Sucre, 2790 m. (8,650 ft.)
Cold, couldn't even face a hot shower w/o freezing before & after...stayed in bed leaving w/ just enuf time to get to bus, hot chocolate, and egg sandwich. Not many travelers, esp like us, out here...we were pulling out late and 3 more passengers ran up, the bus waited to get them on - another 15 min. later we left 9:30. Altho the bus schedules of 4-5 bus companies show lots of times & destinations, when you ask it is clear they only have o9ne bus going to any location in a.m. and in eve maybe 2 but each company goes a different day. So your choices on any given day are really just time of day. Competition is non-existant, all 4-5 companies exist in harmony it seems to work. Maybe when more travelers come thru (warmer temps?), schedules change and competition heats up too?!
We're traveling during another nice?, cloudy day in the Gran Chaco on a very nice, paved hwy...another reason why we chose Santa Cruz over Sucre, which is via rough, mtnous roads like the ones we've been on prev 2 bus rides of 18 hours. Scenic, but cold and nighttime particularly unpleasant. The countryside is very dry - winter? or drought? or normal? see previous connection with Gran Chaco. Sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks - the small farmers' bread and butter, meat and potatoes stuff along the way. No large land holdings here, just poor dirt farmers w/ a couple horses/donkeys and an 8-10 cow herd. It looks to me like the same thin, red clay soil we saw in Africa. In fact, if you removed the Andes mtns on the W. side of this plain, it looks very much African. Not acacia trees but others very similar w/ a few taller trees stuck in once in awhile...very dense growth when not cleared. The hwy right-of-way is very wide, but very little trash, curious until we pass a group of 6-8 orange-suited workers picking up trash, their bicicles parked along the way. Beyond them the roadside looks more typical, piles and trash scattered everywhere esp. the ubiquitous plastic bottle.
Arr. in Villemonte, a big bridge underconstruction causes us to detour, then stop altogether...barely an hour into the ride!
After waiting an hour (Bon hikes ahead to scope things out) we discover via conversations, etc. and Bon's reconnoitering that the way across the big river (via a RR bridge) is blocked now for some reason. No one, least of all the bus personnel (driver and helper), know for how long - 4 hrs., next day?? Our choices were to wait for crossing on the bus or forfeit our $$ and walk across the RR bridge and engage onward transport. We took the latter and by 12:30 we were in a van - a cushy, Toyota SUV - for Camiri (25b. more each).
The countryside plains this side of the river is at first more green, similar short trees and dense brush but more agric, even some orchards (irrig?). Eventually, tho,
this gives way to the dry. Arr. at 2:30 in Camiri...talked to several bus/van people - each giving us info which suited their contentions/purposes that they were the only ones going to Sucre...where we have decided to go from here, a cross roads thru/over the mtns. One said we just missed the bus at 2, next one tomor same time (16 hrs and 80b.). We ended up the street in a van to Monteagudo, a small mtn town, where we were promised we would connect with a Flota Bus to Sucre...all for just 90b. each!!! We'll see! Vans = Trufis, like a taxi but for longer distances outside towns. About half hour from Camiri we pass some or one large ranch(es) - lots of cows/cattle and fields of what had been corn, now stubble. The twin 8" pipes we'd been following now just one, is still here alongside the road. I've asked if it was oil (on entry into Camiri we were met with a large Texas-type oil pump rig as a sculpture in the middle of a roundabout), but did not get a good answer, one fellow said 'gas'!
Still cloudy, but blue sky in the W. (4pm) and we leave the paved hwy, heading up into mtns on the now familiar dusty, rough, curvey road...dare I say it, rough-n-reddy, ha!
Not immed. steep, we pass fields of corn, some stubble, some piles of cobs and still stalks waiting to be cut...do they harvest by hand? Sign says 400 km to Sucre, it's 4:15 and full sun, clear blue sky! Strange, hummock-like hills (rock?) with flat fields winding around/between with woods, farms, and rolling hills it almost looks like Pennsylvania! Further into foothills wwe pass an exploration for oil, a tall drilling rig and trailers. From there/here on the once wide smooth graded road gets really rough, steeper, and narrow...switchbacking it's way up a box canyon. Our driver is chewing thru a gallon bag of cocoa leaves - I'd offered him a cookie and his smile as he took it revealed a big wad of the green stuff.
Up up a narrow canyon and over the top - looking back a great view of the hazy plain in the distance, Gran Chaco, on the other side of the 'pass', peak after peak of Andes off into another hazy distance. The whole horizon filled w/ range after range...perhaps, sort of like the Sierras or looking over the Bitterroots from atop St. Mary's, but the amplitude was vast...! Rocky, steep, mtnsides are still forested quite densely. This apparently is where Che Guavara passed thru - we see signs along the way. The other side and valley, again like PA farmland tucked betw foothills - now 367 km from Sucre, 5:15, we've come 40 km in an hour, pretty decent mtn driving! This valley looks more prosperous, saw two overhead irrig rigs, small scale but there nonetheless. At the mall town, Monteagudo, true to their word they took us to the bus station just a block from the Trufis stand, paid for our bus ticket with 80b. of the 180b. we gave them and off we went at 7 pm, no more than potty time to spare! COLD the whole way, some passengers just coulodn't keep their windows shut but then they all travel w/ blankets so made mot diff to them! My feet got so cold they felt hot at one point...don't understand that, maybe just numb, ha!
