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Copacabana, Bolovia 1

October 4, 2015

Sucre, Bolivia. 23.9.15

‘ I waited up for you, I kept the shop open, I slept on the pavement like a dog, in case you came!’ I like a practical joker. Winston was carrying on when we didn’t pick up our laundry the previous night. We are starting to hanker for the Bolivians. The first few days in the country, on the bad roads and so isolated we were starting to get the wrong impression. Not unreasonable as Chile and Argentina set high standards and although we knew Bolivia was a third world country it came as a bit of a shock to experience it first hand.

But, as mentioned on the previous post, Alberto, Felicidad and Louis at this camp site have gone out of their way so much to help. And Winston’s dry humour was so appealing. There a few beggars in the city, elderly most of them. Maybe a sign of the times. Like Potozi, Sucre is full of majestic churches, impressive old buildings and shady parks. It lacks only in good wifi. Waiting ten minutes to try and post a written blog was frustrating.

Although our health has been good the dry air and intense sun of the altoplano has had some nasty effects on us. Sun burnt lips that refuse to heal, repetitive cold sores, blocked sinuses, coughing up blood. We would take it as serious if we weren’t aware of our situation. We are slowly working out remedial actions and today, with a shower of rain, the situation has eased. Our energy levels are prety dire and too much exercise still has us gasping for breath and pulses racing.

Alberto & Louis accompanied us to the mechaniics to repair the broken wishbone. Bernado did the work with his son his right hand man seen over  by Bernado’s 72 year old father. Three hours later the motor had been lifted up. broken parts removed, welded and strengthened and back in place. All for 200 Bolivianos or $30US. I gave them a fair bit more than that for the workmanship and help. Sometimes an extraordinary situation is an opportunity to experience something you would never have the chance to experience. Such was the case today. The workshop was the front yard of their living area most of which were on a higher floor. The living area was large and I think there would be at least three families in residence. The courtyard housed three vehicles plus sheets and bars of metal of various sizes.

One of Bolivia’s  claims too fame is that it is where three famous people met their end. That is Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and Che Gueverra. The tombstones of the former two are south of here, not too far but on a bad road going by the map. Che met his end at La Higuera east of here. There is a Che Trail you can take. In fact we heard today the The Grand Hotel here in Sucre where we tried to check our emails yesterday is where he stayed while in town.

There was a demonstration in the town square today supported mainly by school children demanding access to the Pacific Ocean. Bit of a pipe dream as they lost access after one of their futile wars, this time I think was with Chile.

Friends and family have been asking if we  are OK seeing Chile has had that terrible earthquake. We didn’t know anything about it but know now it was in the area north of Santiago that we spent a bit of time in last trip.

On the Che Trail 27th Sept.

Never trust the Swiss. The tourism industry is is not well organised here in Bolivia and when we found this agent, he was Swiss, who knew a lot about the area we thought we were made. He was very enthusiastic about visiting the area that Che Guevera spent his last days and reckoned the roads were quite well maintained and the diversion would be well worth it. He was right in some ways, the roads were maintained well, we haven’t hit a corrugation the last two days, but the surface is very rough most of the way, had one puncture so far and maybe another and still some 70kms to go before hitting the tarmac. Last night we slept in the cloud forest. A phenomenum in these parts where cloud sweeps in late afternoon and has enough moisture in it to sustain the vegetation on the high ground. It seemed to hang at a certain elevation. The trees all had lichen clinging to the branches. The next morning it was down down down from 2000 metres to 850 where the road crossed the Rio Grande before once more climbing to over 2800 metres. To look down on the bridge we had just crossed from a height of almost 2 kilometres above was quite amazing.La Higuera is where Che was taken after being captured nearby and executed the following day, the 9th Oct. 1967. You wouldn’t call La Higuera a village, maybe a pueblo that would have disappeared years ago if it wasn’t the pilgrimage destination of Che followers. Just a few houses on a dead end road.  One street, dirt, with a square at the end  emblazoned with a variety of statues, busts and graffiti of the socialist hero. The school where he was held is now a museum with many photos and diagrams as well as information of his last days etc. Cuba has donated a small medical centre for the hamlet. For a Cuban to be sent to La Higuera must be like banishing him to the end of the earth. It is a bit of a dump.The road deteriorated after rejoining the main road and 4pm saw us still a short distance from Valle Grande where the famous photos of Che in the local morgue was taken. We will have a look around tomorrow then head on. Tonight sees off just off the road, the first piece of level ground we have come upon for quite some time. There is a farm house nearby, the dogs react if they hear any sound from us. The little traffic that passes has eased. It will be a quiet night.

Although the driving has been tough, the scenery has been breathtaking. Rows of mountains becoming an ever darker blue the more distant they are. The drop offs from the road surface are sheer and can be two to three hundred metres straight down. The idea when driving is not to look down. Many abandoned shacks and a few newly built whitewashed ones with tiled roofs.

An Adventure Too Many. 28th Sept.

The asphalt started earlier than expected. At Valle Grande in fact and after getting the 2nd puncture repaired ($1.50)) we hit the tarmac revelling in the knowledge that we would be travelling on that surface all the way to Peru. The bakkie, and the two of us, are tired of bashing over rough roads. That was until hitting Comorapa on the Main Trunk Road. Due to roadworks the road was closed until 4pm when it would open for ten minutes. A two hour wait but, no problems, could be worse. There was a row of trucks, cars and motorbikes waiting when four came around. then it was a mad rush. But unbeknown to us the road works has continued for thirty kms so far rising from 1600 metres to almost 2900 metres and in the process getting into thick cloud. The road was diabolical and swirling dust didn’t help,  but one of the cars was travelling at a similar pace to us so we could follow him. There were no safety rails or signs just a bad road finding its way around the sides of these mountains. Suddenly, although we were only some 10 metres behind the Hilux it suddenly disappeared in the cloud. What could we do? I didn’t know the road, it was impossible to see if the road turned left or right the cloud was so thick. I jammed on the brakes, put the hazard indicators on and surveyed our situation. Going on was too dangerous. There was a small area of grass off to the outside of the road with a firm surface. Less than three metres from the road but it will do. There is no other choice. So here we are. Warm, and with the sound of what sounds like  tinker bell frogs to sooth us to sleep. It is windy but not unbearably. The condensation from the cloud drops onto the bakkie sounding like, but not, rain.

Las Lilas, Cochabamba. The aftermath. 29th Sept.

Did we do the right thing? The trucks continued most of the night grinding slowly up and down the road. Visibility had reduced to less than 5 metres. The drivers knew the road and seemed to drive within their limitations. We could have latched on to the back of one of them and carried on but where would that lead us? We couldn’t see where we could pull off to spend the night and as it was, the roadworks and terrible road continued for a further 90 kilometres. We would have been driving most of the night. The trucks heading up were close to the bakkie but there was no problems apart from a car veering within 2 metres of us then running ito a dirty big rock before continuing down. Don’t know what happened but I was awake and heard it all.

The next morning the cloud had thinned a little and I felt safe enough to continue. Slow going all first gear but after 40 minutes or so the sun began to break through and the cloud lifted. There were more road blocks, not as long and when we finally hit tarmac it was intermittent and so severely potholed the rough gravel maybe seemed the better evil.

So here we are at Las Lilas, a camp ground in Cochabamba, drained but feeling better Enjoying a hot shower and a rest day tomorrow.

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