“There will be not much traffic. But i am sure it is a nice area!”

Long straight road
Long straight road

I am hanging around with a Dutch guy in the hostel chatting about my route. Both we were clueless noobs with an opinion. “Sure, usually you would take another route. Yours is going straight through the no-man’s-land.” “There wont be much traffic.” “True, but I am sure its very beautiful road.” It was beautiful… among other things. Again I had no idea what i am getting into. I like that!

Route is set. I start walking. I buy some snacks on my way out of the city. Even in cities I have quit to use public transport. 30 to 60 minutes always get me into an area from where you can easily hitchhike out of the city. I start hitchhiking on the street that leads to the airport. Masses of taxis rush past me until a VW-Käfer stops to be my first lift of the day. Very well restored. Inside a nice guy bringing me to the airport. There I caught a small truck that took me to the street to Ravelo. Perfect. Behind me the city, in front of me the desired road.

The direct way to Oruro

Maybe I should have become a little suspicious at the intersection. To the left, off from the main road, there is a small street leading through the roadside ditch looking like a driveway of an abandoned building. To be sure i asked a woman on the road if that was the street to Ravelo and she was like “Si. Si.” and something about more traffic somewhere further away. But I was already gone. Shortly after i realized that this main intersection was closed due to roadworks and that dirtroad the illegal way to get around that. Well, I didn’t care and walked on.
For now there was no traffic. A motorbike came, stopped, and gave me a lift. After fifteen minutes a small truck picked me up and took me about twenty minutes further. He was going to a one-horse town far off the main road that was reachable – according to the map – through a really small street. And I got a strange feeling that I just landed on „that“ street.

Brückenbau Bolivien
Bridge construction into Nomandsland

There I was walking again. Nice region. After 27 minutes a merciful taxi driver picks me up. 2km. Thanks. I continue on foot and reach a bridge that is under construction. The alternative route is a detour through the river. It will be like that again in the upcoming days. Up the hill, down the hill, through the river and up the hill. I had to walk up the hill after the construction site. And then there was … nothing. At first. After an hour I got a lift from a cement truck, another 2 km. I had to stand outside on the truck, directly next to the funnel where the cement is poured in. I pictured myself falling into it like the witch in Hansel and Gretel that is pushed into the oven. But the view was awesome!
After I jumped off I countinued walking on the road, happily and with a smile. Traffic was a scarce commodity here. Then, onrushing, an ambulance car. I throw my hand into the air and checkpot, it stops. Yeah, first time hitching an ambulance car. I had to go to the back where the patients usually sit or lie. There i found a bank, a plank bed – and that was it. Really basic. And It drove me to a small village close to Ravello. Walking along the nice asphalt road I slowly came to the conclusion that maybe I am already on the main road all the time and just the lack of traffic gives me the impression of being somewhere far off. And I was right Anyway.. The first car that stopped took me to Ravello.
I made it to the first checkpoint. Sun was setting already. At least I had made the first 50 km. In 7 hours. Just 850 km to go! I figured that I won´tt do it in a day. Right after Ravello the asphalt road becomes a dirt road again. A rocky road. With rivers. Here and there llamas and sheep herds. Bolivian highlands.

Stars and pigs

There I was walking again. Nice region. After 27 minutes a merciful taxi driver picks me up. 2km. Thanks. I continue on foot and reach a bridge that is under construction. The alternative route is a detour through the river. It will be like that again in the upcoming days. Up the hill, down the hill, through the river and up the hill. I had to walk up the hill after the construction site. And then there was … nothing. At first. After an hour I got a lift from a cement truck, another 2 km. I had to stand outside on the truck, directly next to the funnel where the cement is poured in. I pictured myself falling into it like the witch in Hansel and Gretel that is pushed into the oven. But the view was wonderful!
After I jumped off I countinued walking on the road, happily and with a smile. Traffic was a scarce commodity here. Then, onrushing, an ambulance car. I throw my hand into the air and checkpot, it stops. Yeah, first time hitching an ambulance car. I had to go to the back where the patients usually sit or lie. There i found a bank, a plank bed – and that was it. Really basic. And It drove me to a small village close to Ravello. Walking along the nice asphalt road I slowly came to the conclusion that maybe I am already on the main road all the time and just the lack of traffic gives me the impression of being somewhere far off. And I was right Anyway.. The first car that stopped took me to Ravello.
I made it to the first checkpoint. Sun was setting already. At least I had made the first 50 km. In 7 hours. Just 850 km to go! I figured that I won´tt do it in a day. Right after Ravello the asphalt road becomes a dirt road again. A rocky road. With rivers. Here and there llamas and sheep herds. Bolivian highlands.

Reisegesellschaft mit der Wutz
Travel community with the piggy pig, aka “Wutz”.

