18 Apr 2014

Happily Stranded In Sucre

We spent just one night In Uyuni recovering from our Salt Flats tour before making the bus journey to Sucre via Potosi. There had been daily protests and road blockades over the past week so we were relieved that we could actually travel. First we took a bus for about four hours to the silver mining town of Potosi which is also the highest town in the world at 4,440m ASL. We would have loved to have stayed and visited the mines here which are notoriously dangerous places to work but as the miners were mid-strike we decided to pass straight through to Sucre in a shared taxi for just 40 BOB (£4) per person.

sucre plaza bolivia

Our Canadian friend Ryan was also in Sucre and recommended the Hostal CasaArte, we were delighted when we checked in to discover they’d upgraded us to this sweet little apartment with a separate kitchen and living area! After five months with just a bedroom and a bathroom between us this was total luxury. They also had a three month old Miniature Schnauzer puppy called Imelia who we adored. This hostel was a great find as it had a lovely garden and courtyard area with one of the best breakfasts we’d had in weeks.

casa arte sucre bolivia
"Schnauzer love!"

Sucre is a beautiful colonial town which we didn’t really expect to see in Bolivia, the streets were postcard worthy rows of whitewash houses with contrasting orange roofs and the main plaza had stunning architecture and exquisitely grand buildings. We could definitely sense the Spanish influence on design here. They’d really put some effort when they made it Bolivia’s capital from 1839 to 1898. It’s also a very hilly town like most places in Bolivia so it kept us fit whilst we were strolling around. 

sucre bolivia

We didn’t discover tonnes to do in Sucre but that was part of its charm for us as we just wandered aimlessly admiring this beautiful ‘White City’. 

sucre libertad museo bolivia

There are lots of museums in town but typically they are all on a small scale, we visited the Libertad museum on the main square which was interesting as we were introduced to the founder of their country and liberator of many South American countries Simon Bolivar. 

sucre libertad museo simon bolivar bolivia

On our wanderings we discovered a few great places to eat. El Mirador Gourmet Cafe next to the Plaza de la Recoleta was a lovely place for a Picada lunch with a fantastic panoramic view over the city. 

mirador sucre bolivia

We also ate a couple of times at Abis Cafe, they had a small menu of burgers and Mexican dishes with an excellent wine list and pretty courtyard seating. There are a few few street food vendors too and our favourite snack were the bright orange potato patties with spicy tomato salsa for just a few BOB. We also enjoyed a giant Mexican feast at the Dutch pub Florin Bar.

abis cafe sucre bolivia
"Damn right its better than yours."

After a couple of relaxing days we ‘tried’ to take an overnight bus to La Paz. We’d heard so many stories about how cold this bus route was so we’d layered our thermals under our clothes. At the bus station we experienced a very confusing method of loading our baggage on to the bus, our backpacks were lowered down by rope from the office on the second floor narrowly missing the heads of people on the waiting platform not sure why we couldn’t just hand our bags to luggage guy? 

florin sucre bolivia
"A mexican feast for four consumed by two!"

We settled into our seats on the heated upper deck so it wasn’t long until we were sweating and cursing our thermals. It was very slow progress out of Sucre as there was lots of traffic and buses and lorries parked at the sign of the road. Within thirty minutes we’d pulled onto a verge too ahead of another bus and it wasn’t long until we were packed in. It wasn't until the engine switched off that we could hear angry chanting, shouting and firecrackers going off. When we pressed our faces against to the window we could see fires burning too. 

It dawned on us that we’d just met our first blockade! Nobody on the bus had a clue what was going on and we can confirm that “Aye aye aye!” is a authentic Spanish phrase. The heating was still blasting out too but we weren’t brave enough to step off the bus for fresh air like a few others locals had. 

blockade sucre bolivia
"A typical blockade scene in Bolivia."
Photo by Fred Bellamy.com

We waited like sitting ducks discussing films with angry mobs like The Wicker Man and The Kill List. So dramatic as always! It was around 9pm so it was pitch black and we had no idea what the noisy crowd just ahead of our bus looked like.

We sat on the bus melting for about three hours when there was movement in our convoy, many buses started to reverse and make their way back top Sucre. Soon our double decker was doing the same, of course we were down a verge in some grass so it was a worryingly wobbly few minutes before we were back on the even tarmac. No La Paz for us tomorrow. Boo! At the bus station we jumped straight in a taxi and headed back to our favourite hostel where luckily somebody was awake at 1am to let us strays in.

Happily we settled back into our old apartment and in the morning we booked the next available flights to La Paz which were in a couple of days. Thankfully they were pretty good value at 490 BOB (£44), we decided against attempting the bus route again and wasting 130 BOB (£12) each time there was no news about the blockades ending soon except on Sundays when they tend to take a day off to see family.

Sucre was a great place to be stranded as its so pretty with a mild climate of about 20ºC. We made the most of our kitchen by shopping fresh veggies from the huge food market in the centre and remembered our cooking skills. 

On the morning of our flight the most knackered taxi turned up to take us on the 15 minute uphill journey to the airport. We hadn’t given ourselves loads of time so were getting a bit twitchy as the driver restarted his car every two minutes and couldn’t drive faster than 15 KMH. It took us about 40 minutes but surprisingly we did make our flight in that car!

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