10 steps down into to the cinema my eyes began to sting and water. 20 steps and my throat was burning. The ticket booth was in reach but I returned to the road side. On investigation I found that the cinema was still full of tear gas from the mornings demonstrations. Harry Potter – who would of thought it, such a risky film to watch!! Bolivia had just entered a season of protests for an undetermined period of time. This was due to conflict between a previously elected government and the Cochabamba. The demonstrations within La Paz were confined to the Main street and you could be blissfully unaware of them if only a couple of blocks away. The demonstrators were normally very cuddly old ladies resembling dumplings wearing bowler hats 10 times too small, but obviously very dangerous so as to warrant the tear gas. We had arrived in La Paz and I had been very happy to have found the two guides that know the granite walls of the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz area. I had spent a few days picking their brains, taking their photos and copying every topo available. With the info in pocket and the group inspired we packed for 10 days in the mountains. Kit included 100 loaves of bread, 100 oranges and fishing tackle. We left early the next day by bus as the truck was still misbehaving. An hour down the road, we came to the top of a hill with a perfect view of, we guessed, 10,000 bowler hat wearing dumplings and miners blocking the road ahead of us. We were told that they would probably stop for lunch at around two. Although it seemed very unlikely we waited with blind optimism that we would be able to get through and continue the journey to the Quimsa Cruz. We waited. Still waiting!! Buses that were turning around taking people back to La Paz were having to run the gauntlet of driving off road through a hail of stones thrown by protesters. The blind optimism had faded and we joined the others turning back to La Paz. Stone throwers had left us and it was clear for us to leave. We arrived back in the Hotel in La Paz with our tails between our legs having failed to achieve our goal. The hotel receptionist looked pleased, as she was concerned for our safety. It turned out that after we left two people had been shot, and a bus provided by the government in an attempt to clear the crowds had crashed killing 4 dumplings. We were pleased with our timing to leave the road block but were now left with 100 Orange sandwiches. The Cochabamba were not the happiest and were threatening to block the whole of La Paz. It was now our turn to leave La Paz and escape the country. We had been told the road north to Peru and Cocacabana was still safe to travel on. Our informers were correct and we arrived at the border safe from harm. „No sir sorry, but you must go through the other border, this is for freight only.“ We were on the Bolivian side of a very open wide bridge, 100m away was Peru. The other border the official talked about went through a very wet, muddy, crowded market Place. The widest gap between the stallswas at the most enough for three people to fit through. Passports stamped and with the promise from an official that if we go back to the bridge he will provide authorisation to pass via the bridge. Feeling happier we returned. „No sir“. What! „This is for freight only“ We returned to the market place, armed!! I instructed the group of the plan and then with little warning whistles in mouth 20 hot rockers walked through the market picking up stalls (complete with dumplings), blocking bus stations, wheeling rickshaws clearing traffic jams and smiling very sweetly at very bemused police. The effect was something that Moses would have been pleased with. The seas parted and the truck sailed though the once crowded market place and settled to the amazement of the customs ready to depart Bolivia. A two hour ride through Peru took us to the Bolivian border again so as to get to the town of Cocacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The border in clear contrast to the last, passed easily and we were able to see the sun set sipping wine around a fire with sleeping bags laid out under the stars. After adventures in Canoes and boats we left the beach for the city of Cuzco, with the infamous Inca Trail and Macha Pichu. I didn?t join the others on the three day trail. I was busy preparing my next adventure. I was to leave the truck and travel with two others and 198kg of climbing kit to the „big“ wall known as The Sphinx, in the Cordillera Blanca range. The aim was to put up a new route on its sides. The base starting at 4700m and the summit at 5400m it was to be no easy undertaking, but clearly it had plenty of scope for a new adventure. I hope all is good with you all Take Care Dave
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