Friday, 18 April 2014

Walking with dinosaurs

Back in La Paz it was hardly a surprise that there was a protest going on but we underestimated the impacts of this one. We'd heard that the city centre was gridlocked due to a protest so walked the 25 minutes to the bus station only to see buses parked across by roads and tyres being set on fire.  Not leaving that night then. 
We trudged back to the city centre and promptly exchanged our bus tickets for a flight out 2 days later (first available).  Bored of La Paz and unable to do any activities (Chris wanted to cycle the death road but no-one could get to that either) we kicked our heels and waited.  When we got to the airport at 5am we we a bit miffed that our tickets were invalid and that there were no seats on any other flights out of there that day. 
Back to La Paz then for a row with the travel agents. Rowing done, tickets were rebooked for the following morning - another day to waste, and another 4am start the following day.
Better luck though and our flights were uneventful if a bit indirect (it took us 3 flights over 6 hours to get to Sucre - normally a 40 minute direct flight) courtesy of Bolivia's military airline. Not entirely sure but given the amount of passengers in uniform we think it's a military fleet that takes the opportunity to make money by putting civvies in the empty seats. 
Who cares- it got us out of La Paz!

How we laughed when fellow travellers in Sucre told us they'd been unable to leave for days due to the same protests and that we were now stuck there instead.  Thankfully Sucre is a lot warmer with lower altitude and a heap of bars to sit around chatting to people in so we found out a bit more about the problems.  The government is trying to dramatically increase the tax miners pay. Mining is a horribly dangerous profession out here (most people die by their mid-40s due to silica inhalation if not due to an explosion/collapse earlier) and due to the depletion of silver is not a prosperous career anymore.  Miners form co-operatives to protect themselves from corporate fatcats who wouldn't pay death in service for example, so a hike in taxes hits the workers directly.  In protest then they'd blown up the major roads around the mining towns (plenty of access to dynamite after all) and called for other unionised workers (hence the bus drivers) to join the cause.  After watching  a documentary on Bolivian mining - The devils mine- and seeing the conditions the 14yr old miners work in (c800 kids die each year in the mines, if they work in the most dangerous they get the most wages - up to $4 a day) we stopped moaning about being stuck and booked another flight out of there. Via b@stard La Paz! 

Sucre doesn't have a huge amount of sites but what it does have is dinosaur footprints.  I didn't know there were dinosaur footprints in existence (subsequently been told there's quite a few on this continent. Stupid) so was almost as excited as the 6yr old boy next to us when we boarded the dinobus out to the park. 

Story goes, an earthquake destroyed a lot of Sucre so they built a cement factory on the outskirts to start the rebuild.  After digging great holes in the mountains for 40+ yrs there was a landslide and one morning someone turned up to work and noticed a load of marks where a new layer of mountain had slid away.  The marks turned out to be hundreds of footprints left by terrapods, sauropods & ankylosaurus.  Due to shifts in the tectonic plates the ground they walked on in the Cretaceous period has been pushed upwards so now appears as a vertical wall - a perfect display. 

To illustrate the type of dinosaurs who'd left the prints there, and to cause general excitement to the real and inner-children, there were life sized models around for us to pose by too.  Who doesn't love a dinosaur?!

Back then to the airport for another indirect route across Andes and rainforest to Uyuni.  After vowing we weren't stepping foot in La Paz again we got delayed in La Paz, again. Wasn't boring though as we all got to watch our plane get the tyre replaced and the landing gears repaired before boarding. Very reassuring. 

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