clever.

Apart from that activity up in the hills, our day was spent walking around the center’s blindingly white architecture and perusing the hundreds of stalls set up with the traditional alpaca sweaters, socks, hats, and millions of knick knacks. I splurged on a necklace and a pair of alpaca socks, anticipating a cold winter back in BA. If I could have winged it, another day in Sucre might have been nice to visit another part of the city, but I was concerned with the timing and left for Potosí the next morning, where I would have to wait around all day with nothing to do and feeling ill. This was the only day on the trip that was “wasted,” even though I’m glad to have seen Potosí. Anyway, the good times had in Sucre made up for a lazy day in the middle of a long adventure.

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