With whitewashed buildings, pretty patios, preserved colonial architecture, Sucre is Bolivia’s most beautiful city. Hanging out there for several days in a charming hostel with interesting people from all over the world was badly needed for us. This Unesco World Heritage site is similar to many other places we’ve visited in Latin America but it was different in one big respect- traveling there in Bolivia has been harsh on us.
We’ve been dreaming about visiting Bolivia for several years and now that we’re here, we’re just not getting along- Bolivia and us. It may be temporary, but what was going on we wondered? Anticipating the certain difficulty we would experience driving Amelia into La Paz, Bolivia’s largest city, we decided to drive through on our way south toward Oruro, Potosi and Sucre.
With heavy black belching carbon emitting from trucks and buses we couldn’t afford to remain behind them for very long as we negotiated passing on inclines and curves. Approaching La Paz with our nerves already on edge, Highway 2 simply ended and dumped us into a construction quagmire without signs, reason or any end in sight. Some kind of a subdivision comprised of partially constructed, unfinished buildings within a network of unfinished roads, all torn up with piles of rubble surrounded us for miles without any single building or patch of road completed. Who thought of this? Who was responsible for this and have they been fired, we wondered in our very American way of thinking?
Then came La Paz with traffic which flowed well enough at first. Traffic rules don’t apply and when the vehicles move there tends to be an ebb and flow without lanes, signals, or obeyed stop signs or traffic lights. But then it stopped moving for some unknown reason. Never, ever has either one of us seen anything like it, ANYWHERE. This was a new scenario with stress and confusion beyond description as vehicles tried to utilize the same ebb and flow principles in moving traffic only now they weren’t moving only a few inches. Thankfully, a Good Samaritan helped us get out of there eventually by standing in front of cars to make them stop and let us through, but even his good intentions were met with some skepticism by us after reading about the scams pulled off in La Paz by some ‘friendly’ locals.
The beautiful four lane highway south of La Paz to Oruro was a delight we haven’t experienced in months but then there was the overpriced dump of a hotel in Oruro. On to Potosi the next day to sleep at 4070m/ 13,350ft in Centro on more narrow, one way, traffic jammed, nearly un-maneuverable streets. Imagine a city with 150,000 people at that altitude! We were pulled into a police station and scolded for a turn violation. We bowed our heads with reverence begging for forgiveness all while wondering why the multitude of ‘no rules apply’ Bolivian drivers weren’t there with us. Unable to fit into the parking garage at the hotel we parked several blocks away for a Gringo price and dragged our roller suit cases up hills at over 13,000 ft. Exhaustion peaking, I was almost unable to move to go have dinner but thankfully we did because I think we had an Evo Morales (president of Bolivia) sighting or at least some important, distinguished looking man in a long coat military uniform with an entourage of guests by invitation only.
I know, I know, nobody said it would be easy! As much as this remarkable journey is filled with joy, wonder, awe and appreciation- our sense of humor, patience, organizational skills, drive, tolerance and acceptance is tested daily. I suppose in a way these same challenges existed back home only now we face them in completely unfamiliar environments and in a foreign language.