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Posted by Jessica on Jun 8, 2005
Turmoil in Bolivia

It was bound to happen at some point. A disappointment, that is. It was bound to happen at some point with a trip of this length. I just had no idea it would mean we would have to skip an entire country.

We’d been planning on leaving for Bolivia this past Monday and to travel in it for the next 3-4 weeks. (The border is only a short six hour bus ride away from where we are now in Salta.) We’ve been looking forward to our second border crossing (our first being back in March when we visited Uruguay for a week). And, more to the point, we’ve been looking forward to visiting yet another country that we’ve been dreaming about seeing for so long now.

We had heard about the rumbles Bolivia has been experiencing sporadically for the past few months. We had heard about them, but to be honest, we didn’t pay them too much attention. I think we’ve gotten used to the idea that many of the countries we’ll be visiting will have a few problems now and then. Random bombings, blockades, protests…these are things we’ve read about and researched beforehand. We know they are possibilities and we know that we’ll be avoiding parts of some of some countries we’ll be visiting. We even know that sometimes these things can’t be predicted, that they might happen around us without warning, without giving us time to avoid them. So when we heard about the rumbles in Bolivia a few months ago, for better or worse, we didn’t think twice about them.

That was up until this past Saturday. On Saturday afternoon we were in an internet café doing some research on our next stops when we received an email from our friend, Aoife. She and her boyfriend, Colin, had just left Bolivia after experiencing roadblocks, getting tear gassed, and only being able to get a flight out of the capital city because they had booked their flight weeks in advance. It seems the country’s rumbles have gotten much, much louder than they were just a few short months ago.

At the heart of the matter is the question of nationalizing Bolivia's natural gas production, but of course it's much more complicated than just that alone. But at the moment, 60% of the country’s roads were inaccessible due to blockades and 6 of its cities are isolated. The capital, La Paz, is running out of supplies, people are trapped, and no one is quite sure what’s going to happen. In the meantime, the Bolivian government has refused help from Argentina and Brazil, countries around the world are advising their citizens not to travel to the poorest (and possibly the most beautiful) country in South America, and the Bolivian President has offered his resignation.

I’m not sure if were naïve or just idealists, but I don’t think we ever really considered the possibility of having to avoid an entire country on our list. Actually, that’s not true: we’re well aware that Myanmar (Burma) might have to be crossed off depending on the state of things when we arrive in Southeast Asia. But I don’t think we ever considered Bolivia to be a place we might have to avoid. And even if we had considered it, I don’t think we realized how much it would affect us emotionally not to go there. Not to mention, there’s something surreal about being so close to a country in turmoil and not being able to imagine what its people are going through at the moment. There’s something surreal about being so close and still not fully understanding everything that’s going on. It’s strangely humbling. I don’t know if that’s an odd way to describe it or not, but its how I feel for some reason.

I know that Tim and I really have nothing to complain about given we’re on this trip right now…given it’s not our country that’s experiencing so many problems…given we have the choice to avoid all of it. I know all of that, of course. Regardless, for us, seeing Bolivia is a dream, silly as that may sound. And by tomorrow or next week, it may turn out that everything is ok in Bolivia (and for the sake of the country, I hope that’s the case). But before we left on this trip, we had several friends remind us over and over again about the importance of trusting our instincts, and so that’s what we’re going to do right now. We will not be visiting Bolivia this time around. And so instead of being our dream that we were about to live, Bolivia will remain our dream for another day.

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June 8, 2005 at 10:32pm
Bummer. So are you skipping ahead to Peru, or going through Chile instead?
Jessica the hedgehog
June 8, 2005 at 10:39pm
Hello! We're online at the same time! :)

We're actually doing both: we're skipping ahead to Peru via Chile. We're tricky like that. :)

Chile was on our original schedule, but given how long we spent in Argentina (whoops!) and how expensive Chile is supposed to be, we kind of crossed it off our list. But now we'll be traveling through Northern Chile headed towards Peru at breakneck speed on a 24-hour bus journey (our longest yet) that leaves our current location (Salta, Argentina) in about 7 hours.

Much love to everyone! And now it's off to bed with us: a 24-hour bus ride and two border crossings (Argentina-Chile, Chile-Peru) in one day await! :)

June 8, 2005 at 10:41pm
It's so important that you're trusting those instincts and being safe, but I know it must feel really disappointing :( I hope the peace returns to Bolivia, too, and that you can visit it next time around. *hugs*
Sister Soldier (The Post Hog)
June 8, 2005 at 11:18pm
{Thanking the army of angles for doing their job and keeping you two safe.}

I'm soooooooo gald you two are being smart hedgehogs and are (for the time being) staying the heck away from Bolivia. I know you're disapointed, but at least you had your two "happy accidnts" to soften the blow for you. Hopefully peace will return to Boliva (and any other country/nation/state/province etc.) that's in turmoil, but for now it's way better to be safe than sorry.

June 15, 2005 at 8:28pm
You already know my feelings about dangerous third world countries, Jess. I'm glad you trusted your instincts. I hope, for the sake of the people of Bolivia, that this can be resolved relatively peacefully. I'm very glad, though, that you and Tim won't be in the thick of it.

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