Two Days in Sucre

Upon arriving in Sucre, I called my friend Sonia and was taken to the home of some YWAMers nearby. This was my reason for being here – to work in this home and help the King’s Kids branch of YWAM develop their own web site.

City of Sucre
Looking down on the city of Sucre from its highest point.

This family was different to most Bolivian families. Their mother was Austrian and the kids had faces that looked like gringos (foreigners). Their father was Bolivian and they had lived in Bolivia most of their lives, so they were truly Bolivian, with the combined hospitality of both the Austrians and the Bolivians.

Rather than resting after such arduous travel, I decided to press on with the work as Sonia was leaving in the afternoon and we needed her assistance in some of the things that we were doing. We achieved a lot in that day.

Sonia left in the late afternoon, at which point I was given a motorcycle tour around the town and then dropped off down near the university. From here I wandered back down the streets, stopping at various places until I made my way to the central plaza.

Central plaza
The central plaza by night.

In the central plaza a young boy around 10 years old asked if he could clean my shoes. We got chatting and he told me about how his dad worked in another part of the country and sent him here to go to school, and how his mum was not around so he had to work for the money to feed and clothe himself.

Not once did this boy put on the begging face that I had seen in so many others, but he persisted in asking for food, so I took him to a nearby eatery and purchased him a meal. The waitress serving at the time already knew him, and warned me that he would go out onto the streets with the food and sell it again rather than eating it. This was a ploy that I had not yet been aware of. She told me that she would make sure he stayed there and ate the food for himself.

begging boy
The young lad that asked me for food in the plaza.

The next day was another day of work, with a lot of work on the web site and also training up the guy that was going to do much of the work on it.

Just before lunch I ran down to the bus terminal, only several blocks away to purchase a ticket, and was dumbfounded at how unfit I was in not even being able to run a couple of blocks without gasping for air. It was only as I was struggling along on the return leg that I realised that we were in a city at a very high altitude, which was probably causing these symptoms.

That evening I left the family, thanking them for their hospitality and boarding my overnight bus to Santa Cruz. My time in Sucre had been extremely short, leaving me with a desire to return one day and discover more of this interesting little town.

Now I was looking onward to the large city of Santa Cruz.

Four Days in La Paz – A Photo Journal

Many things happened in La Paz. Serving the homeless with food, helping Mission Adulam with their communication needs, shopping for various items in the crowded markets, and working out my way back and forth from El Alto on top of the hill to La Paz in the crater below. These photos tell just a small part of the story of what happened.

La Paz at night
The lights of the city of La Paz at night.

decending in the clouds
Going to church on Sunday with the boys staying at the boys home required us to descend in the clouds to the motorway.

At church in La Paz on Sunday morning.

change of guards
I just happened to be in the plaza to see the change of guards at the main government house.

wet main street
Wet, but not raining, we travel down the main street of town after watching the movie Ice Age 2 as a group.

view from apartment
Part of the view from Fineke’s apartment in the centre of La Paz city.

Street in El Alto
Looking down a street in El Alto, where I was staying.

feeding the homeless
A view from inside the 4wd as we feed the homeless and street kids in El Alto, La Paz.

two men with dogs
Two of the guys gather up as many dogs as they can and ask for a photo of their “friends.”

writing details on notebook
Gathering data on each of the people that come for food, to help serve them better in the future.

man eating
A drunk man enjoys his food before wanding over to chat with me until we leave.

young child
One of the victims of the circumstances of her parents.

Moving through the markets in search of more people needing food.

customer on chair
A customer waits on a chair for the work to be done.

row of small sheds
These sheds house a lot of witches and some businesses.

young boy pointing
A young boy sees my camera and points excitedly at it as we drive slowly past.

selling witches brews
Dried foeteses of animals and many other items for witches are for sale in this heavily populated witch area.

boot makers
A woman being attended by one of dozens of boot makers in their tiny shops.

boot maker at work
Each bootmaker has the same setup with their special sewing machine that can work on any heavy materials.

view over La Paz
Looking out over the mountainsides of La Paz city.

mountain behind La Paz
On the last day I get to see the famous snow covered mountains that sit behind the city of La Paz.

steep street
Looking down one of the steep streets of La Paz from the car I was travelling in.

baby in cart
Many children and babies are carried around in carts which are also used to move their shops and items for sale around.