Arr in Sucre at 5 a.m., ckd out Hostel across way from bus...200b. !!!Just for 5 til noon! Took a taxi downtown where we chkd 3 more, all full! Finally, found one for 180b., dbl w/ all the trimmings promised. Got into the room and NO WATER. No water at all to say nothing of hot water. Too tired to ask, we just went to bed getting up at 9:30 in time for brkfst (incl). Then out shopping for another place to stay - I'd used the bathroom near the reception area and no water there either...I didn't ask!!
Today is Bolivia's Independence Day! Streets are jammed w/ students, military, bands all marching and playing up a storm with tons of Bolivians jammed alongside on sidewalks, barely enuf room to walk/squeeze thru the crouds. Finally, after ckg out 6+ different places with room, none full, ranging from 50b.(shared bath, basic) to 130b.(priv bath, no brkfst) we ended up at Copacabana Hostel where the nice girl at the desk said we could bave dbl w/ bath, hot water, AND breadfast for 120 b. ($17 US).
Ckg out of NO WATER Hotel we refused to pay the full 180b., the gal said we should have ASKED for water! Never have we been anywhere that they had water but you had to ASK to have it turned on!! Sure, if no hot water you ask be we couldn't even brush our teeth or flush! Pissed we paid them the going rate of 120b. and left. First thing in new digs we shower and wash clothes. Nice, sunny day here...warm even (60 F).
Today we addressed Bon´s aborted attempt at withdrawing ATM money and having it show on her bank acct as withdrawn w/o getting any Boliviano $$ yesterday. Before doing so we decided to go to the bus terminal and ck on ongoing transport. After an hour of going to every bus company (there were at least 8) that went to either Copacabana or La Paz and finding none which go during the day, finally decided we'd cut our losses and just make the trip on whichever had heat! Another half hour and we found that only 3 had heated buses (of course, most night buses in areas of freezing cold have no heat...the natives bring blankets). Of these, none were available today, this eve and the only sure company was closed until tomorrow at 7 am due to the Independence Day holiday. Tomorrow we chk this out.
We headed to the bank next not expecting it to be open but luckily it was until 12:30 and by the time we had arrived the manager apparently was not surprised by Bon's problem. In fact, the ATM had done the same to quite a few people yesterday but Bon was the only foreigner involved. Long story to short...he was very helpful, contacted the main guys in Santa Cruz with info Bon had copied from internet bank records and after she contacts the Msla Bank on Monday to tell them to contact this bank with info for redepositing her money all should be well!?! Whew, what a hassle, but if all goes well she should get her $140+ back...sometime...next week...hopefully!
Next we hopped a bus to Dino Tracks museum...a cool set up next to Fracesas Cement Factory just outside Sucre. See pics. Apparently after some dinosaurs walked across a mud flat some 200 million years ago or so, the earth took a tumble which caused the slab of earth to become upright. Then, millions of years after that and tons of fill from ocean/lakes forming and evaporating along side this slab, along comes the cement company and begins to excavate the lime/calcium stuff for cement. Lo and behold they uncover this upright slab with clear footprints of all sorts of dinosaurs' tracks going up an across it. Neat!
Up and to the bus terminal by 7. The bus public bus system in Sucre is very easy to use if you don't mind the time it takes in traffic...by taxi to most places just 10 minutes but, as yesterday when we went to the Dino Museum, it took 45 min. by bus...maybe 15 min. by taxi. The cost is about $1 US more for taxi. For us this am to the bus terminal we waited for the #8 bus for 15 min. but being Sunday not much moving so we ended up in a taxi. Got our tickets to Cochabamba lvg at 7:45 pm but they promised the Trans Copa bus would be heated at least! Back to the Hostal by bus this time, the travel by bus was almost the same, approx 10 min., as the taxi but mainly because the market area was just getting set up...usually this massive market area is jammed with people and traffic.
Traveling in town by bus you get to see alot more of how the ordinary folks live/work. I marvel at the huge amt. of produce from the countryside coming in as well as all the ordinary 'stuff' that each and every stall carries to sell. The stalls are just 8' wide, and one right after another all with seemingly the same items. Likewise, with the fruit and veggie sellers sitting behind their 'goods' all day, piles of onions, potatoes, apples, oranges, etc. etc. Tons of this lining both sides of the street...how do they sell enuf to make anything each day, how do the buyers decide which to purchase from...there just isn't that much different to choose from, pricewise or???
Went to El Germen restaurant...vegetariano, very good food for reasonable prices.
My videos from camcorder are not transfering well to portable hard drive such that I can pull individual photo shots from the video. I was able to do this previously but for some reason here the software or ?? is not available in the computers so I have to pull the pics from my camcorder first and then save the video. This takes alot more time and slows down the whole process considerably. If anyone reading this understands what I'm talking about or has a clue, I'd appreciate a bit of input, please? Anyway, that's why the pics are fewer and further between, besides the fact that Bon does not take many pics anyway. So probably for here on there will be more monologue and less pics, maybe a good thing from some folks point of view, altho I tend to ramble and get too political sometimes too!! Sorry ahead of time if this is a bit tedious.
Here in Sucre for 6 hours waiting gives me time to input the journal entries as far as above re: monologue.
Another meal (our 3rd) at Restaurant Italiano...good, reasonable food on the main plaza...then back to Hostel, just catch a # 8 bus going to bus terminal, but even on Sundays it gets stalled at the main market area! We jump off before it enters the slooow moving line of single lane traffic going thru the market, catch a taxi and plenty of time before our bus departs at 7:50 pm for Cochabamba...see next entry.