It was getting dark. Somehow the sow managed to free itself from its prison and increased its territory to the whole load plattform. Also increasing my fun and the anger of the others. Always approaching the humans and always being rejected. Poor piggy. After unloading most of the people I remaind on the truck with a couple that was cuddeling under a blanket in one corner of the truck and: The pig. It approached those blanket-hidden humans increasingly sniffing and grunting getting more and more pushy and the guy under the blanket didn’t really do a good job stopping it. Upon us reigned the stars covering the glass clear sky accompanied by a crescend moon. Pure romance. The lovers, the pig and the panorama.
After two hours there was an end to the shaking ride. “Otro lado.”, other direction. The driver asked for money. I figured that i was on kind of a local taxi. He got an equivalent of 1,10 Euros. Though I am hitchhiking to not pay anything for transport, I am not rude.
Since nearly every possible vehicle hade stopped that day I was pretty sure to get further despite the darkness. I was just around 8pm. So I walked to the next village. After the end of the village I had my first break. Somewhere between 3500 and 4000 meters altitude even the slightes ascend made me breathe heavily. Behind me I saw a car descending the mountain that was behind me. My next ride. Shoud be here in 10 minutes.
I was ready to go. Car comes around the curve, my hand reaches out and … the car passes. What the…? Since the taxi ride at the broken bridge NO car had ever passed me. I was disappointed. Bolivia disappointed me. I thought any means of transport would stop here? But I continued. Walking, sitting down watching the stars, walking again and so on… Thats how I spent my night. At some point another car apperared … but also passed. A third one stops but does not give me a ride. That was about it. The traffic of the last 3.5 hours. I was walking 3.5 hours already, it was getting colder and colder and I realize, this night is not meant for hitchhiking. i was over 4000 meters altitude already and it was really getting cold.

My friend the bolivian farmer

Behind me there were some clay huts where Bolivian farmers were living. The light of a torch caught my eye. My chance. I answerd with my torch. No reaction. I started to flash my light more obstrusively. Nada. My only chance to get a bed tonight (without waking somebody which I really did not want to). So i walk towards the house and the light that had flashed before. I approximated carefully. No sign of life. i try to guess where the entrance is located.
Suddenly something moving. The Bolivian farmer dared to emerge from his trench and stomps towards me. He had lied in waiting all the time observing every one of my steps. I smiled stupidly as a counter to his passive agressive performance as he approached me to calm him down. He had his cheeps full of coca, his tooth where colored dangerously black and he didn’t even reach my shoulders in height. Despite me not understanding a single word he was talking insistently to me. I tried to explain that I can not sleep outside and if he has a place to sleep maybe … and yes, he got it … Vamos!

He lived in houses without windows together with his family. Entereing the hut he tried to wake them all, i did not understand why, but he was standing in the middle of the bedroom screeming his lungs out towards his son. But that one really didn’t care and continued sleeping peacefully. The farmer goes on screaming and I try to calm the situation down by explaining that I can just sleep on the ground, no need for a bed. I thought he would throw his son out of the bed to offer me a place to sleep.
After several attempts to wake the boy up we move to the next room. There is an old bed covered in junk and clutter. Perfect for me. I clear the bed on one side and the farmer hands me some blankets to support me in my thin sleeping bag.
I had a bottle of water with me. Nothing special you might think, but many people approached me because of it and I didn’t get why. Same here. No clue why. He asked me for a sip of the water. And of course I gave hin, I could never deny a request like that. Drinking myself after him my lips instantly feel numb. He left a noticeable trace of coca on the orifice.
As I lie in bed already in my sleeping bag my Bolivian farmer comes into the room again with another try of communicating with me, pushes my sleeping bag aside sitting fatherly on the bed. I did not get what he wanted. Documents, Security, he gave me his ID- Card and I pop my driving licence, not really sure of what was going on I kept my passport with me. But he only had wanted to show the driving license to his son. Still i don’t know why. Maybe another reason to wake him up. After that it was finally time to sleep. In my windowless clay hut.

All in all I didn’t really trust the situation. Still the first impressions, the trench in front of the house and the situation when he crawled out of it. were very present in my mind. The coca cheeks, the black tooth and the distrust of the farmer.

Dream 1: I wake up in my bed somewhere in Germany. Friends are visiting me and ask me what I was doing, why am I there? I still wear my hitchhiking suit. But where is my backpack? Fuck, where is the backpack? The Bolivian farmers must have brought me here into this park with a transporter stealing my backpack! All together we start to search.

Dream 2: I sit in my room in the clay hut and play computergames. On my bed there is a pig. A small, black, bristled pig, jumping around in my bed. It is really bold and annoys me where ever it can.

In the grey of the dawn the door of my room opens. Its the farmer, he came to plug his moblie phone. Outside its already bright but sun still hasn’t risen. It is the coldest time of the day so i decide to stay in the sleeping bag for a little longer. The mobile phone is old and I am asked if I can see anything on the broken screen. My technically experienced eyes come to the same conclusion as the farmer: There is nothing to see on the display.
After a while he looks into my room again and leaves the door open. Must be a sign that it is time for me to leave. I get to know all three of his children while his wife is hanging out the laundry, breakfast is skipped for today. Walking on my new friend accompanies me for some steps. A fresh morning far out in the Bolivian highlands. Sun had just risen and the first people start to enliven the street. It was a very nice walk on that morning.

