Help Us Decide: South or East?

We need your help! It’s decision time and a small rift has developed in Sprinter Life. Stevie wants to go South. I want to go East.

What say you?

Here is the deal.

We’ve been trapped in La Paz, Bolivia for over 5 weeks. All over the country there are road blocks and protests. Remember this post for all the details.

Yesterday we tried to make a run for it because the Government said there would be a 48 hour pause on protests. Remember this post for all the details.

We made it 4 hours south before hitting Oruro, the mining stronghold of Bolivia and a major center of government opposition. Apparently the “pause for negotiations” didn’t go so well. As soon as we swung around the city on the Pan-Americana highway, we hit the first active road block. Below Stevie hops out to assess the situation.

As we looked around, we saw road blocks everywhere. Most were set up with vans blocking the path. I’ve never seen so many vans in my life! Where the hell did these things come from?

We noticed that a few cars were turning off the highway and heading into the city. We decided to follow them hoping that there might be a vein that got through to the other side. As we got deeper into the city, we noticed that about every other street was blocked.

We also noticed that more road blocks were being put up as we were driving. We deduced that the negotiations must have gone bad and that the locals were throwing all the blocks back up.

We got suckered all the way into the center and for a while we were worried that we were going to get trapped down there behind all the blocks going up. We had to decide whether to continue to push through to the other side, or try to retreat back to the La Paz side. 

We made the call to retreat, but getting out wasn’t easy. Every other street was blocked, and although we often saw signs to La Paz, finding a way through the blocks proved to be quite a crux.

After about an hour of weaving, we finally found a vein that took us back out of the city. We drove the four hours back to La Paz. We burned through half our gas and wasted an entire day. Our spirits were low.

So, here we are back in La Paz with our friends from Lost World. They are waiting for their Brazilian visas, and then they are out of here on a burly route through the Amazon jungle. No road blocks or protesters where these guys are going! Unfortunately, everyone but me agrees that the Sprinter would never make it down that road. So that option is out, HA!

As for us, the way I see it we have three options.

1) We can retreat back to Peru, drive east, and then cross into Chile at Tacna.

2) We can drive east from La Paz across the Sajama desert and try to cross into Chile at a more remote border crossing.

3) We can wait until Sunday and try to drive south again, hoping that the protesters will be taking the day off (which, since they have every other Sunday, they probably will again).

Option #1 sounds heinous to both Stevie and I, so we’ve pretty much ruled it out. That leaves option #2 and #3.

I want #2, bail to Chile. I’m over it. Seems to me that we could be chillin on the beach in Chile in a couple days time. It’s winter swell there right now so the surf is firing. We got 2 months before we fly to the States for vacation, and the thought of spending that time relaxing in a predictable, easy 1st world country just sounds appealing.

Stevie wants option #3. She’s worried that we’d be leaving the best parts of Bolivia on the table, namely Sucre and the Salt Flats (the largest in the world),. We could get to Sucre on a Sunday, and we have the time to wait out the protest there if we have to. From Sucre, we could go to Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) the following weekend (if the protests are still going on), and then cross into Northern Argentina–total of two weeks more in Bolivia.  She also makes a very good point about the massive increase in our burn rate if we go to Chile, specifically in lodging. We’ll go from paying $10 a night to $60, and over 2 months, that’s really gonna hurt.

So, what say you?

Do we go option #2 to Chile, or do we stay the course in Bolivia on option #3?

As of now, it’s a tie vote. Kiki of course voted with me, but apparently Soleil (the little traitor) voted with her Mama.

Help us close the Sprinter Life rift and make a decision. Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think. If you receive Sprinter Life by email, just reply to the email.

(Luis, your voice/vote doesn’t count)





  1. Anonymous says:

    A mother seems to always have a good gut feeling, option #3. Be safe!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What will you do if they won’t let you into Chile?

  3. Tree, I thought you would have learned this valuable lesson by now. Listen to your wife or you’ll spend a long time regretting it 🙂 Given my personal state, sitting on a beach relaxing sounds way more appealing….. but that’s just my own personal thoughts. I still put my vote with Stevie.

