The last two days have basically been a road trip. 7 or 8 hours each day seated in a 4 wheel drive. Road conditions vary greatly. The roads from Samaipata are mostly paved but in poor repair. The majority of yesterday’s journey is one lane gravel roads in very rough shape. We went through pass after pass using steep switch backs. Today we started on the same gravel roads and then progressed to recently constructed cobblestones and on to a super highway (two narrow lanes) of newly paved asphalt.
The switchback roads traversed mountain pass after mountain pass. I have to guess it has been at least 15 passes and valleys. We also passed through as many ecosystems. From out and out desert, to pine tree forests, to the altiplano.
Yesterdays objective was to follow the Ruta de Che. Che Guevara was captured and executed in Bolivia. After accomplishing the goal of revolutionizing Cuba he wanted to convert the whole of South America to socialism. The idea was to start in the center, Bolivia, and work out to the edges conquering one bit at a time.
Two bands of revolutionaries, with a total of only 52 fighters, set out to recruit the local Bolivian population to join in and take over the existing government then handing control to the people. In August 1967 the first group of fighters was found and all were killed in a battle with the Bolivian army. On October 8, the army, with help from a local farmer, located Che’s group. Four of the group were killed in the ensuing battle, Che and two others were taken prisoner. The next day an order from the CIA to execute the prisoners was carried out and they were shot in a school house in La Higuera. Their bodies were helicoptered to the near by city of Vallegrande and put on display to show the world Bolivia had helped to rid the globe of a menace. I suppose it is debatable as to whether or not socialism is a system that should be thrust upon any population and/or if in fact it would be a better system than what is in place and your opinion on this would be what you base whether or not Che was a hero but he was a champion of the poor and many love him for that. I would venture to guess he is more of a hero because the CIA was sticking their nose in what was not really their business resulting in a folk hero being snuffed.
Point of interest, I asked our Spanish speaking driver if che had any meaning in Spanish. I’m quite sure he said, Che is a sort of slang used to describe an Argentinian. A perfectly good reason to call Ernest, ‘Che’.
Besides again passing through some amazing countryside our one task enroute is to visit the world’s largest charango, a type of Bolivian guitar. When we enter the museum where it is kept I am surprised to find this thing is a real cheranga. It can be played and is on special occasions. It takes four people to make music, 3 to work the frets and 1 to strum and pick. It is 6M long and 1.5M wide. It was made by a sculptor but with help from an engineer, and several other experts to make sure it makes the proper sound.
Our convoy of 4 wheel drives pulls into our next destination about 4.30 pm. A hacienda, first built in the 1600’s in the smallish town of Candelaria, more or less south of Sucre. This is where we say good bye to our chauffeurs of the last 2 days as we are stationed here for the next 2 nights.
Shortly after we arrive the other two guests E & S get back from their outing. They are geologists studying the rocks of the area. Soon they are part of our group and we sit in the kitchen (the warmest room in the place) and chat while dinner is being made. Moving to the dining room our conversation traverses many subjects and you would think we had been friends for a long time.
Our group of 7 J,J,A,N,S,T, Debbie and I ,and our guide Liz. Have gelled quite well. Every single person has travelled extensively and we all trade stories of other places. From my point of view it does create a bit of a problem. We already have a list of too many places to visit before we die and the list is getting longer. It is amazing the ideas that are presented. Some of course are easier. Japan, always exotic and not hard to travel in so it seems natural for it to on a list of to be visited. Then North Korea pops up, I would never have thought of going to NK with the crazy person they have for a leader but T insists it is not only a good place to consider but should be upgraded to a must.
Our day ends with setting a shower schedule so we don’t blow a breaker drawing too much electricity with the on demand hot water heaters. The road conditions will not be much of a concern tomorrow as we stay put.