A Day in Uyuni Town


Upon arriving in Uyuni, I started the hunt for a 3 day tour of the Salt Lakes and many other bits and pieces that you can see here. This is my first and only point of being a tourist in Bolivia and is what everybody has told me that I must go and see.

main street
The main street of Uyuni shows the small population that is here.
Continue reading “A Day in Uyuni Town”

Flowers and Insects of Cochabamba

While at the orphanage, I saw some flowers that I wanted to take photos of. When some of the younger children saw me taking these photos, they suddenly started coming to me with flowers plucked out of the field. Instead, I told them to take me to the flowers while they were still alive. These photos are the result of these young children asking me to take a photo of “this” and “this” and “that.”

purple flowers

tiny red flowers

field flowers

small flowers in field


bug on flower

dead flowers

tiny grasshopper

bug with long wings

ant with huge load

child holding up dead flowers

child with bug on hand

lady bug about to fly away

yellow flower

Sick in Santa Cruz

The First Day
On Saturday I arrive in Santa Cruz. The directions that I had been given to determine when to ask the bus driver to stop were very good. However I was not dropped off until almost 2 kms further down the road. During the night a bad cough had become worse, taking my voice away from me. So when I went and asked the driver to let me off, it took that long for him to understand me.

ywam base
The Santa Cruz YWAM Base

Shortly after I had arrived I started helping out in the computer department. There were some small problems that I was able to solve reasonably quickly for them. After gaining some of their confidence, we then began the process via a very slow modem connection of setting up a new website for Kings Kids and possibly for all of Bolivia.

I was not in the office for long, and quickly disappeared into town on the mini-buses to celebrate some birthdays over lunch. We enjoyed some typical Bolivian foods of highly flavoured chicken and rice, hot and spicy chicken, and other variants of spicy and hot foods.

Bolivian food
Bolivian foods for lunch.

Kings Kids lunch
Celebrating birthdays over lunch.

The evening was another birthday and we wandered down a street filled with parties to try and find the one we were invited to. It took several attempts as we stopped at different houses and wondered if this was the party we had been asked to attend. Our party was much further down the road and the sounds did not carry out to the street because of the large house in which it was held.

Here we ate lots of meat and laughed and danced into the night. I demonstrated some dances taught to me by my good friend Chris which caught a lot of attention at the party. One was The Microwave Dance, and the other The Fish Dance. After that I started making up my own, with The Salad Tossing Dance, and The Car Driver Dance. They were all tongue-in-cheek activities designed to bring a bit of laughter into the night, and they worked well.

Police booking driver
Policeman booking a driver.

The Next Day
The whole week was shaping up to be full of events and activities that would take me around the place to see many things, but suddenly I hit the wall. On Sunday morning I tried to wake up but could not. My body was shaking with cold yet pouring out sweat. I had a fever.

For most of that day I slept. There was no strength in my body to get up, even though I tried once or twice. Completely exhausted, I lay on my bed and slept or read. The entire day. There was nothing else I could do.

On the Monday, waking at 7am I thought all was fine, but suddenly heard a knock on the door at 9.15am and discovered that I had fallen asleep again. In the morning I walked, slowly, down to the doctors for a blood check. I had been bitten by an unknown bug back in Entre Rios and it had some of the symptoms of the Vinchuka bug that brings Chagis Disease and I wanted to be sure of what it was.

The rest of the day was work, hunched over the computer, using as little energy as possible. Everyone went out to a party, leaving me behind. My exhaustion was too much and an early night was the only sensible thing to do.

