October 13 - 18, 2014
Sucre is the birthplace of Bolivia where the declaration of independence was signed in 1825. Although the constitution recognizes Sucre as the nation's capital, La Paz is now the seat of government and treasury, retaining majority of the power. Many of Sucre's inhabitants come from old aristocratic, conservative family lineages. The city is neatly organized in a grid pattern with churches, mansions and monasteries on every corner, but that does not necessarily mean it's easy to find your way. When you visit Sucre, the first thing you notice immediately is the sea of white buildings. Virtually every building branching from the main plaza is painted white. All buildings are required by municipal regulations to be painted white once a year to keep their nickname as "The White City of the Americas". When we first arrived, Jesse took a short walk around Sucre and ended up getting himself lost for hours. Since every street is white washed, it is very easy to lose your place in this city.
The temperature was so wonderful compared to the extremes of Potosi (13,420 ft). The climate in Sucre is comfortable and predictable, located in the eastern lowlands at 9,150 feet high. Notorious for its reputable universities, Sucre has a youthful atmosphere of a university city and is one of Bolivia's most progressive cities. Located roughly 100 miles north of Potosi, it is known as the "city with four names": La Ciudad de la Plata, Charcas, Chuquisaca, and Sucre. The city was founded in 1538 as the administrative headquarters for the Potosi mines. The silver flowing through the city funded the construction of many of the churches, palaces, and buildings.
Jesse and I took a tour of the city with our guide Paola. It was just the three of us and the whole tour felt like we were just hanging out. We visited the Church of San Felipe Neri which is now a Catholic academy. From the rooftop, I took amazing shots of the sunset hitting the white buildings. We also went up the Cathedral where we saw the Plaza 25 de Mayo below. The plaza has beautiful shady palm trees and benches. La Catedral began construction in 1551 and has three balconies and a square bell tower open to the public. The clock in the tower was made in London and has been keeping perfect time since 1772. The three of us ate dinner after the tour and had a really nice time as new friends. As we passed by a cafe window, I recognized a girl I've met previously at the Buddha Hostel in Medellin.
We visited Castillo La Glorieta, a century old mansion with underground passageways used to protect male children from enlisting in the war. Paola said that the home has seen multiple sightings of a small man with a giant hat haunting the precises which is our equivalent to a Leprechaun.
Paola took us to the Museo de Arte Indigena, a museum of indigenous art from local Quechua-speaking cultures of Jalqa and Candelaria. To preserve this dying tradition, the museum is used as a revival and acknowledgment of ancient weaving techniques. Each textile sold provides income for hundreds of poor campesinos. The weaving in the museum showed different beliefs of each indigenous group. Some worshiped the mythological underworld where figures of animals and horned demons with wings made its presence on the cloth. The colors of choice were red and black. Some worshiped heaven and others worshiped the Earth as we see now. All three tiers used specific colors and animals (fictional or real) as a tribute to the gods.
Jesse and I later watched the move "The Enemy" starring Jake Gyllenhaal for $3. The cinema was attached to the mall which seemed recently renovated and we shared it with only 4 other people.
The mountain of Cal Orko was discovered in 1994 with over 5,000 dinosaur prints from at least 150 different species, making it the world's largest collection. Jesse and I booked a 12 hour tour that took us to the outskirts of Sucre where dinosaur footprints were discovered. We left at 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night and there was a lot of hiking. Along the way, our bus picked up an old woman carrying 15 pounds on her back. She lost her family when her husband died and her children left for La Paz and never came back. If the bus did not stop for her, it takes 6 hours to reach her destination in the beating sun climbing mountains.
We visited Parque Nacional Torotoro with its deep canyons of multi-colored valleys and beautiful waterfalls. We stopped at a remote town where our guide took us to "Devil's Throat". The rock formation actually feels like you are inside of the mouth of a rock face. There was even a small crevice that looked like a small opening for a throat. When we finally reached the dinosaur footprints, we were somewhat disappointed. The hike took hours, but the attraction was nothing spectacular. The prints are roughly 65 - 85 billion years old and were dotted on this near-vertical rock face. The prints became fossilized over time as layers of volcanic ash preserved the prints.
The last night that Jesse and I spent in Sucre, we bought this god awful alcohol from the grocery store. It was dark and smelled (and tasted) like pine trees. As Jesse and I took turns taking shots of it, I threw up all over my bed sheets. The only thing I ate that day was an apple, so I was a complete wreck. I remember sitting in the shower feeling as though my body was going to fail on me. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. I spent the whole day drinking water and trying to feel better.
We booked a “luxurious bus” to La Paz at 7:30 pm. It had reclinable seats that went nearly 180 degrees. Sadly the double-decker bus did not have a functional toilet. This is where my bladder decided to haunt me. I tried using the bathroom at one of the rest stops outside but since it was dark, the bus started leaving without me. Fortunately for me, everybody on the second level was asleep and we had the last two seats furthermost in the back. I used plastic bottles and zip lock baggies to relieve my bladder. The last days of Sucre were shameful moments for me, but it is something I can laugh about now. It was a long 13 hour bus ride, but with reclining chairs, it was comfortable enough to rest before arriving in La Paz.
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Blore, Shawn. Frommer's South America. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. Print.
Keeling, Stephen, and Shafik Meghji. The Rough Guide to Bolivia. 2015. Print.
Mutic, Anja, Kate Armstrong, and Paul Smith. Bolivia. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet, 2010. Print.