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11 Days in Sucre – From Quad Biking to Spanish School

11 Days in Sucre – From Quad Biking to Spanish School

We started our almost two weeks in Sucre at Hostal CasArte, but at NZ$45 per night, we decided to move to a cheaper option for the remaining week – La Dolce Vita had private double rooms with ensuite for only NZ$33 per night, and was closer to the plaza, and only 2 blocks from the central market.

Outdoor kitchen at Hostal CasArte
Hostal CasArte – view from our balcony at the front of our room. Typical white-washed Sucre!

We decided it was time for a bit of fun, so booked in for a quad bike tour with Off Road Bolivia. These guys were totally proffesional from start to finish, and the gear + bikes in great condition. We were the only two booked onto the tour, so for 500BOB each (around NZ$100pp) we set off on our private guided half day tour. Having never riden a quad before (only two-wheelers) Marcelo, our guide, made sure I was comfortable before we set off. We both completed some “skills training” – riding around a small paddock, over uneven ground, on an angle, and practicing gears and braking. It was a lot different to a two wheeler! Having such heavy steering, and no clutch to squeeze in, as well as 4 big wheels to worry about rather than two skinny ones, I started to wonder what I’d got myself into. We moved off to another training area, where we could get a bit more speed up.

Our tour took us through the hillside in Sucre, past small villages and along dirt roads. There were some tricky sections up rutted hills, but for the most part it was quite enjoyable – apart from my thumb being so sore it stopped working! WHY don’t they make twist-accelerators on quads?!? We did take a Go-Pro video of the whole experience, but with only a tablet it’s too hard to edit at this stage!

Tough biker kids
JUMP! Marcelo kept telling us “be careful of your knees” – yeah I feel em!
Admiring the view

The following week we headed back to school, feeling like we’d not actually learnt much more Spanish, it was time for a bit of help from the experts. We chose Sucre Spanish school on calle Calvo as someone we’d met at a hostel was also attending lessons there. Being at different levels, we had to go our seperate ways, and had private lessons for 40BOB per hour. Not the cheapest, but we both feel like we learnt a lot and improved our Spanish with 4 hours of lessons each day over the week. The first day was hard – my tutor spoke to me in only Spanish for 4 hours straight – something I now think is an excellent idea as I was forced to converse back in Spanish – I got my money’s worth. Darryl’s tutor skipped the really basic stuff like numbers, as he already had a bit of a grasp on these, and taught him how to conjugate verbs in the present amongst other things. Being tired from all of our lessons, and having plenty of “tarea” to do, we didn’t do much else apart from become regulars at the Condor Cafe – an excellent vegetarian cafe offering a daily menu for between 20-30BOB.

 

On Top of the World in Potosi

On Top of the World in Potosi

Officially the 2nd highest city in the world (inhabited by more than 100,000 people) Potosi sits at a cool 4060m above sea level, and if the stunning view of the city from your hostel terrace isn’t enough to take your breath away, the lack of oxygen will.

We arrived early on a Sunday evening – not the best idea for any Andean or South American town, as everything is usually closed. We did manage to find a pizza shop open, and had some fairly decent pizza (albeit with tinned mushrooms… blegh) while huffing and puffing around the narrow streets.

Most of our short time in Potosi was spent wandering the streets, and again, eating. It’s here that we were introduced to the Bolivian way with “menu del dia”. Basically, the small local cafe/restaurants put a whiteboard/chalkboard menu on the street, and that is what is on offer for the day (there is no “carta”). Our first experience set the bar pretty darn high, at only 18BOB for a 3 course menu, including a salad bar, we soon found it hard to top with most decent menu’s being around 20-25.

While in Potosi we chose not to do a mining tour to Cerro Rico, already struggling with the lack of oxygen we decided being down a dark, dusty, oxygen-lacking hole may not be the best idea. And it is an active mine, so perhaps not the safest idea. Instead we chose to go to the National Mint Museum – you must do a tour but it’s only 40 per person and was really informative (they have English, Spanish and French tours too). The pictures below explain it all!

First stop on the tour – an mini art gallery, and a mini history lesson
Silver coins from the Potosi mines
One of the many displays
Mules were used to power the machines above – they worked long hours and usually only lived up to 3 years old.
Wall of scales
A very complicated lock box!
In the smelting room
Cobbled paths and stone buildings of the Potosi Mint
Beautiful Bolivianite (Ametrine)
Check out the size comparison – that’s a big rock!
Displays of all sorts of minerals and rocks found in the local mines. Lots of pyrite to be found!
Panorama shot from the terrace of our hostel – Overlooking Potosi (Cerro Rico is on the left)