  4. I strongly believe in a woman’s instinct. I vote with Stevie.

  5. Wait til Sunday and go with #3. Crossing the desert sounds rough with gas supplies low in the country.

  6. Sorry Stevie, I’m going for 2 as that’s the route I took! It’s a GREAT route, I LOVED Sajama, lots of funerary stuff here and there, and there’s the Coipasa Salt flats en route which were amazing. OK, not as big as the ones everyone else goes to, but that’s partly why they’re cool. There’s a small village on the edge. I was there at this time of year back in 2008. Kiki will HATE walking on the flats, it’s caustic to their pads. I predict the roads will be better than back then. On the outskirts of Oruru, I camped for a MONTH in another cool tiny village which was just mud houses. The place was almost empty as they’d taken their llamas etc off to a more fertile area. Just make sure your Kiki papers are STILL valid. And they do have dog sniffers at this border. They’re just as strict as all the other border crossings into Chile… 🙁

  7. Brian Brown says:

    I feel your surf jones…but the girl is always right.

  8. Stay the course!

  9. Auntie Alex says:

    If it were me personally I’d do option 1. BUT, if I were you, I’d do option 2. Head to Chile. The best parts of Bolivia aren’t going any where, and until the local people get their fair wage neither are you guys. You can try and waste more time and gas, which could end up being a huge problem. These political things have the ability to be pretty combustible at a moments notice, do you guys really want to be around for that possibility? I know I’d rather spend $60 a night for peace of mind, wine and a beach ANY day, rather than have all the stress, & potential danger to see something I can someday have opportunity to see again.

  10. Tree, Tree, Tree, you still haven’t learned…you always listen to Stevie.always. I do love that you took the time to elaborate a lovely story for us; the winter swell bit was pretty compelling, but all you had to do was listen to your incredibly smart wife.

    I love you guys and can’t WAIT to see you in August! I’ll make you something extra tasty to make up voting against your Chilean surf trip.


  11. Kirsten Holm says:

    Don’t skip Sucre! It was my favorite city the entire trip, warm and friendly and pretty, and all the women wear way better hats than La Paz! Don’t skip Salar de Uyuni…It’s amazing…don’t deprive Sol of her birthright to take photos looking tiny next to even smaller objects! Bolivia! Bolivia!

  12. In the long run you’ll probably wish you’d seen Sucre and the Salt Flats. I’d be patient and try again this Sunday. Good luck!

  13. Gilles Gautier says:

    Eat peyote and fly wherever you feel like, …Plan B : drive up to the remotest place you can get, it’s doubtful that polit troubles get up in the countryside

  14. Here in Iquique the weather is pretty good, the waves are cooking around the point, the hostel rooms (converted shipping containers) are dirt cheap, 6000 pesos pp (Altazor, Flight Park), the city is charming and there is a Zona Franca if you need to burn some cash. We are witing out the road blocks and doing some work on the Landy, but if the Landy is aces before the problems in Bolivia end, we may be forced to head to Peru 🙁

  15. Miguel Llorente says:

    Uyuni salt flats… I would not leave without visiting them! However, I just realized you have a baby on board, so probably it’s best to make a temporary escape…

  16. Mark Avery says:

    i feel like one of the judges on divorice court

  17. Bolivia is not a place to stay right now…even though the extra 50 o so will stretch you, the safety for your baby and peace of mind is worth it; sorry Stevie ;(

  18. Shannon Petrello says:

    If mana ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So do what she says. That’s my vote!

  19. Leah Markham says:

    salt flats!!!! sorry tree and saving $50 a night in Chile too! is it really $60 a night there, just to camp up?? that tops any night we camped in Europe by far!

  20. Shannon says:

    Yeah that should be “mama” not “mana”.

  21. karin stronkhorst says:

    i think it’s time to get the sprinter on a ship and head to another continent, europe is quite nice this time of year. no rafting, surfing or rockclimbing in Holland, but you might enjoy kite surfing. thought I’d leave you this very helpful comment. …

  22. Drive east from La Paz across the Sajama desert and try to cross into Chile at a more remote border crossing.

    Road blocks are all fine when everyone is still kicking it cause they are getting an excuse for a day off but as soon as someone hucks a rock or a political pawn gets paid to shoot both sides at the same time the shit hits the fan. The remote boarder and surfing beaches sound like the sweet spot to me. Down fall seems to be the burn rate.
    Peace out,

  23. Sarah Leith Bahn says:

    Option 4 – Hood river so Sol can meet her future husband Finn. Case closed.

  24. Stevie’s plan has my vote. And I LOVE how you’re coming to the States for a vacation. I want your job 🙂

  25. I am always on the side of the woman/mother/goddess, BUT in this case, I am getting vibes that you guys should head to Chile and be by the sea. I think you might run into more unrest and delay to stay in Bolivia. My two cents! Love to both of you. I hope this kind of dispute resolution works. Ask Soliel and Kiki!

