After Uyuni, I decided to travel up to the lovely city of Sucre since my plans to go to Argentina had fallen apart by then (there just wasn’t enough time to go. New rule: 1 country per month! At least 3 weeks…there’s just so much to do!).
I had heard a lot of good things about the “White City” – a traveler I met in Cochabamba said that it was one of his favorite cities in the world (I guess it depends on what you like though. While Sucre wasn’t my favorite city in the world, it was indeed very nice).
This trip also didn’t start out very well – due to the buses, yet again. I have no idea what happened, actually. All that I know is that I boarded an Emperador bus at Uyuni and took it for about four hours until its stop at the famous mining town of Potosi. The bus company originally told me that I would have to change buses in Potosi, but that didn’t quite happen. When I asked the bus driver where to go for my connecting bus to Sucre, he just handed me 20 bolivianos and told me to go upstairs. Somewhere. What?
So I went upstairs to find – something. I tried to go to the Emperador bus office, but it was closed. Another agency down the hall said that I had to go to the NEW bus station down the street. Whatthhell. Why are there two bus stations. That is so confusing.
I left the terminal and was immediately ushered into a taxi that I thought was going down the hill to the new bus station. It wasn’t – it was a shared taxi that was going directly to Sucre. Confused and tired, I hailed a taxi despite the driver’s lies that there were no more buses to Sucre after 1 pm, and went down to the new terminal. The Emperador ticket lady was confused. “You have a direct bus ticket” she told me. I shrugged my shoulders. She issued me a new ticket to Sucre for free, and told me to wait at Platform 4. While the bus was supposed to leave at 5 pm, I don’t think the driver showed up until about 6 pm.
In summary: Don’t take Emperador buses, they’re wack. And be careful with “bus changes” – make sure you know EXACTLY what’s going on!
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I finally made it to Sucre around 9:30 pm at night. While it was dark, I could tell that the city was absolutely beautiful outside. Numerous homes lined the incredibly steep hills to our road’s left, while lights lit up the streets like an old city in Europe. I got dropped off in the middle of the city (not a bus terminal) and took a cab waiting nearby to Hostal Amigo, a inexpensive Lonely Planet recommendation.
As I went inside the hostel to inquire about room vacancies, I was immediately greeted by a couple of young Chilean guys hanging out in the common area near the front desk. This place is hella friendly! I don’t know it’s a party hostel per se, but it’s definitely a very social hostel. If you can withstand the noise at night, I’d highly recommend this place (there can be a lot of drinking and socializing).
I soon found out that I was staying in Room 2, adjacent to the common area patio. The two Chilean boys who initially greeted me were my roommates (in a room sleeping 8). “We’re like a big family!” one of them explained. He walked me over to the room and introduced me to the other roommates, whom he called his “older cousins”. They were both really sweet and kinda comedy.
Pluses of Hostal Amigo: Friendly travelers, great front desk staff, a nice dining area, free breakfasts, multiple patio areas (the one on the second floor has a BBQ grill), and HOT showers! It’s also situated about 3 blocks from the main Plaza de Armas. You can’t beat it for 40 bolivianos (about $6US). The downsides is that it can get pretty loud there, and the walls can be paper thin. If you don’t mind that, you’ll be fine here.
Day 1 in Sucre consisted of hanging out and walking around town with a recent Canadian traveler friend that I met during my trip to the Salar de Uyuni (he was the guy that sprayed foam down my pants during Carnaval). There’s a market near the plaza that has a cafeteria where you can order almuerzos (beware: the ladies that try to get you to eat at their stalls are aggressive!) so we ate there and then began to explore the neighborhoods. Interestingly enough, the town is very residential. I didn’t see a lot of stores around, it’s mostly homes and hostels around the neighborhood.
We meandered up some steep streets and stumbled upon a look out (mirador) that gave us a good view of the city, next to a church and a small plaza. While we were walking back down to the main plaza, we continued to get pelted by kids and adults alike with water balloons. A group of boys even threw hardboiled eggs at me! OH RIGHT, it’s still Carnaval celebrations for another week.
The water balloons were pretty amusing for a while, but after a few days, the non-stop dodging gets a bit tiring – and so does being wet on cool days and cold nights. Passing cars pelt you. People walking down the street attack you. But the worst are people who hide by rooftops and windows that ambush you when you’re not looking – or can’t see them. You are literally bombarded from all angles! As a woman, you are an even bigger target too (guess that’s some machismo culture right thurrr….). After hanging out in the plaza de armas for a little while to enjoy the sun (and watch the local youth pelt each other with water balloons), I started to feel a bit of a cold coming on. So I went back to my hostel and tried to nap a little bit on my bunk bed.
