I’d hoped to pop up to town, withdraw some money and be on my way – so I left everything but my bankcard at the police station – but of course it wasn’t that easy. I went up the 3km climb into town, found a couple of banks and found they both rejected my N&P card. Bugger. I started kicking myself for not changing cash at the border, and also for not bringing my NatWest card with me. As it was, I had to go back to the terminal to try to find internet, so I could call my bank, have them unblock my card and then ride back to town. That plan hit some snags with the lack of Wi-Fi at the terminal. Well, there was wife, but only the office manager knew the password but, being a Sunday, he wasn’t there. I grabbed my laptop and NatWest card before heading back to town on a fruitless Wi-Fi hunt.
Unable to find internet I went back to the bank and found my NatWest card worked just fine, but only pulled out a little money as they not only charge but also give a worse rate than the N&P (who give bank rate and no fee, perfect!). Finally with some Bolivianos in hand I went off to find breakfast, which of course took me past another bank where my N&P card worked. Oh well. Strange that it had been rejected in the other places, but good to know it hadn’t been cancelled.
Riding out of town I was happy to have a tailwind, until the obvious happened and I had to turn off the paved road where it became a headwind. The road I was on would have led to Santa Cruz, the 2nd biggest city in Bolivia with just over a million people, but the road that led to the mountains and up to Sucre was, of course, unpaved. I’d been warned about the road, with plenty of people saying it was crazily steep. I have to admit, there were definitely times where I got off and pushed. My first foray into the mountains for ages took it’s toll on my legs and meant I got to the first town of Muyupampa well after dark and had been very grateful for my headlight on the downhill.
Being a Sunday night, most things seemed closed as I looked for a place to stay. The police recommended the church, where nobody responded, or in front of city hall. After chatting with the security guard who seemed to just sit in the park all night long, I was given permission to put my tent up under the porch, but not inside as the only guy there was another security guard who drunkenly stumbled out with the typical Bolivian Koala look – cheeks filled with coca leaf and green bits between the teeth – to reassure me that if I needed anything he would be inside and just to knock on the door.
After I had set my tent up, with my gloves on for the first time in a while, I was sat around reading my book when a guy walked across the square and started chatting with me. His nickname was Chacho and as well as having a farm just outside of town, had a house just next door where he invited me to stay, which I of course accepted. We chatted about Bolivia over a cup of coffee and some cheese, made at his own farm, and he spoke of his disappointment with Evo Morales – the Bolivian president – who on the 12th of October is almost certain to win his 3rd consecutive election, something that is only possible because he has altered the constitution which previously only allowed two consecutive terms. Instead of my tent, I ended up getting a toasty shower and a bed with plenty of blankets to keep away the cold, although only being at 1200m it was nothing compared to what I’ll feel when I get to the altiplano – which is over 3500m above sea level.