I’d say Sucre is not exactly what I expected. I’ve only been here 3 hours, but already my impressions have changed and changed again. As a rule, I try not to make much of any impressions I have of a place I arrive to between the hours of 8pm and 8am (and I arrived here at about 6am). Usually you are tired and have been traveling for a while at that point, and the town is usually closed up or seems entirely different than it would in the middle of the day. And given these elements, my first impressions of Sucre were not positive.
First I should give some backstory. A guy, Ray, from my salt flats tour and I were both planning to travel to Sucre next. Originally Natalie and I were going to stay a night in Uyuni and then both go our own ways, but upon seeing Uyuni everyone wanted to get out of there, and Natalie found a jeep to Tupiza and Ray was going to take a night bus to Sucre. I decided it wouldn’t be that bad to take a night bus as long as I had someone familiar along with me, since you have to change buses in Potosí in the middle of the night which I was nervous about.
So we got on our bus to Potosí at 6:30. It was a bit of an adjustment to Bolivian buses from the exceptional buses of Argentina — no bathrooms, meals, TVs, even overhead lights. Small chairs, half of which recline a little bit and half of which were missing their levers. It’s funny because you can tell the buses used to be nice, painted on the side are five stars showing the amenities of the bus — TV, drinks, music, reclining seats, and I forget the last one. It didn’t matter, since obviously all those things were long gone from the bus. Everyone on the bus was Bolivian (all in their traditional attire — literally the kind of clothing you see on the front picture of a guidebook is what they wear day to day, at least in Uyuni, less so in Sucre) except Ray and me, and an Asian backpacker who was staying in Potosí.
Anyways, the road from Uyuni and Potosí is ridiculously bad. I’m not sure you could even call it a road. It’s certainly not paved. So the whole 6-some hours of the ride was constant bumps. That, coupled with super uncomfortable seats and a window a few rows behind us that was stuck open, made for a very very unpleasant, slightly nightmarish ride. No sleep, freezing, you get the idea. But that was the good part of the night! Then we get to Potosí. They come on the bus yelling “Sucre, Sucre!” so we get off. Then they tell us that that’s if we want to take a cab to Sucre (2 1/2 hours by car), but we’d already bought our bus tickets all the way there, so we climb back on the bus and continue on to the “bus terminal” along with a few other people. There we sit on the bus.
We arrived earlier than we were supposed to, around 12:30am. We were originally told the bus to Sucre would be at 1:30, and we could wait on our original bus until it arrived. So we waited. Someone told us it would be at 2:00am instead. OK, fine, less time to walk around in Sucre with nowhere to go. By almost 4am, we were absolutely FROZEN (did I mention that Potosí is the highest city in the world, and therefore pretty much freezing?) and miserable. Every time we asked when the bus was coming, the answer was “un pocito mas” – a little bit more. After a couple hours of this we were fed up, and so we joined a cab to Sucre.
This was the pleasant part of the trip. After a lot of prodding, we finally got the cab driver to turn on the heat. Ah, bliss! I could feel my feet again! And the road was paved! So, we got about two hours of sleep. Nice. Then we arrived in Sucre. I told the driver the hostel I wanted to be dropped at, but he told me that, oh no, that was too far away, there were plenty of hostels on the main square. So he dropped us there instead. But it was six in the morning. All the hostels, cafes, everything were closed up. Finally Ray pulled out his Lonely Planet and it actually had a listing for the hostel that I’d found online, so we decided to walk there and see. Oh sooo far, it was about three or four blocks away. Sucre is a very small city. So big whoop.
We got there, but then they told us we couldn’t check in until 10:30am. And no cafes or anything would be open until 7:30am. So we sat in the lounge of the hostel for a while and eventually went wandering around the city. I grabbed a (terrible) hot chocolate and sat for a while, then went back to the hostel again, with just another hour until I can get into a room and finally take a shower! Since Monday I have only gotten to have one shower. And I’ll be honest, it’s been so freezing cold every day that I’ve been wearing all the same clothes, layers and layers of them. I am anxiously awaiting the moment I can wash my hair and put on new clothing! And really enjoy the slightly warmer weather of Sucre.
But back to Sucre itself, away from the nightmare of a night I had. It feels less “Bolivian” than I thought it would. It feels much nicer and more laid back than I thought it would. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all walking around. The people are pretty normal, the city is small and nice-feeling. From all the things I heard about Bolivia, I expected it to be intense and overwhelming and crazy and insanely difficult. I have a feeling La Paz will probably live up to that, but I guess most people don’t get out to Sucre, so they don’t see this side of Bolivia.
Here is the government, so I guess things are nicer and people in better conditions. In Uyuni, everything was dirty and “third-world” feeling, and everyone was indigenous, dressed in traditional clothing and hawking their wares at you. Here feels more modern, people dress in modern clothing, people are walking to work in suits, there’s more of a mix in how people look. It’s very different. And the main square is very beautiful and colonial feeling. My only quest now is to find wifi, that might prove a bit too modern for here! But again, my impressions are limited, from just a couple hours walking around.
Today I will probably take it easy. Shower, nap, catch up on some things, just relax. Tomorrow I plan to go to Cal Orko, where they have unearthed a ton of dinosaur footprints. That’s the real reason I came to Sucre, to be honest. Ever since I was a kid and wanted to be an archaeologist, I always thought any kind of place with fossils, etc. was super cool, so I’m really excited for it! I wanted to go to a place in Argentina that has the most dinosaur fossils in the world, but it was too difficult for me to get to… next time I’m in Argentina! Then I may catch a nightbus (I cringe at the thought!) to La Paz tomorrow night, unless I find there’s more I would like to do in Sucre. Then it will be off to Rurrenbaque and the jungle! I’ve heard wonderful things, so I’m excited to get there!