My time in Sucre was a lot of fun. Apparently Sucre is the base camp for many treks and sports: hiking, camping, biking, rafting, ATV’ing, climbing, horse riding, you name it. As a solo traveler, however, it was hard to find a tour to join during the low season – tour companies kept telling me that there weren’t enough other travelers for me to join/form a group, so I had to wait to see if and when a others would create a tour group that I could join (which rarely ever happened).
I also got incredibly sick. Yes, due to the non-stop water balloon fights from Uyuni to Sucre during Carnaval time. By the end of the trip, I was quite flu-like and had started to lose my voice – it was just that bad. Rest was also hard to come by as the paper thin walls at the hostel made sleep pretty challenging. Was it worth it? Well…kinda. Sure, why not.
ACTIVITIES OVER THE NEXT THREE DAYS INCLUDED:
1. Hanging out with these awesome (mostly) Chileans (including my “cousins”):
Our evenings were filled with a lot of drinks, conversations in Spanish (I have a hard time understanding Chilean and Uruguayan accents!) patio BBQ’s organized by the “cousins”, English lessons, and a lot of whiskey (I tried to drink more to cure my cold. Didn’t quite work this time).
Great folks! I hope to see them again some day when they visit California / when I visit Santiago!
2. Carnaval: Attempting to dodge water balloons – and pelting the people who attacked me
A group of guys by la Iglesia San Francisco called me “la China” while they tried to attack me by one street corner. While some of them got me, I was pretty good at dodging – and firing back, even though it was like 5 against 1! The worst, however, were the guys that came right up to you and squeezed water balloons down your neck – so that the cold water bypasses your rain jacket and soaks you down to your pants. Sucks.
People out here have excellent aim. Just think of it this way: Carnaval happens EVERY year – they get a lot of practice. I’ll literally be walking down a street and will suddenly get slapped in the head with a water balloon – by some guy throwing them a half block away!
One fun experience however was hanging out across from la Iglesia San Francisco amongst a huge crowd of Sucre residents, watching the water balloon gauntlet go down. Some of the paraders walked calmly down the street and accepted their fate/beating, while others got rowdy and fired back! I even saw a guy get in a car accident when he got distracted and tried to fire back at the crowd. Big mistake.
I love how each group’s brass and drum bands kept playing despite the madness, undeterred and unmoved by the barrage of water balloons being thrown in their direction.
People in flat bed trucks were also pretty helpless against the crowds:
Wherever I went, I carried a bag of water balloons in one hand, and a single water balloon in the other hand. Whenever anyone passed me by, I would turn and look at them and say, “DOOOON’T do it…!” Hahahahahah!! Because they WOULD.
On the last day of Carnaval, hardly any stores or restaurants were open (beware of holidays in South America, you might be assed-out when it comes to food or services). I had to venture out to the main plaza to get street vendor food (the only food available), which was a wet and wild walk for 4 blocks. By the time I got to the square, all they had were small chicken sandwiches – I ate about four of them in place of my dinner. I felt like I was making a trip out into the wild to forage for food. I was soaking wet by the time I made it back to my hostel.
3. Rock climbing in Sucre!
On the first day that I was scheduled to climb, I was still sick and wasn’t sure if I could go – but I did, and it turned out to be DOPE. My guide, Carlos, was amazing (and an incredibly talented climber). I met up with him and his friend Darwyn, who both helped me tackle these routes on the edge of town (very gorgeous – we were hung out on some prime climbing areas on the side of a large hill, surrounded by homes in the distance).
At the end of the day, I was feeling MUCH better, health-wise. The day was HELLA fun (too bad my camera battery died), AND they invited me to climb with them the next day. I was sick again the next day, but fuck it – when am I going to have another chance to climb Sucre? I went out and climbed some incredibly hard overhang rocks (one route required a dyno move. I didn’t get that far). Carlos was a great cheerleader though. He definitely got me to climb a route that I didn’t think I could make any progress on.
If you’re ever in Sucre and want to go climbing, I HIGHLY recommend Carlos! <Check out their website HERE>
4. Hanging out with my hostel mates and pretending to be 21 again
I don’t normally do tourist bars, but my young roommates wanted to go, so we went. It ended up being pretty amusing. Lots of bad food, a LOT bad dancing, and people making out on the dance floor.
Despite being sick, the dancing and comraderie were awesome that night. Made for a great end-of-my-trip-to-Sucre party!