Next Day – In Search of Japanese
Thinking that I would feel better, I headed off to some distant Japanese colony nearby Santa Cruz. We took a taxi, with three big people in the back and two people crammed into the front seat for the two hour journey.

Lines of cars
Lines of cars blocked by the protesters.

Only a short distance up the road we encounter a blockade across the road. Our taxi driver continues up the road on the wrong side, weaving between the other vehicles that have done the same until we get to the source. It is the police drugcheck point where every vehicle gets inspected, and just metres further on is a group of angry people preventing the vehicles from moving anywhere.

Converted taxi
Riding in a converted taxi.

Our driver charges us half price and we walk through the blockade, and past dozens and dozens of buses and trucks that have been stuck for hours. Suddenly there is movement. The police have removed the blockade and vehicles are starting to move onward again.

main street
The town’s main street, just like any other Bolivian town.

We were looking for a taxi to take us the rest of the distance but found nothing. Instead we were stuck between the edge of the road and big moving vehicles, with only centimetres between us both.

A small circus was in town when we arrived.

Eventually our taxi finds us again, having passed through the blockade, and we climb aboard once again. This time there are four of us in the back seat for the remaining hour of journey.

Mother and daughter in field
A mother and daughter wash their clothes in the field.

When we finally get there, the colony is nothing more than a Bolivian town with some Japanese farms and we return quite disappointed. Later on I hear that we had visited the wrong place and that there really is a Japanese styled township somewhere nearby.

Farewell sign
The entry and exit to the township. This sign has Japanese on the welcome side, which I did not take a photo of. Doh.

Last day – Making Tracks
Wednesday was National Day of the Child, and my last day in Santa Cruz. In the morning I joined the girls in shopping for presents for the children at the markets. These markets have such a dangerous reputation that none of us take anything more than we really need for this trip.

Small markets
Small markets in a township nearby to Santa Cruz.

Witches brews, burnt offerings and dried foetuses of animals were all available for sale alongside of dozens of shops selling childrens toys. Fresh fish and chicken, chocolates, clothes, tools, and virtually anything that you could possibly need was available here.

We returned to the YWAM base to celebrate this day with a party and dances for the children which they all delighted in. I stopped first at the doctors to discover that my test for Chagis disease was negative, and for some advice about my continuing flu. I returned to the base with two medications and an injection, which I duly took (ouch).

The afternoon was spent finalising the work I had been doing on the Kings Kids website and helping David a little more in some of the things he was doing.

my friends.
My friends from Santa Cruz. (L to R: Sonia, Nadia, David, Lidia)

Before long the day had run out and I was walking out of the gate, saying goodbye to all of the good friends that I had made during my stay including David, Lydia, Nadia, and Sonia. Thanks guys for the amazing stay that you made my time in Santa Cruz.

Next stop. The bus station.

old car
A typical old car for this area of Bolivia.

Shoe repairer
A shoe repairer working on the footpath.

Yamaha DT100 motorbike
I used to have one of these motorbikes (80cc) back in 1980 and it was considered old then.

Horse cart
A broken horse cart with basic repairs so it can continue to function.

Two girls watching traffic
Two girls sit outside their home, watching the traffic.

Church in the Plaza – Cochabamba

It was only one day that I was able to spend at the orphanage, and by the evening of that day I had returned to the church where I would stay the night before leaving early the next day for La Paz.

Christ statue on hill
Although not all, many of the cities in South America have their own statue of the Christ up on top of a nearby hill.

That night was the last night of an Easter campaign in the plaza, run by this large church. As a guest, I was invited to join them in this large event. When I got there, it turned out to be church in the plaza with lots of dance and drama for the people that came by. People also moved through the crowd passing out tracts about Christ.

the church
The building that houses the large church that looks after the orphanage.