Mein bolivianischer Bauersfreund
My friend the bolivian Gaucho

Beer, vine and selfmade cider

Not only the the morning is nice, also there is something very valuable to hitchhikers. Traffic. Too bad its going into the wrong direction. Some trucks rushing past me in a speedy way that I have to hide from the upcoming dust cloud. Impossibly fast. Arriving in the first village it seems the neighbours have a communal meeting. ‘Look how nice!’ i am thinking ‘you don’t find that in Germany very often anymore.’ All together are standing around on the street talking to each other. I approach them with a “Buenos dias.” “Buenos dias.” they reply. “GRINGO!” screams one of the neighbouring woman that just steped out of the house. We shake hands. on the road I see 2 dead chicken. I figure that they must have got overun by the trucks. The people discuss what’s to do with them. If I would like to have one since I am a Gringo and have enough money. No, thanks.
I walk into the village and buy bread with fried potatoes and a fried egg. A good breakfast for 40 Cents. The first truck I meet on the road stops. Viva Bolivia! Until Oruri, the second of four Cities on my route. There i already find lively activities. I admire the landscape and continue to walk my way. After some time I stop the first possible vehicle. An earthmover. Now moving a person. My first lift with an excavating machine. for 25 minutes I stand on its sideboard cruising through the rolling highlands.
After that again, the first truck stops. Loaded with a lot of goats, a barrel full with uncertain filling and three more workers. At a construction site we have to stop. The driver jumps out and walks away with the construction supervisor. Seems like we can continue in around two hours. About 5 really huge diggers and dozers have fun moving a mountain aside. Bolivian roads semm to be designed for the next landslide. Somehow we can continue after 10 minutes already. After that I have another 1car ride and arrive in Macha.

Lunchtime! On my way out of the city I stuble into a celeration. The happy guitar players challenge me to dance. Around them old people sit next to barrels filled with selfmade brewings and cheer for the dancing gringo. One leads to another and I am handed a cup of beer. After emptying it I receive a cup of Tumba (some kind of fermented fruit) and while drinking that another one readied a cup of selfmade vine for me. A nice mix of alcohol for the lunch break. In my other hand I still had my Alfajor that I had not even finished yet. After that Fiesta I continued walking my way, a little tipsy. A pickup stops. Its the fifth time in a row that the first appearing car stops for me. I love this place!

When a truck passed me without looking my streak of luck seems to end. Some VW Beetles later I find myself on the load plattform of a veggie truck. Headache from hight sickness, the alcohol and being shaken thoroughly. The driver went like crazy.
The landscape changed slowly, from highlands to a valley and since 1,5 days finally I was back on paved road. Civilisation. Maybe I manage to to the first stage to Oruro where the highway to La Paz starts.

bolivianisches Hochland
Bolivian Highlands

Why is there oil on the loading platform?

Next ride is a pickup. The guys are in a good mood and the load plattform is covered in oil. First I get my throusers dirty secondly I realize that my backpack will be all over with this grase dirt. Much worse than the dirt from the road and all the other suprises I had on other load platforms. Finally the road is made from asphalt again, or at least soon the road will be complete. Right now its more like 50 km of roadworks that will become a street someday, winding itself through the canyon. The guys on the truck seem to know everybody, even the people in the exorbitantly big diggers greet us. One time we stop as a bulldozer is leaking loads of oil from its artifical joints.

A short conversation, a request for help, but the guys laugh and continue driving.

Around 6:25pm we arrive in a small mining town close to Oruro. The town looks like  one single steelmill. As if it was built by tiny dwarfs that digg into the mountains or cast metals day after day. From the mine shafts corrugated iron sheets extend down to where the river flows. It is open to my guess what happens beyond them. Looked a lot like mining. In between some houses raise. Grey and dusty. Maybe it was because of the sunset but the place had some special magic.

It was dark. It was getting cold. I had headache and I was tired. “It is time to take a bus.” my subconsciousness whispered. But quitting that close to the goal? I can’t do that. I am getting soft and weak over time, but it does not mean that I have to submit to all needs. Hitchhiking in the night it will be. My instincts told me to hitch from the gas station at the end of the town and so I waited there for the cars leaving after refueling. Andi didn´t disappoint myself. After about five to ten minutes the first car that drove in the direction that I wanted stopped for me. I had my lift to Oruro. I did it! Food and a bed in a hotel as a reward. On the way we were stopped by a police check and also picked up another three hitchhiking guys. No chance to refuse for the driver. They looked into the car, asked where we were heading to and jumped into the car without leaving a chance to comment. They gave the driver 60 Cents each at the train station in Oruro. As we were alone I asked the driver cautiously how much the ride was, but he was fine without money. He even recommended some cheap hotels for me and drove off.

I made it. I arrived. Finally some time to relax. Single bedroom for 3,50 Euro, Dinner with soup for another 1,10 Euro and a hot shower that I abused for at least 30 minutes washing myself and my dirty clothes. Time to go to bed.

The following day I will continue towards Coroico, the city at the beginning of the Death Road. Google maps recommends to take the southern route to La Paz but I decided to come from the north and continue to south afterwards. Via small streets instead of the highway. Well, it can’t be much worse than the 300km behind me, can’t it? Still, I was a clueless noob…

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