We loved our first few days in Sucre - stayed at a fantastic hostel called Casa Verde with a warm and helpful host, comfortable rooms, central location and a great kitchen - a couple of home cooked meals and a few cups of proper (Lipton) tea were a treat. Amazing how much we miss good caffeine! The tea and coffee are pretty mediocre in this neck of the woods - hoping Colombia and Central America will be an improvement in coffee quality... Mmm - what would we do for a flat white from Starlings - mmm...
Sucre is the old capital of Bolivia, the city has a colonial feel as described in our previous blog. On our first day we walked to the top of the city to a viewing point located at the Recoleta Monastery - you can see the terracotta rooves in one of the pics we've put up. It's a very tourist friendly place - which has its pros and cons - it is easy to navigate and restaurants / tour operators / hostels know what tourists are looking for, which makes it feel comfortable and safe... But of course this means less authentic Bolivian eateries, 'happy hours' at every pub and a LOT of foreigners trawling the streets. There are tour operators on every street corner and everyone is hoping to make a quick buck off the gringos! Fair enough.
We met a lovely Belgian couple at our hostel - Jonas was also a keen cyclist. Adrian and him hired bikes for the day and explored the surrounds armed only with a pair of sub-standard mountain bikes and a rather dodgy map. Rode through remote villages, had interactions with local bike mechanics (including a 7 year old
boy who pulled an interesting looking multi-tool from his satchel!), sampled some regional 'Energade' (sickeningly sweet carbonated fruit juice) and saw spectacular scenery - some serious hill climbing at high altitude, TDF eat your heart out. After nine hours on the bike headed back to Sucre for a well-earned beer and pizza.
We then headed off for a two night / three day hike in the surrounding mountains - check out the pics. We were accompanied by some Kiwis, an Israeli and Jonas and Sarah, and our two enthusiastic guides - Johnny and Joaquin - led the way.
The bus trip at 5h30 in the morning was set against a backdrop of heavy rain, ominous black clouds and thunder and lightning - we hopped off the bus with a fair amount of trepidation, dressed in lots of layers, with our less-than stylish appearance topped off with our rather odd looking plastic ponchos!
The route started with a hike down the mountain along an Incan path - breath taking views as the mist lifted. We would then hike into the Maragua Crater (unique rock formations probably formed by an old lake or tectonic plate movement - nope, a meteor did NOT land here) and spend a night in the crater, then hike out of the crater and have a look at the dinosaur footprints, spend a second night in a remote village called Potoli and then get a bus back to Sucre.
The three days brought such beautiful and diverse scenery and vegetation - from stark, lunar-like terrain to rolling green fields dotted with livestock. There are tiny farming communities that live at altitudes of 3600m in the most isolated places - farming quinoa and wheat, with herds of goats and sheep (no llama, surprisingly). We experienced warm sun on our backs as well as a rather vicious hail storm at the top of a mountain - man, those little balls of ice can hurt! Accommodation was rustic but pleasant, and we ate delicious sandwiches packed with veggies for lunch and less-than-delicious piles of carbohydrate (pasta and rice) for dinner. Much enjoyed after the day of exertion. We found a local shebeen at each little town - you can find a bottle of wine or beer pretty much anywhere in the world it seems...
The hike was pretty tough - about 18km a day - but such a good feeling to have aching muscles (Megs) after so many sedentary hours on buses. Also a nice feeling to have acclimatised to the altitude so well - a little more short of breath than usual, but we had no problem hiking at 3600m above sea level.
Arrived back in Sucre to spend a last night at Casa Verde and then headed on a bus to the bleak town of Uyuni to start our much-anticipated Salt Flats tour.
Will keep you posted xx