After our epic 4-day primitive extravaganza in southwestern Bolivia, we headed a few hours north to Sucre with a plan to stay for 10 days. We were ready to settle down in one place for a few days to relax, regroup and study Spanish, and Sucre was calling our names.
Sucre is located in the mountains at 9,214 feet above sea level. After being really cold in southern Bolivia I was hoping for warmer weather, but that didn’t exactly happen. The days were sunny and in the 60’s, but once the sun went down the temps dropped into the 30’s. Needless to say I slept in my jacket every night since we didn’t have heat in our room. Well, to be fair, there wasn’t heat anywhere we went – not at school, in restaurants, stores, etc. At least our hostel had hot showers and a comfortable bed.
Sucre is a beautiful city with Spanish colonial architecture, impressive churches, lots of parks and a main square that buzzed with constant activity. There are several universities in town and the abundance of students created a youthful vibe. There were also an overwhelming number of backpackers hanging around sporting dreadlocks and flipflops.
One weekend there was an exciting car race in the city. Literally in the city! Roads around the main square and throughout town were closed so loud, muffler-less cars could FLY down the streets and around corners. We couldn’t believe how close people stood to watch. The cars made a circuit through town, into the mountains, and back again. It was fun to experience this annual race with all the locals. It was family friendly event with street food, balloon animals and a lot of cheering.
Sucre Spanish School
One of the reasons we stayed in Sucre for so long was to take a week of Spanish classes. The price was right in that we each only paid $6.50 an hour for a private lesson. We were in class three hours a day for five days and we both really liked our teachers. My first class flew by and I was amazed when I realized that we hadn’t spoken any English at all in three hours.
One day our teachers planned a field trip for us and we took a bus to a huge market across town. We didn’t see any other tourists there which speaks to the authenticity of the market. My teacher and her mom shop there twice a week, so she knew how to navigate through the massive maze of shops and vendors. Yes, that’s a dead pig laying on the table (see picture below).
Many of you have asked how our Spanish is coming along, and it’s tricky to reply because we haven’t been learning in a conventional, systematic way… but we’ve been learning. Yes, we can both have basic conversations in Spanish, however we still understand more than we can speak. Our classes in Sucre made us realize that we’ve been living in a Spanish Bubble for a few months. We’re quite versed at “hospitality speak”, meaning we’re fairly proficient at communicating with hostel staff, bus and taxi drivers, restaurant staff and barbers, etc. I think we’ve come a long way since January, but of course there’s so much more to learn. Harry has a bigger vocabulary than I do, but thoughts roll off my tongue more freely. We still make a good team.
Our Polish friend Aga joined us one afternoon to visit the Sucre Hat Factory. From the moment we stepped inside it was like going back in time. The felted wool hats were made with old fashioned elbow grease and machines that rattled and hummed.
Next Up: La Paz, the highest Capital City in the World
We’ve heard people say that when it comes to La Paz, you’ll either love it or hate it. We boarded a plane in Sucre and headed for the big city with a bag of coca leaves (to be explained later) and an open mind.