Sucre is Sweet

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My bus with Cochabamba Lines to Sucre was probably one of the most comfortable bus sleeps I've ever had: maybe I'm just getting used to it? The seats reclined more than any other bus I've been on aside from the first one into Peru, the blanket was warm, and I woke 40 minutes before coming into Sucre feeling refreshed and glad to be arriving in a new place. The first step, as always, is finding a place to hang my backpack. After some walking around using the Lonely Planet as a starting point I found a great place to stay for only 30 Bolivianos per night. Residencial Ciudad Blanca, so named because all the whitewash in Sucre has given it that nickname, has a nice little courtyard around a blossoming tree, hot water showers, and private rooms. I liked the city almost instantly and decided as quickly that my neglected Spanish studies - one of my goals for the trip was to learn Spanish - were going to receive a five day refresher as well. I found a school called Fox which I can't recommend in itself but with a teacher that I certainly can named Abi with private classes for 40 Bolivianos (less than $6) per hour and she didn't mind teaching on weekends which sold me. Entirely by accident, I stumbled on Ty's hostel in my roaming of the city, Amigos, which cost the same as mine but for a dorm bed - always a good option if you arrive alone. Ty was looking for Spanish classes and a volunteer position for a month and likewise had success with the very friendly director at Fenix Spanish School who also hooked him up with an awesome apartment. I'd say by lunch Sucre had always ingratiated itself permanently into my good books.

Walking around we came upon one of my favourite parts of Sucre: the market! Conveniently located about half a block from my hostel, Ty and I split half a watermelon and chatted with a fruit vendor before sitting down to some fresh fruit juice - two glasses with no water, ice, or milk for less than a dollar. Without fail I was there every morning and tried grape juice (with water), mango-coconut with milk, apple, carrot-apple, a blend of fruits and veggies, and a fruit salad with yogurt and chocolate. Sometimes I'd read the newspaper, sometimes I'd chat with whichever local sat next to me, and sometimes I'd just sit there watching people in the market. If you go often enough and find a juice lady you really like you end up with her being your casera, your go-to-lady and many of the caseras know exactly what their customers have as they walk up with a warm "Buenos dias, casera!". Of course the market also has plenty of meat, nuts, veggies, and upstairs a bunch of small restaurants though I didn't partake in the latter after my recent food poisoning. But there were plenty of good restaurant options available and I can say confidently that I didn't have a single bad meal here in Sucre. We somehow managed to try most of the local dishes without realizing which I'd like to chalk up as an advantage of an adventurous spirit (or at least stomach). Falso conejo (fake rabbit which is actually just pulverized beef breaded and served in a spicy aji sauce) was one such delish-dish; another was seite lunares or literally "Seven beauty marks" which is homemade spicy sausage on a bun with lettuce and tomato; still another was a mix of sausage, beef, and chicken with potatoes and vegetables that was half stirfry and half stew. We found favourite restaurants everywhere we went and even the street food here is varied and good. I've never seen little pizza ovens on wheels but the pizza lady was at the corner across from my hostel every night beside an Argentinan with 'lomito' which literally means little roast (beef) though there was nothing roasted about the sandwiches he was making with egg, beef, salsas and spices.

There are plenty of hikes to do around Sucre but I didn't bother, to be honest. Part of what makes being in Sucre so enjoyable is that I can hang up my tourist hat for a few days, though I did exercise the new camera somewhat. Still, for completeness, there are a few nearby inca roads and a crater that is supposed to be worth hiking up. As well, nearby Tarabuco has some pretty good markets on Sundays full of woven goods but I stocked up in La Paz so I also gave that a skip. This area has a lot of dinosaur remains and one touristy thing I did do was to head to a cement foundry. That's right. They discovered some dinosaur prints while excavating, except raised into a steep slope by tectonic forces and preserved as a result of the minerals in the water when the sea drained from South America as it collided with the pacific plate and was pushed up. They've built a museum around it which was okay for a morning with nothing more interesting to do and I have to admit I was enthralled with the life sized titanosaurus (AKA brontosaurus) although the footprints were too far away to be very interesting. There IS yet another hike that you can do which takes you past some much more interesting looking carnivore prints but I didn't get there either. In spite of the fact that I was pretty regularly busy it was a time to recharge the batteries.

The days here are warm (if the sun is out) and the nights range from chilly to cold. Even so, nights here on the weekends were lively and full of locals and tourists alike milling around what has to be one of the nicest plazas in South America, 25 de Mayo. Ty brought out an Aussie friend from his hostel and three Bolivian girls they somehow met (I think while having their shoes shined by the sad number of children wandering around with polish and a little stool) and we had a great time that weekend. Classes with Abi were great, too. She's a really bubbly and intelligent 26-year old and we had great chats about politics and all sorts of topics while practicing Spanish and over pizza after class. Better still, I have, at long last, managed to get a lot better with the past tense, learn to use the imperative, and unraveled the mysteries of the subjunctive. She also gave me some tips on things to see and do in Sucre and as a result I had a great lunch at El Patio sitting with a retired math teacher eating their famous saltenas. Otherwise, Sucre was day-to-day pleasant but with no real stories. I'd study in the mornings and afternoons, either at the desk in my room or in the courtyard as the weather dictated. Classes were from 2-6 and afterwards I'd usually go back, do some studying, head out for dinner or sometimes get some food to go and come back to eat while I watched a movie on my laptop. Nueve Reignas (Nine Queens) was a really enjoyable Argentinian movie although I have to admit that I saw the end coming in spite of the twists. Finally, I got some details sorted out for John's bachelor party (and then unsorted), and have a tentative plan for getting myself home though unfortunately flight prices rise faster than the flights themselves and while I had found a flight for $730 to Saskatoon a week ago I now can't find anything less than $1000. Hopefully I'll have this sorted out very very soon but there are still one too many balls in the air for this summer. Better them than me!

Sucre Photos

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