  26. West Hansen says:

    Befriend someone with a van and have them participate in a roadblock, then when y’all pull up they can move and allow y’all through.

  27. Luis Reyes says:

    Go number 3. You will be missing Salar the Uyuni that is unique experience. Also Salta (in Argentina) is just a couple of days driving. The real reward is not that far south, and is named Mendoza, and they sell a liquid (wine) there that drive you nuts, and real cheap. The driving from Oyuni to Mendoza is not bad, and you can visit Jujuy, Salta and take the famous route 40 to Mendoza. Slow and nice drive. Europe? forget about. They don’t have the beef of the Argentinians (it will change your lives) or the nice and cheap Malbec, Torrontes, Etc. On top of that, Mom is always right. Best to the 3 of you.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can Surf anywhere. Hi and do what you haven’t done or seen
      Be Safe

      • Berny Tadeo says:

        You can Surf anywhere at an time. Go where you haven’t seen and do what you haven’t done… Be Safe see you guys soon.

  28. Try two. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

  29. April Agatucci says:

    So, discussed this with hubby, we both agree…Tree, ya got our vote. When with child, stay the safe way…Stevie, sorry I can’t vote with you momma:(. Stay safe!!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Go to Chile

  31. Bill Kline says:

    hey great stories.. all I know is keep writing And sharing

  32. Auntie Layla says:

    I’m taking Stevie’s side, but strictly on loyalty. I’m Mexican, it’s the way of my people.

  33. Jessica says:

    Stevie get’s my vote. Go #3!!

  34. Brian Thomen says:

    OK Mijo I say Option #3 I Love You Both Equally!!

  35. Anonymous says:

    I’d go with those guys form lost world. sounds like more fun

  36. Anonymous says:

    Ground swell at 10 seconds and about 6 feet. For Tree.

  37. My vote is for Chile – the highlands are nice and all that but if you are not feeling it then move on – that is why you live in a casa rodante isnt it?
    if you get a chance when you are going down the coast of Chile- stop at Humberstone
    its like a ghost town and makes a great place to stroll around and take pictures

  38. Surf’s up! Head to the beach. And for the poster that suggested you needed to listen to your wife — that’s right, listen up, and then do what you want to do.

  39. Tough decision!! Surfing does sound like fun, but I have to cast a vote and side with my Cuz, option #3. The increase in $$ is too much also Sucre and the salt flats sound pretty cool.

  40. Mike Morrell says:

    By default and probably no surprise I’m gonna say go for broke and chase the swell brah! Sorry ladies, but a Chilean winter swell is a beautiful, powerful thing and no amount of salt can change my mind. I surfed Iquique and Arica (when I didn’t know shit) in spring (I guess our winter) and it was amazing, besides the urchin that destroyed my foot. Get it Tree!

    Miss you guys! Can’t wait to hang, play with the creature, who I’m sure has all these new moves and get in the water!

  41. Naomi Chance says:

    Trust Stevie on this one — Option 3

  42. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t they strike a deal this morning?

  43. Marty Galindo-Schmith says:

    I’m with Stevie and Soleil.

  44. (Sorry 2 of the same questions from me above). If it’s true that they suspended the strike until the agreement is ratified get the heck outta there.

  45. Never ever leave out Salar de Uyuni! It is by far the best part and one of the total highlights in whole SA!!!! Do #3 or you will regret it, I am afraid!

  46. Never ever leave out Salar de Uyuni! It is by far the best part and one of the total highlights in whole SA!!!! Do #3 or you will regret it, I am afraid! you will make it through!

  47. I vote south…#3. Good luck either way!!

  48. Brian Parsons says:

    Head SE to Paraguay, Crash the gate doin 98 and say “let these truckers roll” cuz you got a mighty convoy. Bad 70’s song reference…

  49. My feeling is to go the safest route for your child…Soleil should be the deciding factor..jmo

  50. Stay put and wait it out.

  51. Suzanne says:

    Bolivia will still be there, it’s not like they are up and moving. The salt flats will still be there, as will Sucre. It’s not like you can’t ever go back, correct? Head to Chile. Surf. Go back to Bolivia when there is less BS happening.

