Adam, Charlene, Stuart and I caught a night bus to Sucre from La Paz. It arrived at about 7.30am so we didn't bother booking accommodation ahead. We caught a taxi to the central square (known as the Plaza de Armas in Peru and the Plaza de Mayo in Bolivia) and Charlene and I dumped the other 2 with the rucksacks whilst we went in search of somewhere decent to stay.
The Lonely Planet warned us that Sucre is full of very nice but expensive hostels and hotels so it's the place to splash out if you want a bit of luxury, but we planned to stay for a few days or so and therefore wanted to find something nice but cheap…easier said than done.
After an hour or so of walking around we had seen many hostels for around £30 a night (they were nice though) and a couple that looked like complete dives, we walked straight past them. Feeling dejected we headed back to the square and sent Adam and Stuart off to look at a possibility. Particularly as Stuarts Spanish is better than anyone's and we really couldn't understand what the guy in the hotel had said.
When they returned it turned out the hotel was fully booked so that was a no go. We wandered off again and booked a night in a nearby hostel called Libertad. It was cheap but not great.
We then set about exploring the town and found a gringo (the local's terms for Europeans) bar for breakfast/lunch. This place became a regular haunt of ours over the next few days even though the service was appalling, the food was average and our plan to meet other gringo's and swap experience didn't quite go as planned!
Sucre is a lovely small city in the middle of Bolivia and was once the Capital. It remains the judicial capital and is still Bolivia's second city but that is all. There are many Spanish Language schools, an old park built for the rich courting couples to walk around years ago (which has a very poorly designed and constructed replica of the Eiffel Tower you can climb in the center) and is really not all that touristy. It made a nice change from what we were used to. The city itself is very Colonial by design as well which makes for a very pleasant view from every angle.
By the way the name Sucre has nothing to do with sugar as some of you may be thinking. Its actually named after the guy who founded the city in the 1500's.
On our second day we walked past an alley where I spotted a hostel sign down the end and tentatively went to explore. It was here we found paradise! A lovely, quaint but brand new hostel which was being offered at a ridiculously cheap price because no one knew it was there. The owners hadn't even put it on the internet. Everything was brand new and it was centered round a great little courtyard which was nice for relaxing in the sun or a few evening drinks. There was even a well-stocked kitchen so we could save money cooking our own dinners. We couldn't ask for any more and booked 4 nights up front.
We also booked 3 afternoons worth of Spanish lessons with a local school owned and run by a German guy who once visited Sucre on holiday and never left. All I'll say about the lessons is that Adam and I are not really cut out for school and found it very hard but Stuart and Charlene did really well and really enjoyed themselves. Having said that I have learnt a fair bit, just out and about rather than in the classroom
During our stay in the pretty city we also arranged our plans for the next couple of stops through the country and a visit to some local fossilized dinosaur footprints.
Basically, in various places in the area ancient rock has turned dinosaur footprints into fossils. There are also many other fossils to be found in the area although it is not encouraged to buy them outside of registered shops.
Once upon a time the areas now visited by many tourists were river beds and drinking holes visited by many thirsty dinosaurs. In the millions of years that have since passed the river beds have become rock solidifying those giant footprints along with many meteor holes and the area we visited is also now vertical…
Weird I know but there are 2 theories as to why this is, firstly it's possible the rock has travelled up with the movement of the tectonic plates in the same way that mountain ranges are created or secondly, and the favourite theory of our enthusiastic guide, there was once an enormous meteor that landed nearby and created a huge shockwave throughout the land. It is believed this shockwave pushed the old lake bed upwards and created the small mountain that is now on the edge of a relatively small canyon. Either way it all happened a very long time ago.
There are 2 sites you can visit in the area of Sucre and most of the tour companies visit the main site Cal Orck´o that has been turned into a kind of museum and you cannot get within 200 metres of the footprints, but we didn't go there…the other site is very close to the city but is rarely seen by tourists and when we went there was no one around for miles except a goat herder. There are over 200 footprints at this site, not quite the 3500 prints of Cal Orck´o, but not bad.
Our guide picked us up in a taxi and took us to the edge of town where the taxi went off road and began to drive up an old and dry riverbed. We've been noticing a lot how the South Americans like to go off road in vehicles that really aren't up to the job. 5 minutes later we made it though and set off walking up what had become a small canyon that was clearly and slowly being created before the river dried up in recent years.
The walk took around an hour but wasn't difficult and we all enjoyed scrambling over large boulders and avoiding little rock pools of water that are now unfortunately devoid of life. The guide told us that no too long ago we would have seen large tadpoles in those waters but he didn't know why the river no longer flowed. However, he did mention that there are still wild guinea pigs in the area but those are hard to spot as they quickly scurry underground when they hear passing people.
The last part of the walk required a steep but brief climb up a small mountain to the footprints where Adam and Stuart enjoyed placing their own toy dinosaurs in the humungous holes and taking comparison photographs - boys!
The footprints belonged to Triceratops, Brontosaurus and some others we can't remember. Some of the holes appeared to be odd and irregular shapes but the guide explained that we were looking at just the heal of the animal that had sunk into the mud and when you looked at it like that (the heal was 3 feet wide!) you begin to realise just how big those beasts were!!!
One footprint looked to be a fair size and was easy to make out, then the guide showed an extra ring around the outside of it and we realized that the original footprint was much larger than we had first realized, the whole thing was very impressive! By comparison the little meteor holes were small and perfectly formed but the meteors that hit must have been at least the size of tennis balls if not bigger.
On the way back we were taken to a local restaurant where the owner proudly showed us his selection of local rocks. One included a meteor he had picked up that was the size of a football. It was very heavy. He also handed us 2 other rocks to look at which we were busy inspecting when we asked what they were…uranium and plutonium…hmmm…nothing like handling a couple of radioactive rocks!!! But clearly everyone else that has handled them is alright so we put them back and didn't worry about it.
And that's pretty much it for Sucre, we spent most of the time relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, especially knowing that our next 2 destinations were going to be extremely cold…