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marge & ian’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 14 Feb 2006

Location: *Oruro - BOLIVIA*, Bolivia

Map*Oruro - BOLIVIA* 14/02/06 - 17/02/06!!!!!!!!!!!

14/02/06 (Our first Valentine's Day as a married couple)

We boarded the bus at 10.00am for the 3 hour journey to Oruro where we would catch our train at 3.30pm to Argentina.

The bus was populated with a mix of tourists and locals most of which were getting the same train as us. It took ages to get out of La Paz but soon we were flying down one of the only paved highways in Bolivia. Things started to go downhill very soon after joining the highway. The bus stopped for no apparent reason outside of a town after about an hour into the journey.

Everyone was getting off the bus for wee's including myself where I walked and found a nice prickly bush. Upon my return to the bus I learnt that the reason we had stopped along with a whole queue of other buses, was due to a road blockade further down the road. The blockade was composed of about 50 people (mainly women), who had put a load of stones and rocks across the road so that we weren't able to pass. They also stood in the road themselves. The drivers wouldn't try and drive through them for fear of getting a stone through the window. Apparently the locals were upset with the Mayor of the region (who was accused of embezzling money) and wanted to speak to him. We were to suffer because of this.

We were sitting in the queue for about an 1 hour before the bus drivers seemed to pluck up the courage to go off road and drive around the protestors. This involved driving a 50 seater bus off the road down a camber and across some muddy fields. We were all relieved that we were on our way again because it was 12.00 and we had a train to catch at 3.30pm.

Our relief was very very shortlived...we had only travelled for about 45min when we experienced our 2nd blockade, at another village. The were also pissed off with the same Mayor, he sounds like a right ba**tard! Not that we cared, we just wanted to get through it and catch our train.

The blockaders told the waiting drivers that they would let us pass after an hour. It was going to be tight but we were only 50mins away from the train station in Oruro.... an hour came and passed. Our hopes were lifted when all the buses started to move forward, ours was one of the first in line facing the blockaders. There were more people this time and two road blocks of rocks of 100m apart stopping traffic in both directions. Our advance was quickly halted when the protestors started to throw and slingshot rocks at the buses. The bus drivers were cacking themselves and turned back.

We watited another 1/2 hour and it was looking possible that we might miss our train. A Bolivian woman who was also catching the same train phoned the train company and told them what was happening and that by this point up to 60 or so buses with many tourists were trapped. The train company agreed to hold the train for 1 hour. Once again we had a chance of making the train if the blockaders showed mercy.

Everyone was off the buses watching the commotion as it was stiflingly hot. We say commotion but nothing seemed to be happening. All the tourists on the bus were all really pissed off by this point and we all wanted the buses to just drive straight through them, but they wouldn't. The Bolivian woman made another call to the train company but was told that the train had now gone, 4.30pm had come and gone.

However, by this point even the local travellers were getting very frustrated and started to move towards the blockaders with big sticks and rocks. The protestors responded by chasing them off and slinging stones at them. The local travellers retreated as did our bus - again, without me and Ian and a few others on it. We had to chase the bus down the road to let us on, they wanted to close the doors but Ian jumped in the middle and we got back on.

The bus stopped a good 300m back from the "skirmish line" down some side streets. We became resigned to the fact that we may be spending the night on the bus as it was now 6.00pm. A couple of people went to get some supplies for the night ahead. They returned with bread and water and the news that the blockaders had threatened the shopkeepers with looting if they sold supplies to any of the people on the buses. The thing that raged me was that the blockaders said that they wanted "to make us suffer", how dare they, as if we hadn't suffered enough by missing our train and being stuck there for 5 hours!!!!!!!!! Oh my god I could have killed them with my bare hands. The shops were beginning to pull their shutters down in response to this threat. I sent Ian off with an Irish guy to try and get us some bread from the shops about 200m away. After about 5mins the bus started up and began to drive off. I went to the front of the bus and told the driver that there were still 2 people to get back on and to wait. It waited for about 5 seconds before the doors closed and the driver put his foot down and raced off. I was really pissed off as they were ignoring me. The Irish guy's mate also came to the front when he realised that they weren't paying any attention to me whatsoever and that they intended on leaving the guys behind because the blockade was beginning to crack. It got to the point where me and the other guy were both screaming and demanding the bus driver to stop the bus, but he just drove faster. I was just about to reach over and take the keys out of the ignition when he eventually did stop near the "skirmish line". By this point we were nowhere near where Ian had last seen us, it would be difficult for them to find us as there were 60 or so buses. The idiot driver let us off the bus but had his foot on the accelerator as if he was about to bound off again, thankfully I spotted Ian and the Irish guy and an Argentinian guy (Damian) ran off to get them. I was completely shaken up and stayed with the bus to make sure that it didn't drive off leaving us all behind. Ian ran back, I nearly burst into tears and we all got back on the bus. To add insult to injury the blockade hadn't even finish so we were still stuck there, so there was absolutely no need for the f--king dickhead driver to speed off like that, it made no difference whatsoever!!!!!!! (sorry mum but this story demands swearing!).

The bus drivers eventually thought it must have been safe enough to pass although we were told to close all the window and curtains. We put our bags against the windows for extra protection. The drivers went off road as there were still rocks on the road. We saw numerous buses who had tried to pass this way earlier and they were totally stuck in the mud all around us. Many of the buses and trucks coming for the other direction had smashed winscreens.

During the whole ordeal we didn't see any authorities trying to sort the mad situation out. We tell a lie we did see one police car right at the very beginning - leaving the trouble - who must have been either too shitscared to sort it out or sypathising with the protestors!

We carried on with our journey relieved to be moving but all of us were totally and utterly pissed off with missing the train.

We arrived at 8.30pm at the shithole of a town that is known as Oruro, 10 and a half hours after we had set off!!!!!! We then learnt that we couldn't get a train for 3 more days. We relucantly checked into a hotel with satellite tv. We planned to watch a lot of tv for the forseable future!!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

15/02/06 - 17/02/06

We spent the next 3 days basically eating fried chicken and chips (The only food available in the area!!!) in our hotel room and watched a total of about 20 films waiting for our train to depart on Friday afternoon!!