After the event and returning all of the gear that had been used during it, I returned to my small room in the front corner of the church. The church had fed me and looked after me during my short stay here, and had even purchased my ticket to La Paz. Now I was in a guest room inside the church building, yet more evidence of their generousity. Sleep came quickly at 1am in the morning. Tomorrow would be an early start.

the plaza
The Plaza of the Flags, where the church service was held, on the main street of Cochabamba.

looking at event over flowers
The plaza was surrounded by rich beds of flowers everywhere.

girls dancing
Some girls dance before the crowd to a Christian song.

preacher preaching
Preaching to the crowd that has gathered, as seen from the other side of the main

Leaving Entre Rios

We arrived back just after 6pm and drove straight to the bus ticket vendors. The first place we visited had a bus leaving at 7pm. The second one had their bus being loaded as we arrived, and ready to leave almost immediately. That was the bus that I wanted to get on, but after racing up to the mission to grab my bag, when I turned around and looked down the street, the bus had left without me.

passing shops
My last view of Entre Rios before it disappeared from sight completely.

Instead, I headed down to purchase a ticket for the other bus. It was only three blocks, but it was insisted that I go in the Landrover with Fineke. Well, by the time that we had made the convoluted journey down there and done the bits and pieces that both she and I needed to do while in town, I returned to the mission once again with very little time to spare.

Farewelling all of my good friends there, I picked up my backpack and walked out the door. It would be unlikely that I will return here again in the near future. My work is located in Argentina and I may never get to return to this amazing and fascinating country.

Once aboard the bus, and with my farewells completed, we headed off at around 7.15pm. I snapped a quick shot of Entre Rios as it passed before me and was then gone. Perhaps forever. My memories surrounded me as we continued along the bumpy and muddy main road toward Tarija.

Suddenly the bus lurched upward and came to an abrupt halt. We had just gotten stuck on a great chunk of mud that had falled across the road. There were tyre tracks across it and our bus driver had tried to launch us over it, but we did not make it. He backed the bus off this sticky clay type mud over the road and down the hill a little. Then grabbing a shovel, he climbed out to see what he could do.

muddy landslide
Passengers from the bus walking up to and crossing over the landslide.

Many of us aboard also climbed off, into the rain. We recognised that the bus would not make it over with a full load, but with less people aboard it would get up to a faster speed and have a higher clearance, giving it a much better chance. We negotiated our way across the muddy frontier, carefully avoiding the water hidden in the shadows on the other side. There, on the other side, we waited. The rain continued to fall, wetting me completely as I realised that everyone around me was clothed in garments designed to resist the rain.

Meanwhile the driver and a couple of guys dug away at the mud, trying to clear a better passage for the bus. After about twenty minutes of work, the driver climbed back into the bus and with a great roar, raced up the road and onto the hump of mud. The bus paused for a moment, suspended right in the middle of it all, and we all held our breath. Then with another roar, it inched forward and then gained speed, making it right over and back onto the firm roadsurface where we were standing. He had made it. Our journey would continue.

digging a passageway
The men working in the headlights and rain to make a way through for the bus.

There were no more surprises like that, but every five metres the cliff-side had collapsed onto the roadway. Some parts covered the road and other times it was just a small amount of dirt on the edge. At times whole trees and plants were relocated at the side of the road because of the subsidence from the excessive rain. The road did have some very dangerous parts where the edge had disappeared into the valley below, and other parts that were extremely unstable. Fortunately we did not know about these problems until much further on, toward the end of the journey when we stopped to warn another bus driver heading toward Entre Rios.

I arrived in Tarija at 11.30pm, happy to be safe and sound, and ready to continue my journey. Little did I know what would lie ahead for me.

Stranded by Transport Strikes

It was yesterday that I was planning on leaving Tarija. Today I am still here. I missed my bus by only 10 minutes. But that may have been a very good thing.

buses blocking terminal
Buses block the road and the bus terminal so that nobody can provide a service while they are on strike.

