Bolivia, Be Nice to Me!

Oruro Travel Blog

 › entry 23 of 26 › view all entries

Everything was going according to plan.  I was going to show up in Potosi, buy some dynamite, see some miners, until....

8:00 pm

I arrive at the bus terminal, with time to spare (so my seat isn't sold to someone else), when I'm told all bus departures are cancelled due to a large miners' strike.  Consequently, like many other protests, road blocks are set by the striking workers and travel within Bolivia is severely affected.

I look over my schedule, the road block situation, and decide that I won't be able to make it to Potosi, with extreme regret.  It's the highest city of its size in the world.  Moreover, I was hoping to buy some dynamite to give to the miners there, who work under archaic and horrific conditions.  According to other travellers, the mines themselves are not for the claustrophobic.  Just imagine crawling on hands and feet in a dark mine for two hours.  Then imagine the workers who have to do this every day, complete with poor air quality and inadequate pay.

Well, here are the options I look at:

1. Stay in La Paz and wait it out (NO WAY)

2. Reverse back to Peru and go south through Chile (time consuming)

3. Take a flight to Sucre (a beautiful UNESCO protected white-painted town, but it's likely the flight is full)

4. Try to hop on local colectivo buses and private cars across Bolivia (very tempting, inexpensive)

5. Hire a private taxi to the main road block, walk across, and hire another vehicle to Oruro, a junction town.

I decide to go with option 5 since a couple from France decide to split the private taxi with me.  It costs $70 total, but I bet it would have costed at least 25% less if we didn't book it through the travel agency.  However, when I look back, I don't know how they even found a taxi willing to cross the road block...

When we reached the road block, we spot a very long convoy of parked trucks, unable to cross.  A local boy offers to direct us to a detour, so thankfully, we don't have to don our backpacks and walk across the road block.  The detour is on a very rough road, and it takes us over an hour just to get around the road block.  By the time we're on the road again, the taxi is caked in dirt. 

Upon entering Oruro, we see a city of vehicles in a large parking lot unable to go the other way to La Paz.  At a restaurant, I meet two Kiwis (the only other foreigners I see in Oruro), stuck in town for the past 2 days, unable to find a way out - no taxis were willing to cross the road block for fear of repercussions.   They actually were attempting to pay a local pilot to fly them to La Paz for $1000!

Unsure of whether there might be other road blocks, I fortunately am able to buy one of the few remaining tickets on a very full train to Uyuni, the entry point to the Great Salt Flats.


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photo by: wilfredoc2009