Una pequeña y bonita ciudad
04.02.2015 - 25.02.2015
After regularly getting frustrated and embarrassed by our level of Spanish we decided Spanish lessons were a must, and Sucre suited well. Like many who visit Sucre, we stayed a lot longer than planned (even if our decision was helped by a little package). We ended up staying in Sucre for three weeks and really loved what is a fantastic and beautiful little city.
Before our Spanish lessons started we did a few of the touristy things in Sucre. First off, we went on a day trek that involved visiting the dinosaur footprints, that Sucre are quite proud of (judging by the number of plastic dinosaurs that are dotted around town). Realistically the footprints were slightly disappointing as they were about 200 meters away on a vertical cliff. Interestingly, when the dinarsours roamed South America it was flat and as a result of one tectonic plate going under another the Andes formed, hence the footprints are vertical. The trek was enjoyable and we walked through valleys to the 'seven waterfalls' of sucre where we got to have a refreshing swim and watch locals dive off a ledge into a pool of water of unknown depth. The highlight was probably the lunch which was a picnic from fresh ingredients of the market enjoyed sat in a valley in much peace.
As we have discovered with a lot of South American towns, often a highlight is a view of it from the 'mirador.' We climbed up to the top and had a fantastic view of the 'White City.' The cemetery is also a popular tourist attraction, with graves ranging from the size of houses to small cupboards it is very impressive, well kept and although shut for lunch (what isn't it seems) worth the visit.
Walking back to the hostel on the Monday we saw a couple of waterballoons being thrown but thought nothing of it. We completely overlooked the fact that carnival would be celebrated in parts of South America other than Rio and these waterballoons were the start of carnival in Sucre. The waterballoons became more common as did foam spray, water guns and even people throwing buckets of water off their balconies. They take a six day weekend to celebrate and the whole town is in good spirits with parades, music and plenty of drunk locals on the streets. Although the water ballooning did get slightly frustrating as you couldn't leave the hostel without getting soaked the overall experience was great and it was fantastic to party with the people of Sucre.
Throughout our trip we have decided to do some volunteering; an opportunity to see local culture closer and to give a little back to the countries that are welcoming us so willingly. We found an opportunity to work mornings at a day care centre that a Bolivian lady, Andrea, set up so mothers could work. The kids were aged between 1-5 and we spent the morning playing games with them. They were extremely cute but did not know the meaning of 'don't do that' (even in Spanish) and lunchtimes were very slow with them all being stubborn and not eating their soup, one of them decided to pour it all over his legs resulting in tears. It was a worthwhile experience, a great opportunity to practice what little spanish we had picked up and I think/ hope Andrea appreciated our help.
After replying 'absolutely nothing' to the question of 'what level is your Spanish' we're very happy with how much we learnt in the week of classes. Our teacher, Imelda, was very patient, kind and accommodating to what we wanted to learn. I completely forgot how hard it was to learn a language and starting from scratch was difficult and frustrating but now, hopefully, we have the ability to ask for food and accommodation, talk about our travels and have basic conversations with the locals. It was money well spent and is now down to practice to keep improving.
One of the things that made Sucre so great was the Hostel 7 Patas and the people who stayed there. As many people stayed and took Spanish lessons it meant the conversations were much more interesting rather than the usual 'where are you going/where have you been' chat. There was a wild range of nationalities, a large number of Europeans, Aussies, Koreans, Argentines and Brazilians that all hung out, played cards, watched films, cooked and drank together. We enjoyed seeing recognisable and friendly faces for once and hopefully we will meet some of them along the way up to Colombia.
As we had decided to stay in Sucre for a while, Beaky's girlfriend/family had sent a package replacing some of the items in the Calama incident (stolen panniers). With the Bolivians taking almost a week off for carnival, an import tax that we were unaware of and general Bolivian bureaucracy the package took a fair bit longer than expected. This just gave us more of a chance to enjoy Sucre's relaxed atmosphere, decent food and lovely people. It really wasn't a difficult place to call home for a few weeks.
With the package completing an adventure that rivalled our own and goodbyes said, we left Sucre for a long drive to Oruro.