Sucre, Bolivia. What a beautiful city , set in a valley surrounded by low mountains, boasts numerous churches , museums, funky restaurants and old houses. All buildings in the center of the city are either whitewashed or painted white. It is also a city of scholars and when we arrived it had two more, as we decided to brush up on our Spanish , so we did four afternoons from 2.30 – 6.30 pm, we surprised ourselves on how much we already knew, but still a long way to go! I guess it is much easier when you have your teacher beside you prompting and helping you along, rather than when you are out on your own trying to negotiate stuff!.
The city is small and compact and very easy to find you way around. The climate here is lovely and being a city of learning it has a youthful atmosphere so it was right up my alley ! The Plaza is very tranquil and is a great place to sit and people watch and have your orange juice squeezed right in front of you!!!! One of the days when we were sitting here before we went to our Spanish Class , three Bolivian boys, all age ten, came and sat beside us, so we rocked up a conversation with them both in Spanish and English, and we asked them to check our homework for us, which they did and we passed with flying colours. Mind you we were very impressed on how good they were at reading English, much better than we were at reading Spanish.
We visited Museo de la Recoleta, which has served as a convent,a museum, a barracks and a prison,and is surrounded by a courtyard brimming with loads of colour plus from here you have the most magnificent view over the whole city. The Cathedral and its bell tower is a landmark of Sucre, which apparently came from London, and at night time it looked particularly nice.
The food market ‘Mercado Central’ is wonderful here, you can buy the most fantastic fruit and vegetables, in fact you could find anything you want
here from a needle to a haystack, and all at very cheap prices. The atmosphere is great as the vendors (mostly women) are never happy no matter how much you buy from them, so as you can imagine there is great banter. The fruit salads and juices are not to be missed, plus you can eat here as well as buy. We got great tomatoes here, so Merv was in his element making pasta sauce!
Here too we went to the Immigration Office to extend our visa,( fellow over landers this is now on Calle Bustillos 284, between Colon y La Paz), an easy enough process. We found a photocopying shop close to the Immigration Office, got our Passports photocopied to give to the Immigration Officer , and he then added more days to our visa, job done, no hassle.
In the evening time the city was alive with people young and old, the smell of cooking, the sound of music, people laughing and chatting together on street corners, the colours of the local Bolivian people’s clothes, oh what a buzz everywhere, the hussle and bustle was fantastic. We came to Sucre thinking we would spend 2/3 days, but ended up staying 6 days, I thing that says it all, a definite city to return to some day.
Now we were leaving the warmth of Sucre , heading to Salar de Uyuni where the temperatures were going to be at least -15 at night, driving through some great scenery along the way. We saw the signs that the weather was changing, frost and ice by the road-side but yet great sunshine during the days. Before we got to the Salar , we visited the semi-ghost town of Pulacayo, which is tucked under coloured rocks of blue, yellow, red and green. In its heyday this town which mined mainly silver employed 20,000 miners, but now the mine is closed, and less than 800 people live there. It had a very desolate and empty feel to it, loads of houses not occupied , shops locked up, basket-ball court with nobody using it, no atmosphere as you walked through it, sad really, to go from what ‘was’ to what ‘is’. You can explore the mine tunnels here, provided you can find a guide to take you! This little town is also home to several decaying steam locomotives that were originally imported to transport ore, and it also includes Bolivia’s first steam engine which dates back to 1890, pretty old. Here too we saw the ore train that was robbed by the legendary bandits Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, plus the wooden rail-car with the bullet holes.
Now its time for the padded trousers, merino wool layers, hats, gloves in fact all our warm clothes as we head into the long-awaited Salar de Uyuni, here’s hoping we won’t be disappointed.