Day 37 – Bolivian national holiday: a travel lesson learnt

It was a national holiday today and for some reason, we still expected everything to be running as normal – how wrong we were.

We had checked out in the morning (thank god, we were glad to be out of the militant hostel) and managed to get a taxi to the bus station. However, the lady at the desk warned us that because it was a national holiday it may be difficult to get a bus. We decided to take a risk as we no longer wanted to stay in Sucre, plus our 30-day visa was quickly coming to an end. We managed to flag down a taxi. When we got in, we realised that the driver was on the left hand side. Then we looked over to the right hand side, and we could see the speedometer, the petrol gauge and everything that’s meant to be under the steering wheel. The driver had customised the taxi by ripping out the pedals and steering wheel and installing them on the left hand side, leaving all the instruments needed to be a safe driver in its original place. We just looked at each other and sat back. Its Bolivia – this is no surprise.

When we got to the station, it was fairly busy but there were hardly any bus companies open. One company had a sign saying they had tickets to Potosi, where we had planned to go. A crowd had gathered around the stall but instructions indicated that the bus company would only start selling tickets for a 1pm bus at 11am. It was only around half 9 and it was the only bus of the day to Potosi. We were the only gringos until 2 boys, also from England, turned up. We explained the situation to them and we decided to take our chances and see if we could get a bus ticket but with a rapidly increasing crowd, we then decided to see how much a taxi would cost. Potosi is only a 2 hour drive.

The taxi drivers were quoting extortionate prices because of the national holiday and probably because we were tourists. In the end, we all got a taxi back to our hostel and asked them to arrange a taxi for us to Potosi. We ended up paying 80 bolivianos each for the cab ride, which was probably double that of the bus. But it did mean that we get dropped off at the door of our hostel and we don’t have to faff around with the bus. But we would definitely advise other travels not to bother travelling on national holidays! Its much more effort and you’ll almost definitely have to deal with price inflation. The journey took around 2 hours and we all checked into Koala hostel. The hostel is very homely and John was especially excited about getting a free breakfast which included eggs! We were in a 6 bed dorm. Upstairs, there was a TV room with hundreds of DVDs to watch. Cosy!

Potosi is the highest city in the world and is famed for its mining. Back in the day, Potosi was the richest city as a result of its silver mining industry. There were no signs of altitude sickness yet but John has been complaining a bit about getting pins and needles all over his body every now and again. As soon as we checked in, we all popped out for some lunch. We came across three ladies selling our favourite Bolivian food, salteñas. She had 10 left, so between us, we bought them all!

We then walked around to try and arrange a mining tour for the next day. The streets were pretty much dead because of the national holiday. Nothing was open apart from a few tour agencies. We came across The Real Deal Tours. As soon as we entered the office, we could see all the testimonials written all over the walls. Plus, the guy was a it craxy. He sat us all down, and then he closed the door behind us and just whispered, “Do you want cocaine?”. We weren’t sure how serious he was being, then before we knew it, he said that he was joking. Then he rolled off all this cockney slang when he found out we were all English. To be fair, he was pretty funny, and mental. We ended up booking a tour with him for 100 bolivianos (£10) which included a 4 course lunch.

It was almost evening now, and because nowhere was open, we were forced to cook something for ourselves. Luckily, the hostel actually had a communal kitchen. The first one we’ve seen on our travels so far! We decided to venture out to the market to see what we could get. Hardly any stalls were open but we managed to get some mince and some tomatoes and veg and bread – the key ingredients for chilli con carne and bread! This was the first time we had to cook for ourselves since we’ve been away – just over a month! It turned out to be quite a decent meal too!

Whilst cooking, we met an english lady from Leeds who told us that her and her husband sold everything before they left to travel indefinitely – they sold all belongings, cars and even their house to fund this trip. Fair play to them I say!


About Julia Chan

I’m Julia and I've just returned from the adventure of my life. I went travelling around South America, the South Pacific and South East Asia for 12 months, and I'd do it all over again if I could! Julia on Google+
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