Some ups and downs in central Bolivia

I had lofty expectations for our time in Sucre; we were dead tired after spending four days in a jeep dealing with altitude and stomach infections, and beat down from another 8 hour bus ride to get from Uyuni to Sucre. I wanted badly for Sucre to be peaceful and relaxing. I can happily report that it was exactly that.

A university in Sucre, near the main square

We stayed in TripAdvisor’s #1 ranked “other accommodation” choice (usually where hostels show up) and weren’t let down for a minute. Stepping through a door on a busy street, we entered the quiet oasis that we would hardly leave for the next few days. Our room alone was bigger than some 10-bed dorms we’ve stayed in before. The kitchen was great and there was a lovely Australian couple in residence. This place checked all the boxes.

Sheena makes some important phone calls

Sucre is kind of like a noisier, smellier, and less pretty version of Arequipa, Perú, which is to say, it had it’s charms. We loved the central market in particular. We were also surprised to learn that our German friends, Sandy and Marcus (who we originally met in Medillin, Colombia) were still in the city, some 9 days after they first arrived. Unfortunately for them it was for all the wrong reasons, as they were physically ill and also frustrated by high airline prices. But for us, we suddenly found ourselves in a city where we had friends and dinner dates – a first since Buenos Aires!

Hanging out with Sandy and Marcu

Our mistake was only giving ourselves 4 nights in the city. We booked our flight from Sucre to Santa Cruz before heading out on the jeep tour, wanted to lock in a cheap price we saw online. I think we both wished we hadn’t done that, because a full week in the city would have been wonderful.

Knowing that we were leaving someplace special, we reluctantly packed up and headed to the small airport for a short, 30-minute hop down to the edge of the Bolivian flatlands. The landscape below us was stunning, but also reinforced our decision to fly instead of taking a bus – it was clear why the land journey would take up to 14 hours. Our time in Santa Cruz was limited to an hour-long reintroduction to 90% humidity on board an airport shuttle, before transferring to a mini-van and heading for Samaipata. Cramming into the back seat we headed 2.5 hours back up the mountains, on a winding, speed bump filled road. The old man in front of me pointed out that things would be much more uncomfortable for me if I wasn’t so skinny. Sheena kindly remarked that long legs are the usual cause for discomfort in tight spaces. She was prompty ignored.

Samaipata sounded a bit like Baños, Ecuador from our book’s description, so we were a little disappointed to find a much smaller town, and one without working internet and very little to do in the rainy season. Sandy and Marcus arrived a day before us, so at least we had some company. Our first and only attempt at a hike was a disaster; we were rained out after lunch and were left with a long, wet and muddy walk back into town. Two days later our clothes are still drying out… damn humidity.

The only photo from our unfortunate hike.. not a very good one I’m afraid

The last few days have been agonizing at times. Watching the rain outside our window, Sheena and I argued about what the best course of action woud be. Do we stay until the weekend when the weather report looks slightly better? Or cut our loses and leave? But what would be our destination and how would we make up the extra days before heading for Christmas with a Bolivian family in Santa Cruz? Would these “must-see” Jesuit Missions really be worth it? All of this was made worse by the fact that we left a wonderful situation behind in Sucre.

In the end, our decisions for moving forward fell somwhere in the middle. We’re probably staying in Samaipata longer than necessary, but we’re hedging out bets – I’m not entirely sure these Missions will be worth the trouble… We will arrive in Santa Cruz in time for Christmas, which was the real reason for venturing down to this part of Bolivia in the first place. Fortunately, the rest of the trip seems pretty straight-forward compared to this awkward little foray.


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