You see, in Bolivia right now, there is a lot of turbulence and problems. The border crossing that I used to enter Bolivia is now closed and will probably remain that way for a while as the people fight to turn their region into the 10th province of Bolivia. Fortunately I do not have to worry about leaving the country just yet, and there are other ways I can get out, so I am not concerned with these problems.

Also, only a handful of days ago the national airline company was grounded and is unlikely to ever fly again. It handled over 80% of national flights and has left many thousands of people stranded. Andreas, my friend from Entre Rios is one of them. He has been waiting for almost 2 weeks to get another flight back from La Paz.

Tarija is also suffering from the recent rains which have caused land slips and ruptured three of the four gas pipes that bring natural gas into the city. As a result the entire city is experiencing power cuts as a rationing system is used to try and avoid a complete loss of gas. With cars, heating, cooking, and electricity all run off gas in this gas rich country, the complete loss of natural gas would be a serious disaster for the city.

The other major problem that has had an affect on me right now is striking transport drivers. The strikes here are as much an emotional event as they are a political one. The people gather together and if anybody tries to stop them they often get violent. I have been warned that their violence can be even stronger towards foreigners so I need to be careful. You don’t need to hear a warning like that one twice.

Blocking the roundabout
At the end of the day the blockades were virtually over and cars were able to get through without too many problems.

Yesterday, I raced over to the bus station in the afternoon in a taxi to discover that I had missed most of the buses that go to Potosi. There was one remaining bus leaving at 6pm but I had only 10 minutes to get to the YWAM base and return with my bag. It was unlikely, but then the buses here have never ever left on time before, so that meant I would have a realistic 20 minutes.

We headed in the direction of the YWAM base only to be cut off by protesters blockading the road with cars, buses, burning tyres, and lots of sticks and anger. All of the traffic was being diverted and we joined them. This meant that our journey would take even longer as we negotiated the thickness of the diverted traffic.

Racing past cars on the wrong lane, ducking between trucks and other moving vehicles and bouncing along the rough road that leads to the mission, we finally get there right on 6pm. I race in and grab my bag, throwing it into the boot of the taxi and giving a rushed goodbye to my hosts.

Once again we race down the roads back toward the bus terminal. We come into sight of it about 7 minutes past six and by the time we have turned around and parked, it is 6.10pm. There is no sign of the bus.

Asking at the ticket counter, where candles were burning because the electricity rationing had arrived here, we discover that the bus had left right on the dot of 6.00pm. This was extraordinary behaviour for a bus in this country. The lady explained that they were concerned for the bus that it would be stopped along the way or outside of Potosi because national transit strikes were organised to start at midnight until midnight the next day (today).

blockaded bridge
These blockades were placed all over the city and at every main city entrance, strangling public and private transport.

As we returned to the YWAM base once again, at a much more relaxing pace, both the taxi driver and I contemplated the situation. We decided that it was probably a much better thing that I had not caught the bus, since if there was a road blockade along the main route – something that the news is saying will happen – then the bus would have been stranded in the middle of the journey with nowhere to go for the entire 24hrs.

Furthermore was that Potosi experiences temperatures well below zero most of the time, and I have not got any warm clothes yet (about to go shopping shortly). This may have meant that the situation would have been even worse for me, if I had been trapped on that bus.

Instead, I have food and a bed and friends around me. One more day won’t cause too many problems with my schedule… I hope.

Visiting the Las Lomas Community

I was planning on getting the 6pm bus out of Entre Rios to Tarija. It was already 5pm and the flooding had reduced enough to allow the buses to start travelling the route again so there was a good chance I would make it.

muddy road
The road to Las Lomas.

Just before leaving however, Pepe wanted to show me around a little. He felt that it would be wrong if I had come to Entre Rios and not had the opportunity to venture into the country even a little bit. So we climbed aboard the Landrover and headed out to “Las Lomas” a small community not too far from Entre Rios.

lady walking
A lady walks on, forcing us into the deeper mud this time.

Continue reading “Visiting the Las Lomas Community”