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June 10, 2005
Jody writes:

Potosi is a mining city in southern Bolivia that's full of poor miners who pointlessly dig away inside dangerous caves to try and scrape themselves a scrap of tin. Miners have made up a large number of the protesters since the demonstrations began. Dressed in tin hats that make them resemble World War One vets, they intimidate police and egg on the other demonstrators by throwing dynamite around.

Some traveller knobs revel in it. One told us: "I heard that there were riots in La Paz and I flew right here!" And now you're stuck here you twat, laying in bed at night, hoping that the objects that land on your roof are rocks and not dynamite.

Yesterday police shot dead a miner outside Sucre - surprisingly the first fatality since the protests started a month ago. We awoke this morning to the boom of more dynamite blasts than we'd ever heard before. Miners had flocked in their hundreds to La Paz, but not to fight police. We headed down to the main avenue to see what all the fuss was about (as you do, when you hear TNT going off) and watched as a coffin was carried by a group of miners, flanked by others throwing dynamite on the road as a kind of TNT salute to the deceased.

There has been no violence in the city today and after the head of Bolivia's Supreme Court was appointed president last night (see news story), it seems that the city is slowly returning to normal. Blockades are being cleared, some cars are back on the roads and police are performing routine street patrols again (previously, most of the city was lawless).

For the first time in weeks it's possible to take a cab to the airport in daylight without it getting stoned. We've heard mixed messages from people here, but the word is that petrol is finally making it's way to the airport and flights will resume again shortly.

We've been denied seats on the flight to Cusco tomorrow, but because bus services are rumoured to run again from Sunday, we'll find out tomorrow if we're instead busing it out of here. It'll save us a lot of money and we'll be able to get to Copacabana - the access point for Lake Titicaca.

It's crazy what a difference a day makes. I don't even understand why people have toned down their protests - there's still no chance of gas nationalisation, but perhaps the protesters are pacified by the prospect of a general election (more power to the people, I suppose).

Although we've had a crazy week here - and I don't want to speak too soon, because we haven't left yet - I'm glad that we rode it out. (Exciting traveller boast no.23: "While in Bolivia, we got tear-gassed! It burnt our eyes and throats and was super.").

It's also proved what a fat lot of good foreign embassies are. The US Embassy was so terrified earlier in the week that most of their staff fled back to the States, the bunch of wimps (as this story reports). What about the poor American tourists stuck here?

Taking the protests very seriously, Israel chartered some kind of chicken plane to get their tourists out of La Paz on Wednesday (see story). Military service is compulsory in Israel, so why their government is worried about a crowd of trained killers being in danger when the rocks start to fly, I have no idea.

And how about the British Embassy? Well, we emailed them the other day and their advice was thus: "It would be sensible for those that have not already done so, to have a reserve of tinned food." How very English. Every year at Christmas, the people in my mum's village panic-buy food, knowing that the local shop will be closed for two days. So I suppose the prospect of no more food entering La Paz, ever, is cause enough to get the sardines in. Cheers British Embassy. You may have saved our lives.

posted at 5:31 PM | link

6 Comments:

  • Heya,

    Amazing weblog you have here. You don`t know me, but I was looking up information on the current situation in La Paz, as I spent the last few weeks there, only escaped yesterday and was wondering what the situations was.

    Good to hear things have calmed down, the last few days we spent there (especially monday) were quite, well, scary I`d have to say. I hope you`re able to get to copacabana by bus this weekend, good luck and happy travels!

    take care,

    Peter

    By Anonymous Peter, at 3:13 AM  

  • One more small thing, the british embassy`s advise is a lot better than the one the dutch embassy gave. They told us to get a taxi to La Ceja around 4AM, and then walk through El alto on our own carrying all our stuff with us, to get to the airport.
    Hearing what the British embassy said, I must say they`re a bit wiser.

    cheers,

    Peter

    By Anonymous Peter, at 3:28 AM  

  • Hellooooooo!!!!

    Im so happy to know that you are fine,I was really worried about you.

    It seems that you ve had a fantastic staying in Sucre.

    I must email you, Ive been thinking about going to London next october.

    Keep in touch and take care.]

    Miss you!

    Daniela

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:05 PM  

  • Peter - Thanks for the praise. And nice weblog, yourself (I'll add it to our links). I didn't dare get my camera out near the protests, for fear of being stoned. I see that you were more brave.

    Daniela - We're back in the UK in September, so I'm sure we'll have a house by October and can maybe put you up. Do all Brazilians go on holiday as much as you?

    By Blogger Jody, at 9:59 PM  

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Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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