Well, what was originally supposed to be a couple of days stay in La Paz is now entering into the 4th week.
The fact is, we’re trapped in La Paz, Bolivia.
Bolivian mining unions have staged marches, protests and riots to demand better pensions to President Evo Morales. Street demonstrations are being held in the cities of Cochabamba, Oruro, Santa Cruz and La Paz, with road blocks blocking the highways connecting to the center and east of the country. Government Minister Carlos Romero reported that demonstrations were also held in Chuquisaca with roadblocks on the southern regions of Tarija and Potosí.
So, while we’ve been unable to move south, our friends from Lost World Expeditions are trapped down south, unable to move north! What a mess!
We’ve been calling the bus stations daily to get reports on the roads, and so far there are no signs that it’s getting any better. As a matter of fact, today we found out that all roads in and out of La Paz are now blocked. The most violent protests took place a week ago in El Alto outside of La Paz. Teachers beat a police officer, smashed his motorcycle, and destroyed a giant billboard. Wow, I don’t remember any of my teachers representing like that!
The anti-riot police dispersed the protesters with tear gas and arrested twenty of them for beating the police.
Dozens of miners were arrested this last week as they held marches and established roadblocks in several parts of the country. The miners then kidnapped 3 police officers to be exchanged for miners who were arrested in the protests.
So when will all this be over so we can go on our merry way? Nobody seems to know. Miners are demanding changes to the pension law to grant workers a monthly pension equal to one hundred percent of the last salary they received, but government officials claim that this will bankrupt the system. Morales offered to raise the minimum retirement pension from $531 to $574. Morales then said that this offer is final “whatever the unions say and whatever they do.”
So, there you have it. I guess there could be worse places to be stuck. We’re camping in a nice place (Hotel Oberland), we have fast internet, we’re getting a hot shower at least every other day, and I’m surrounded by tons of great rock climbing.
A couple of weeks ago when I was out climbing I saw a gringo and immediately identified him as being from the States (usually they are always Euros). Eric is down here working for the US Embassy, and he also happens to be from Redmond, OR, the town right next to where I grew up. We of course knew a ton of the same people, climbers, and places. So, we started climbing together.
Below, Eric gets after it on a pumpy 5.12d
The rock down here, as Eric describes it, is “A mixture between Maple Canyon, Red Rocks, and Smith… all the worst parts”. He’s right, but the routes actually climb really well.
Putting in sessions with Eric has been great for my climbing. I’m pushing faster and harder than if I was just climbing with random people. I’ve got 2 projects going. Both should be sent in the near future.
The other night we went to have dinner with Eric and his wife Janet. That night turned out to be best of show! He asked us if we wanted a beer and I said “Sure,” expecting a swag Bolivian Pilsen. Then this mug breaks out Deschutes Brewery Microbrews!!! WTF!
Turns out this guy is sitting on a crazy stash, including Mirror Pond, recent issues of Rock n’ Ice mag, Pinot wines from the Willamette Valley, and a grip of Charmin toilet paper! You think that’s funny? You have no idea how impossible it is to get that stuff down here. Apparently the Embassy peeps have connections. 🙂
Eric was nice enough to send us home with a nice care package, including a new 70m rope (one less thing I have to haul back to South America when we go to the States in August). Thanks buddy.
So although we’re trapped, we’re trying to be productive. Kiki was due to be groomed, so we drew straws and Stevie lost. She set out to find a dog groomer and, by the end of the day, came back with these guys. This dog has been groomed in 14 countries now, and I must say, this was a first!
So now we wait. We wait for the protests to end. We wait for the road blocks to lift. We wait for a window to get through to the south. Hopefully it won’t be much longer.
Soleil getting a good laugh at our current situation!