Just another crazy day in Bolivia

Trip Start Jan 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 18, 2007

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

The girl I'm travelling with (who got mugged) is a Swiss called Rahil. A bloke she met said that Camira was a good place to visit. Lonely planet doesn't give it much of a rave, just that it's an oil town, but the thing that caught my eye was that it's on the southern end of the Che trail. I thought that if I could get a direct bus from Sucre then I'd only have to travel north to La Higuera and I'd be on my way, heading in the right direction for La Paz. Sounded loke a good idea at the time so we both bought tickets for the night bus. Rahil was going to Santa Cruz from Camira, somehow she didn't seem interested in seeing where Che died, no sense of history these young people. Still, I was on my way to the final goal, everything dovetailing into place, what could possibly go wrong?
The bus was an estimated 16 hour trip depending on road conditions and break downs. We were told that it was bus cama, a bed bus. When we saw the bleeding thing there was nothing else to do but laugh. It was probably the pride of the fleet in 1953. They don't put the best buses on the roads we were going on. As always the bus was packed but actually quite comfortable. It was a ricketty old thing and I had my doubts about it making the distance. We stopped at a town about 3 hours oput of Sucre but, apart from breakdowns, there were no other stops. It seems that Bolivians don't have bowel and bladder functions. I thought we'd stopped for break at some little town just at daybreak and went to the toilet, when I came out the bus had gone. People were yelling at me, telling me that the bus had gone but was waiting up the hill. Rahil had yelled that I wasn't on but she'd almost missed it as well.
We'd been travelling through the mountains at night so didn't really see anything, in daylight it was quite spectacular. They take these buses to places you wouldn't take a horse. The dirt road down the mountain was the most sectacular yet, a real hair raiser. Made me yearn for the mountain bike.
Eventually, after about 16 hours, we hit the main road from Santa Cruz to Camira and onto Paraguay or Argentina. Camira is very close to the Paraguayan border and if any gringos ever came this way that would be why. We hadn't gone far on this sealed road when the bus suddenly stopped, the conductor poked his head in and said "no paso." That was it, no further explanation, everyone just started getting off. There were other buses and trucks banked up on the side of the road and what appeared to be refugees wandering around with luggage. Young children with wheelbarrows appeared offering thier services. All the luggage came off the roof and it was clear that we weren't going any further on the bus. I asked a fellow passenger what was going on and he just replied "this is Bolivia." Noone really knew what was going on. It was a long way back and the only way seemed to be forward. I met a family with a wheelbarrow wanting to go to Santa Cruz, hoping one of the buses would turn around. We were told that it was still about 20km to Camira but I was sure that some enterprising collectivos would pick us up somewhere. There were trees and rocks strewn across the road and local indigenous people in groups manning the roadblocks. Nobody seemed angry or put out by this, it's just what happens. When people want to make a point to the government they blockade the road. We walked across the the blockade and, as expected, someone with a van was there to take us to town for 5 Bolivianos. We got talking to a woman who'd been out there selling empanadas to truck drivers and other folk stranded by the blockade. When we got to town she showed us some hotels, the one where a piece of Che's writing paper was found was too grubby even for me, and she arranged to meet us later that night to show us around. We're at a fairly low altitude now and it's very hot. There's not much to see in the town but I went and had a shave (very professional) and then we swam in the river. The unfortunate thing is that we're stuck here now until the blockade is lifted and when you ask anyone how long that will be they say "indefinido."
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