  52. Great Aunt Debby and Great Uncle Barry says:

    Ok here is my thoughts, You two have seen lots of amazing places as you travel across South America and whenever you get to a cross road you have to make a choice to see and experience one road and not travel down the other. If you choose option 2 you will miss seeing the rest of Bolivia. If you choose 3 you won’t see the Sajama desert or that area of Chile. So either way you are going to miss something and you are going to have a great adventure no matter what so…. I vote for the safest route that will get you all into a stable area. Time to make choices with safety in mind.

  53. Hi.
    We are the neighbors of Graeme and Louise and on our way to La Paz, but now “trapped” in Iquique and we are following your info now, thanks.
    Other Overland friends are already two weeks in San Pedro de Atacama because the pass to the Salar de Uyuni was closed because of snow. It only went open yesterday again. This way is also something to keep in mind.

    Regards, Joop.

    From Ruth & Jürgen
    Bolivien : Wir sind wg Schnee auf den Pässen noch in San Pedro, heute ist der Pass zum Salar de Uyuni das erste Mal wieder geöffnet! Wir entscheiden morgen, ob wir dorthin fahren und danach Richtung Iquique wieder nach Chile zurück, die Lage im sonstigen Bolivien scheint sich eher zu verschlechtern !

  54. Michael & Joanne says:

    Tree, you sound like this is the most desperate position you’ve ever encountered. Since I’m not there with you and know nothing about South American local culture and politics, it would be idiotic for you to take any advice I might offer on this matter.
    That said, I believe a couple years ago you set out on an adventure. Unlike a vacation, you knew the road would be twisted and bumpy and mysterious, and at times very boring. This situation you’re in sounds a lot like what you signed up for. As long as you aren’t significantly changing the safety equation, all options are “good” options. When this grand adventure of yours is over, you will look back and see that today was just another page in one of many colorful chapters in a delightfully long book.
    Best wishes from Raleigh.
    P.S. You have good food, friends, a roof over your heads and readily accessible sport climbing. Staying put is an option.

    • Are you calling me out Sir? Fair enough. Just remember, I fell off Guppy 100 times. I’m not that tough.

      xoxoxox -TREE

  55. Josh Russell says:

    I would say go east, you never know when it is going to end unless you want to hang out until the protests are completely over…really enjoy following you guys on this epic journey!


  56. Jock Bradley says:

    Tree love you but I’m with the girls and vote for option 3. You’ll get back from the states and then be in Chile for the spring. Save the $$ and wait it out. Jock

  57. Paul Lyttle says:

    Fuck Bolivia (Tree I got your back)

  58. Caroline Eastburn says:

    As much as I love the beach, I go with Stevie. Option #3.
    Take care, and buen viaje!

  59. Auntie Candy says:

    Okay…. I am with you on this one Tree. Go and be safe in Chile. Baby and safety have to come first. You can go back and see the things you missed this trip but you have to keep that beautiful wife and baby safe first. I love you both … sorry Stevie – I vote for Tree this time.
    Love you,
    Auntie Candy

  60. Thank you to everyone who offered advice on our recent mini-crisis.

    We have decided to head south. Despite the fact that I was out voted 3 to 1, the real reason I’ve agreed to this decision is because the Government has reached an agreement with the protesters and we’ve been told the roads will be open for a month. So, on to Argentina!

    Tomorrow we’ll head south through Sajama, and on to Sucre. We won’t have internet for a couple days. Hopefully we’ll be back online sunday. Wish us luck! -TREE

  61. Liz Tompkins says:

    I’d say option # 3. You will always regret not seeing the rest of Bolivia. You’ve been on the road for over 3 years now so to hear you say the word “vacation” gets me thinking… are they on permanent vacation or is this more “work” than I imagine?

    Travel safe- the road block pictures are kinda cool. I’ve never experienced one. What is the issue?

  62. Gooey me says:


  63. Daniela McLean says:

    As someone who got stuck in Bolivia, TWICE, I would say, get the hell out of dodge if you have any sort of deadline. Bolivia has a way of beating you down and holding you in. So far, you have travelled on paved roads, but once you hit miles and miles of washboard gravel, you will be wishing you were in Chile!! Maybe come back when you have endless time.

  64. Julie Williams says:

    I’m sorry Stevie, but I’m with Tree. Option 2. 🙂 Get the hell out of there!

  65. Sam Drevo says:

    Stay in Bolivia longer. I am going to side with mama on this one- sorry Tree. Chile is fuckin awesome, but expensive. It is almost 1st world. I love seeing and hearing about your 3rd world experiences.

    Go on with your bad selves:)


  66. East.

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