Dispatch #7 March 21, 2006 La Paz, Bolivia
The worst bus ride yet. Eleven hours from Uyuni to La Paz, Bolivia. The bus had less legroom than an airplane and the isle was filled with bags and people standing, sitting, and finding any possible space to land. A Mother and her two daughters, no more than 8 years old, all dressed in traditional Bolivian wear; skirts, blankets draped over their shoulders pinned with a small pin. Leg warmers made from Llama fur with intricate designs and sandals stemmed from under their skirts. While the Mother never took off her brown little hat and the girls laid flat passed out in the front of the bus with their little feet sticking out from a blanket. We rolled into La Paz at 7 am; the huge city was already in a bustle, the mini buses working, people setting up their stands to sell various items. We took the winding, steep, San Francisco style streets down towards the bus terminal, as the city sits down in the valley with the huge 6,000-meter (20,000 ft) mountain, Illimani looming over the city that sits around 12,000 ft. Near the bus terminal we saw the dreaded. There was a building that had all it’s windows broken out, some power lines were down, as we kept looking the following 3 buildings were the same, some of the building material had crumbled and there were 3 Bolivian policeman standing outside. There had been an explosion. We were not feeling welcomed, or excited to venture off into the city. After collecting our bags and loading a taxi, we drove back by the mess; now there was yellow caution tape up, a crowd had formed, and news crews were taping live, interviewing the locals. Apparently we had miss the explosion only by an hour, and another explosion had gone off the night before only half a block from a restaurant we eat at, and two blocks from our hotel. We heard speculations the bombers were anti Evo Morales (the new President of Bolivia) acts, another speculation was they were Osama Bin Laden admires. Non-the less we headed to the US Embassy to learn more, and to register. We are safe, and are asking questions and trying to learn more information.
The days and areas we’ve been since the last dispatch, leading up to this have been very different. It all started as usual on an overnight bus from Salta, Argentina to La Quica Argentina the furthest Northern city in the country, while Ushuia the furthest Southern city in the world sits over 5,000km south. I think the bus ride could have been about 2 hours instead of the 7 it was had it not stopped at every city. We were going on little sleep and somehow feeling more exhausted after the bus ride then we do after a week in the mountains. The moon full, the night dark, the air cold, pigeons purring sitting at the border crossing to Bolivia and there is a Coke machine!! It was 5am and we had to wait for the border to open at 6:30am boys on bicycles crossing from Bolivia to Argentina with no papers and no cares from the border patrol. Chris attempted to take a photo of the 3 guards, he specifically wanted them to pose like hear, speak, and see no evil. I watched a funny game of charades, from afar and the men saying no to him, the then the next thing I knew he was drinking coffee in their office.
It’s always scary going to a new city. While in South America it always seems more so because our language skills are poor and we don’t have any information about hotels etc. But crossing into a new country especially a third world country is even more so.
We walked across the border (a small bridge) took a taxi to a “bus stop” caught a jacked up red bus with huge tires the 3 hours to Tupiza. A beautiful town nestled at the base of red cliff bands, surrounded by green fields and sunflowers.