I arrived in Bolivia feeling empty. I’d just spent over a month in Patagonia, and I had a head full of memories of some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes discovered with some incredible friends. I got off the plane, got into a cab, rolled down the window and… really felt like I didn’t want to be there.
Then I got to walking around Santa Cruz and really did not want to be there. And this is all I have to say about Santa Cruz.
I dragged my sorry ass to Sucré, hoping it would lift my spirits a bit and that I could get some peace and quiet. Spoiler alert: it worked.
Sucré is quaint in a south-american kind of way. It’s got ancient churches at every street corner, excruciatingly steep hills that lead through narrow alleyways to splendid viewpoints (and the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen, save the Père Lachaise in Paris), wonderful micros packed full with people of all classes trying to get across town, and a bustling market full of exceptional characters. You’ve got the tiny old ladys at behind huge piles of vegetables giving you a little extra coriander because you can speak Spanish; the teen coming up to her mum’s butcher’s stall to charge her smartphone; the stage-like fruit juice stalls where women peer from over their tall counters to pass you wobbly glasses of fresh mango and passion fruit juice…
One other quirk: Sucré has this mini Eiffel Tower thing… that was actually built by Gustave Eiffel! It is covered in graffiti and tape, though, and seemed to mostly be a hangout spot for youth to date/smoke pot.
Above, a giant statue of Simón Bolívar’s head in Sucré’s Casa de la Libertad museum. For the record, Bolivar was a Venezuelian who contributed to getting a lot of South America their independence from Spanish rule. Bolivia was named after him (although he said it should’ve been named after Juana Azurduy de Padilla, a guerilla leader). He also managed to find some free time to be president of Gran Colombia, Peru and Venezuela – twice.
At one point, I was waiting for a friend in the main square when two teenagers came up to me. They were doing a school project and asked me question after question regarding who I was, my experiences travelling and my impression of Bolivia. Lastly, they asked me to describe Sucré in one word.
‘Relaxing,’ I said.
I saw them half smile, half sigh. I guess that’s what everyone says about Sucré – but there’s a good reason for that. In between the hectic jeep days in the Salar de Uyuni, the altitude sickness of La Paz and the more adventure-filled Amazonia (or so I hear; I passed on that), Sucré is a little oasis of slow living in Bolivia.