Bolivia Politics First Hand

Last night at the briefing we got a bit of a warning. Real life Bolivia might be in the way of our progress along the intended route. We are headed to Potosi and it seems the folks there are a little upset with the local government and they think maybe the mayor should resign. The mayor of course has an entirely different opinion and doesn’t really want to give up a perfectly good paying job. So the local council has set up a 24 hour protest in the form of a city wide strike.

How does this involve us you might ask. Well. Besides the fact the next day and a half our schedule lists activities in Potosi, the only road to where we are headed is through that center. Often a city wide strike includes road blockades. Since we are travelling by bus our progress could be severely hampered. We leave at 8am and the tom tom telegraph has sent no information about any road blocks being sent up.

Our highway journey chugs along without incident. The driver is excellent, driving to the road and never once scaring the pants off us. There is very light traffic so progress is exactly what is expected. Again we watch the landscape change several times in a few hours. There are a couple of things that stand out. Trees in full bloom and the flower is the most vivid purple. I can’t help but stare every time I see one. The other was the mining of the more or less dry river bed for fine rock material. For miles and miles they have been sifting the sand from the river bed into dump trucks, hauling the material they need and leaving the rest in long linear rock piles. The rainy season is about to start and I think they have totally messed with the status quo. My guess is there will be hell to pay. I suppose they are willing to deal with that when it happens as long as they get the sand and gravel they need now.

Soon we are going through the suburbs of Potosi. As we get further into the city we notice there are many semi trucks parked on the side of the road. I, innocent as I am, thought, well it is lunch time these guys all stop at the road side market to eat. Debbie said, just as we were about to come upon the road block, maybe there is a blockade ahead. At this point our driver makes a left onto a side street thinking maybe we can do an end around the blockade and still get to the town center. Nope. We weasel our way on residential roads and soon enough in front of us is another Bolivian flag draped across the road impeding our progress.

Potosi, Bolivia

One of many blockades in the city.

The option now is to abandon the bus, walk across the line and find transport to the hotel on the other side. Liz managed to hail a cab. Not big enough for us all but four and the luggage fit. Off they go leaving S, T, A and me in the middle of the road watching a few of the local guys drinking up a storm on the sidewalk. They kept us throughly entertained as we await the return of the taxi to give us a lift.

In the mean time a car load of tourists is trying to find a barricadeless route. Not so easy. They manage to get through the first stop without incident. At the second blockade the driver and our guide had to get out of the car and convince the irate male picketer the tourists in the car had no vested interest in the battle at hand and therefore should be allowed to pass. It took some persuading but eventually they got through.

Potosi, Bolivia

Another blockade.

The return trip for the cabby and Liz was a route finding expedition and when the four of us got picked up we had a somewhat circuitous, but uneventful ride to our accomdation for the night.

It is all part of the adventure and not the first time we have had to dismount a bus and walk with our luggage across a line to engage another form of transport on the other side. It is the first time either of us have had to run barricade. It was not on the trip agenda but we go to places to see what life is like and this is part of the fabric of Bolivia and we got to experience it in action.

Potosi, Bolivia

Typical street in Potosi.

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