The bus station
La Paz Travel Blog› entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
It was the third day of the civil unrest, and my fifth day in La Paz. In an attempt to force the Bolivian government to improve life for the Bolivians, farmers and students had organised a series of protests. By blockading all major roads in the country they literally brought the entire country to a grinding halt, as no road or rail travel was possible outside the big cities.
So it looked like I was stuck in La Paz, which worried me as time was running out. I only had eight days left until my flight back home and I really wanted to see Cuzco in Peru and do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu before that, therefore I had to leave Bolivia as soon as possible.
Just like the day before I went to the bus station early in the morning. There was talk of having a chance to catch a bus if you were early enough in the morning. Apparently the bus to Puno in Peru would run at 5.30 in the morning, in order to beat the protesters who'd still be sleeping at that time.
I wasn't alone - there were more than 200 people at the bus station, all hoping to catch some sort of transportation out of the city.
An hour later all these people were still there, and none of the buses looked as if they had any intention of moving.
Since about 199 of those 200 looked very Bolivian to me, I decided to walk up to the only other Westerner present, to see what his plans were. He turned out to be a Norwegian guy with a true viking name, Olav, and he was trying to travel to Copacabana at the Titicaca lake. As this was in the same direction as I wanted to go we decided to hook up and try to hire a taxi to get us there.
We bargained and argued with the many taxi drivers present, but soon it became evident that none wanted to venture too far out of a La Paz. Meanwhile more travellers had arrived and together we tried to hire a minibus. One guy explained to us how he had managed to get into a bus to Copacabana the day before, which had left at 5 PM. However, eventually it had to turn around and drive back to La Paz, after a crowd had started to pelt rocks at the bus. None of this boded very well...
Finally we did manage to persuade one driver to take $ 100 to drive us to the town of Tiquina, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, from where we could find onwards transportation to Copacabana. The steep price and the horror stories had scared of most of our group, and in the end there was just the three of us left: Olav, myself and an American called David.
We decided to go for it. Staying in La Paz was not much of an option for any of us, and if nothing else it would be good adventure. And so the three of us got into the taxi and set out on the road to Copacabana.
For the first hour or so we couldn't see what the fuzz was all about. Sure, there were some rocks on the road here and there, but nothing we couldn't swerve around. When we reached the edge of La Paz we saw hundreds of people climbing into buses and trucks setting off down the road. They were either eager to get out of the city like us, or they were on their way to join the protests. Either way, we spurred the taxi driver to speed up and stay ahead of this caravan.
And then we hit the toll road. The attendant at the toll boot advised us to head back, and our driver interpreted that as the end of our journey. We had agreed that if he wouldn't be able to get us to Tiquina we would pay for his gasoline only, instead of the full $100. And since $100 was as much as a week's pay for the guy we were able to convince him to drive on to see how far we could get. We could always go back if it turned out to be as bad as everyone said.
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