Cattle class anyone?

It’s a very early start for our last morning on the trek as we have to be off the mountain to catch the transport back to Sucre. So after waking up at 0530 we are all good to go by 0620 having had a simple breakfast. It is a fairly gentle hour and a half walk off the hills to the slightly larger village of Potolo where we have a celebratory tin of beer or two 😉 … yes at 0800!

Apparently, there are two choices of public transport back to Surce: 3 hours on a bus OR 3 hours in the back of a caminino (lorry or truck depending where you are from). Now as far as Huw is concerned 3 hours in the back of a truck sounds way too much like spending 3 hours in the back of a 4 tonner – and he’s done enough of that for one lifetime!! However, to the rest of the group it sounds like a wonderful adventure so the truck option it is! Plus the bus driver was mucking about with the buses wheels and did make us all a bit nervous.

A short while later, with horns blaring and a screeching of brakes the caminino arrives in the village square. To picture it, imagine a large cattle truck with 5ft high wooden slatted sides and with a cross bar running down the middle of the length held in place by a couple of thin tubular metal struts, but with nothing resembling a cover. There is a small door towards the back which is opens up and a ladder is put in place to help us climb the 5ft to the truck bed. All our backpacks are thrown inside and we clamber in after them.

The inside is pretty much full up, containing about 20 people already, ranging from the young to the very old, mothers with babies, huge great big bags of veg, traditional blankets everywhere (which are used to carry more delicate cargo, and they don´t like you standing on these), and there´s even what appears to be a whole family moving house: mum, dad, son, daughter, cooker, bed and assorted baggage. By the time the 17 of us plus our bags are on board it is really full. We find space where we can all over the wagon, 4 sit on the cab roof, a couple sit on their bags, a couple sit on some bags of veg, the rest of us stand on the bed of the wagon with a space against the sides of the truck for the lucky ones.

With everyone barely settled we are off! The road is typical of rural Bolivia i.e. unmade, narrow and full of ruts, pot holes and assorted other obstacles. This doesn’t stop the driver setting off at full pelt! The ride is certainly exciting, with everyone holding on tight so that they are not thrown around the inside of the wagon – or out of it for that matter!

Oh and we were wrong about it being full!! A mile down the road at the next settlement there is a couple of new passengers waiting at the side of the road. We stop and the little side door is opened and space is found for the new comers. This is then repeated another 4 or 5 times until we are so full that some of us are stood on big bags of veg 1.5ft high meaning we get a much better view of the countryside rushing by although it feels a bit less secure and much more dusty!! Oh well it could have been worse, we pass a wagon a bit later on which has a cow and a sheep strapped inside amongst the passengers!

The view by the way is, as always on this trip, amazing – first we traverse along the top of a gorge (with a long drop to the bottom) then we climb 1000m up a mountain on switchback roads (with really long drops to the bottom).

On the way down the other side of the mountain we come to a stop at a road block where there are a range of stalls selling food. There is already one bus here and we are soon joined by a few others. Apparently, the road is closed for 6 hours every morning and evening for road works, so we have an hours wait until the barrier is lifted. Plenty time to go exploring for a toilet and have some street food.

Eventually, we arrive back in Sucre about 1330 and after emptying our bags of all of Condor’s gear – well apart from Paul who managed to accidentally keep some Tupperware – it´s back to Wasi Masi for a very long shower in an attempt to get rid of all the dust. Oh and we get our old room back too – thanks Roxanna :-). Even better news is that we didn’t miss this week’s parilla, Roxanna has moved it to Sunday afternoon – hooray!!

The whole trekking group agrees to meet at “Los Balconies” for a proper celebratory drink and some meat as we have all been deprived over the last two days, well apart from Marianne who is a veggie. We are first there with Sarah, but it is not long before everyone except Sven & Delphine arrive (we find out later Sven is poorly). The only guide to show is David and we buy him a beer to say thanks.

Guenole & Aurore have a bus to catch at 1930 so they have food and say their goodbyes. Half the team decide they would rather eat at a veggie place around the corner (yes barking!) but Paul, Phil, and Sarah are easily convinced by us to stay for steak. We make a plan to meet in Florin in an hour or so to start the Naranja Fiesta (Dutch Queen’s Birthday) celebrations, but the veggie crew come back saying it is really busy and they are charging on the door so instead we retire to Pueblo Chico for jugs of Inferno and drinking games. Worn out by all this revelry plans are made to meet the next day as most of us shuffle home, finishing respectably by midnightish.

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