Technically, Sucré is the capital of Bolivia.
You thought it was La Paz, right? Well, you were wrong. And I’ll forgive you if you’re going, “Actually, I’ve never given much thought to the capital of Bolivia.”
Now you know – according to the constitution, Sucré is the official capital while La Paz is the administrative capital. I don’t really understand where that leaves either city, but there you have it.
I’d expected to like Sucré, and I did – but the city made it hard, throwing up roadblocks at every feasible opportunity.
First, our overnight bus arrived two to four hours before we expected it to. Normally, this would be a reason to rejoice, but in this case, it was a mixed blessing. Instead of arriving between eight and ten in the morning, we rolled up at six.
Six a.m. is not an ideal time to turn up in a foreign city. For lack of any better ideas, we took a taxi to the main plaza and waited there for an hour, until the first breakfast place opened. After breakfast at the tourist-centric but delicious Joy Ride Café, we arrived at Wasi Masi hostel at the acceptable hour of 8:30AM.
Our room wasn’t ready. That in itself wasn’t a problem, because we had arrived well before check-in. It just meant that we had to figure out how to kill three hours in our fresh-off-the-overnight-bus condition. We stowed our bags and resumed our aimless wandering of the city.
Finally, we returned, anticipating a room, a hot shower, and most of all, a bed to lay on.
“Which room do you want,” the receptionist asked. “Top or bottom?”
On the spot, I chose a room on the second floor.
To my dismay, the bed was a mattress on the floor.
Look. I lived in Korea for two years. Sleeping on the floor is nothing new to me. Not having a bed frame isn’t actually a bad thing. The room was clean. The bed was comfy. The hostel courtyard was nice. At that moment I was craving western comforts, and that included a bed.
Later, I noticed that the downstairs option had a bed frame.
“A small problem,” the receptionist said before leaving us to our mattress on the floor. “No hay agua.”
Sucré suffers from water shortages, and we were experiencing one. Luckily, the shared bathroom nearby was still working. Jared went first while I organized my bags and returned, clean.
I gathered my things, outfitted myself in a sarong, and went into the shower. When I turned the handle, it groaned.
No water left.
Again, not the hostel’s fault. Several hours later, the water was back on. It was cold (ice cold, actually), but it worked and I, too, was finally clean.
The next day, we planned to visit La Casa de la Libertad, a museum off the main square. We’d scoped it out and knew it was open from 9-12, then 2-6, Tuesday through Sunday.
The plan was to hit the dinosaur park in the morning and the Casa in the afternoon. We waited in front of the cathedral for the arrival of the Dino bus, which arrived promptly at 9AM.
“Cuanto cuesta?” I asked the driver.
“20 Bolivianos.” Each.
20 Bolivianos is about three dollars. It is not expensive, but it costs more than our regular 3-course lunches, so it felt pricey. Plus, the park cost 30 Bolivianos each to get in. We balked and decided to ditch the dinosaur park.
Hey. We’re on a budget.
“Let’s go to the museum instead,” Jared suggested.
When we arrived at 9:30, the huge wooden doors were bolted shut. I ducked into an open doorway nearby and asked a uniformed guard about the museum.
“9-12 and 2-6,” she said.
“But it’s closed,” I said.
“Oh, yes, it is not open now. Tomorrow.”
We didn’t have a plan C, but Jared thought of one. “The Natural History Museum is supposed to be around here,” he said. We consulted the map and walked to its supposed location.
No Natural History Museum.
The nearest thing was an anatomy museum. At my insistence, we paid 10 Bolivianos each and entered. The girl was shocked, because it’s not really a tourist attraction. It’s set up for educational purposes, usually frequented by medical students.
On our way back to the hostel, Jared serendipitously spotted a sign. “The Natural History Museum! There it is!”
We veered into a narrow alleyway that led to a courtyard, then ascended a spiral staircase, followed a long hallway, and arrived in a series of three rooms that acted as the museum. Again, the receptionist was shocked. When we signed the visitor’s book, we saw why. They hadn’t had a visitor in three days.
To my delight, the museum was full of poorly taxidermied animals, and it was free.
Mystified, we tried La Casa de la Libertad the next day. It was open, and it was sufficiently interesting. Filled with battered flags, portraits of presidents past, the original declaration of independence, glittering swords, and more, it kept us occupied for over an hour.
After we’d had time to think about it, we realized that we were being silly about the dinosaur park. Why not take the Dino bus for $3 each? Why not pay the $4 entry fee? After all, our lunches were costing us next to nothing.
Emboldened by our streak of success, we waited for the afternoon Dino bus. It arrived on time. It chugged 3 kilometers to the park, which was, as we’d expected, pretty simple.
If you call ancient, real-live dinosaur footprints simple.
The nearby concrete plant discovered the footprints some time ago while they were excavating the land, and somebody jumped at the chance to establish the Parque Crétacio. From a distance, you can observe a number of dinosaur tracks. Close up, you can check out life-sized replicas of dinosaurs.
It’s not quite Jurassic Park, but it’s the closest I’ll ever get, so I was satisfied.
Afterwards, we returned to the hostel, where I had another ice cold shower.
I realize that all of my complaints are just that – petty complaints. Even as I write this, I can’t quite remember what my problem was. Why did I feel so defeated by Sucré?
But that’s the thing about travel; it’s all in the timing. Travel is a series of ups and downs, and sometimes, when you’re weary, the little things become big things. Luckily, I can (usually) roll with the punches and still enjoy a city like Sucré, which has so much to offer.
I am so looking forward to having a proper hot shower when I get back to the States.