Endurance Travel – A Break in Carmargo

Finding a Ticket Onward
Our bus finally arrives in Carmargo at 2pm. After climbing off, I look around to see if there is a bus to take me to Potosí. Just as I am looking, a bus pulls up behind us with a sign to Potosí. Thinking that it is about to leave because the driver is still aboard, I ask the driver where I can get a ticket. He climbs out and leads me to the ticket office.

Carmargo town
Carmargo is set at the foot of some massive mountains.

Within moments I have booked and paid for this bus to take me to Potosí. Behind me a line forms of other people who also want to continue their journey northward. I was happy to have my ticket, but the bus was not leaving until 8.30pm and I would have loved to have travelled there during the daylight hours. Worse is that I need to wait for six and a half hours before the second part of my journey begins.

Looking for an Alternative Way
Thinking that maybe I would be able to hitch-hike my way there now, I wander over to the town exit north and wait. There are trucks and taxis and cars, but nothing that even looks remotely like going as far as Potosí. Most of them are local vehicles, travelling out to smaller communities nearby.

Old truck
An old truck wanting repairs but still in use.

Somebody mentioned that the strikes have now been lifted for the afternoon and all is back to normal now. That is certainly good news, although it no longer affects me as I have my ticket north.

Killing Time with a Camera
Deciding to hang around the township for my bus, I wander all over the town taking photos. By the end of it all I feel like I have taken more than enough photos of the place and it is still only 3pm. There is still another 5.5 hours yet to wait.

three young girls
These girls were delighted to see themselves in this photo.

By 5pm I have once again wandered the entire township for a second time, taking even more photos. Still 3.5 hours left to wait. My wandering was super slow, trying to cover every street in this small town. At times I stopped to chat with the people, other times simply wandered slowly onward. Now what do I do.

The big Catholic church in the town centre grabs my attention and I wander in there to spend some time reading. The coolness of the big mud-brick construction and the quietness of the empty church is very relaxing. Looking at my watch there is still a long wait ahead of me. I keep telling myself that it is not a long time to wait, but am quickly discovering that it really is.

Happy old lady at markets
A happy old lady at the markets waiting for a buyer.

The End of the Day
By 6.30pm I am wandering up and down the local market stalls, looking at the items they have for sale. Things that I remember my Grandmother owning were for sale as new, and other things that I had never before seen were also available. The clothes pretty much followed the latest fashions of the cities, although there were some things there that seemed crazy that anybody would want to wear them. Typical clothes of the Bolivian women with their big pleated dresses and warm blanket-style jumpers all available at great prices.

Within half an hour the place is dark. The setting sun now hidden behind the massive cliff walls towering over the township. There is no electricity here either, another victim of the broken gas lines in Tarija, so most market shops have closed up for the night. Some battle onward, by the light of a candle or gas lantern, but the people too are starting to return to their homes because of the darkness.

main street
Looking down one of the streets in Carmargo.

After eating a hearty meal of Picante de Pollo (Hot spicy chicken) in the main bus terminal restaurant, I wander over to another small store for a coffee and some biscuits. After living in Argentina for so long where even a touch of pepper is normally too hot for most people, Bolivia is a refreshing change with its large variety of hot and spicy dishes.

The Craziness Begins
Suddenly, while enjoying my coffee and a chat with the owners of the shop, I see people boarding my bus. The strange part of it is that the bus is not scheduled to leave until 8.30pm and yet here it was at 7.30pm being loaded up. We all agree that it would be wise to head over there and find out what is happening so I finish up my drink and wander over to find myself immersed in a flurry of panic.

Men seated on ground
Men waiting around for the bus to leave.

People crowd the doorway to the bus, far more than could ever fit in there. The ticket booth behind the bus is also filled to overflowing with people trying to get a ride. This is the only bus leaving this township today and everybody and their dog wanted to get on it.

Realising that I may lose my seat if I too am not on that bus, I quickly try to climb aboard but am pushed back by others who also want to try and get a ride. Realising that many of them did not have a ticket, I reach into my pocket and pull out the white piece of paper that gave me claim to a seat, stretching over toward the driver to show him.

shop owner
The old shop owner counts out the items the young man wants to buy.

He takes my ticket and then calls me aboard, pushing the other people out of the way. I can finally climb aboard my bus and quickly find the seat I have paid for, glad that I was so quick in purchasing my ticket. Behind me other struggling passengers also flash their tickets toward the driver, eager also to secure their places amongst the pushing throng in this far too popular bus. Our journey was about to begin but litle did we know what would ensue before we even left.

Two Bolivian women
Women dressed in their traditional Bolivian dresses were very common in Carmargo.

Family in doorstep
A family sits outside their front door greeting friends as they pass.

old street
One of the streets leading up to the base of the mountains.

Two men seated in doorway
Two friends chatting in the afternoon.

Children on bridge
Children on a bicycle, playing on the bridge.

Old mud house
A comparison of the old mud-brick home next to a newer home that is better finished.

Man at shop
A man makes his purchases through the steel grate that virtually all shops have on their windows.

Top story of mud brick home
Looking up at the top level of a two story mud brick home.

Christ statue
Virtually every town has its version of a Christ statue. This is Carmargo’s.

Big rock cliff above houses
The houses closest to this loose shale cliff face are in grave danger of recieving a rock through their roof or wall.

girl looking out of window
A girl looks out of the window of her home, located like most places, above a shop.

town drunk
A ragged fella sleeping on the side of the road during the siesta hours.

little girl at door
In such a quiet township as this one, my footsteps brought a number of curious people to their doors.

Old lady sweeping
An old lady sweeps out her house using the traditional broom made from sticks and straw.

two poor children
The child in the red was very concerned about the contraption that I had in my hands.

old house
A doorway and wall in disrepair.

firewood and trolley
A load of firewood and the trolley that will be used to take it to their home.

lock on door
Most of the more modest houses use these locks as a way of closing their doors.

Mother with child
A mother accompanied by her children walks a gas bottle back to her home.

Two children and dog
Two children pose with their dog for a photo.

young boy with sister and dog
A young boy with his sister and dog standing at the entrance to their home.

girl on bike
A girl rides with her brother to the shop to make some purchases for their mother.

shoe shop
A shoe shop with a pile of rubber outside ready to make some more shoes.

grandma and grandson
A grandmother enjoys the company of her grandson at the markets.

washing by hand
It is very unusual for any family to have a clothes washer and most normally wash by hand.