Saturday, August 23, 2008

Road trip

Yesterday I woke up at 4:30AM to make a day trip into Chapare. 5 of us met up at 6AM to make the 4-5 hour trip into the jungle (or the rainforest, whatever you want to call it). On the trip this time was our SEDEJES social worker, the psychologist for our homes, the construction manager for the 2nd home, my teammate Nate was driving, and of course I was there too.

It was a dreary morning with low clouds that made it so that you could only see about 6 ft in front of you. It was cold and rainy too. Mountian roads in Bolivia are something you just have to experience. Even though this is the road that connects Coch and Santa Cruz, its a two lane road and is made with stones in some places and is paved in others. You are either surrounded by mountians or very sharp drop offs. There are no emergency exists, or exit ramps, or turn around points. Or if there are, they are very few and far between. And don´t even think about there being street lights. Every other vehicle is a semi truck loaded with heavy something or other that makes the trucks move at a snails pace. The rest of the vehicles are inter-bolivia buses, also called Flotas, that travel between all major Bolivian cities. They are a very cheap way to travel around Bolivia. When a friend and I traveled to La Paz earlier this year we were told one or two very specific bus lines to travel on, not all are safe.

Well... about an hour into our travel we came to a dead stop. Everyone was getting out of their cars to see what had happened up ahead. So we joined to crowd. Less then 1/2 a mile ahead a crowd was gathered looking over the side of the road into a short ravine of sorts. And thats when we saw the huge inter-city bus lying completely on its side, all wheels in the air. It was laying about 20-30 feet down from the road. The cause of the traffic stop was not a gaukers delay but rather an equipment delay as the heavy machinery was blocking both lanes. We got there in time to see them pull the bus back onto its wheels. My friend took a picture and I´ll send it as soon as he sends it to me. As soon as that was done, the crowd started hightailing it back to their cars (and buses and trucks). It looked like a stampede. And we joined them of course. So we had sat there for about an hour, more or less.

We didn´t travel far at all when we again came to a stop. This time there was no one getting out of vehicles, no explaination at all. But there we stopped for almost another 2 hours. I had the unpleasant experience of using the bathroom in a bush on the side of the road. Every now and then we´d move up a couple of feet and then stop again. Turning around wasn´t an option, plus the other side of the road wasn´t moving either. Finally we were on the move again. Thank God there wasn´t any more delays. We finally arrived in Chapare and pulled up to the orphanage at 1:30PM, after 7 hours of traveling.

And the first word out of my mouth, and the psychologist was laughing at me, was ¨wow¨! Same in English and Spanish by the way. And here is why:

This home is HUGE! It will very easily be able to hold 12-15 kids. Its even more imposing for two reasons. Its on stilts of sorts and the houses surrounding it are small, nothing more then shacks. There is a very good reasons why the house is raised up. And these houses tell you why.

The blueish looking house during last years rainy season had flood waters past the first board of the house. Every house has stilts, every year it floods. In other parts of Bolivia, people literally lose their houses every year and rebuild them because they live in poverty and cannot afford to move to a different area.

The return trip was mostly uneventful, just normal traffic and normal stops. Until we reached the place were the bus had gone off the road. By now its about 8pm, over 12 hours since we had been there. The bus had been pulled up to the road and was now on something that raised it up off the ground and there was a man with his head in the engine. I couldn´t believe they were trying to fix the bus on site, but then again, this is Bolivia. So traffic was taking turns going around it on the one lane road. In addition to this accident we saw about 4 other trucks turned on their sides against the mountians durning the trip, no of which were obstucting traffic. I finally arrived home at 9:30PM and went stait to bed, it was a long day. My house mom had heard about the bus accident on the radio and assured me no one had died, though some had been injured. If it hadn´t been for the mountian, the bus would have surely rolled. Thank God for the mountian!

So that, friends, was yesterdays adventure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Kim,

Here's a silly question. Is the orphanage finished yet? The photos show that it has no windows and doors, just openings. Also, when the orphanage is occupied, how will your team communicate with the team at Chapale? I hate to think your team will have to make that trip on a regular basis. I'm guessing vehicles can't or don't travel at a high rate of speed on that treacherous road, and they still are sliding off of it. Wow! is right.

Aunt Dawn