As mentioned earlier, we were joined by Brian Bates, resident of Sucre since early 1999. It was good to see him again after some 5 years and to learn of his intention to visit the UK in 2012 – there’s a bed for you in Amesbury when you need it!
Attention turned to plans for the days ahead. Having beaten the blockade coming into town, would there be one at the other end to prevent us from leaving? The quickly revised plan was to make another long drive to Camargo, from where we would be back on schedule. The main road would take us through Potosi, but there were rumours of a blockade there, so John had designed a detour to bypass the town, once famed for its silver and tin mining. As everything was new to all but John, there were no complaints and off we went.
Camargo is located 350 km south of the department capital Sucre, along Ruta 1, one of Bolivia’s major roads which is 1,215 km long and goes from the Peruvian border in the north to the Argentine border in the south. There are intensive road works in progress, as attempts are made to build a new super highway Ruta 1, from La Paz to Villazon, on the border with Argentina, where the road will join up with Ruta 40 that we travelled extensively in 2010 from La Quiaca, south into Patagonia. Both Bolivia and Argentina are still a little miffed that they are not on the Pan American Highway that in South America runs along the Pacific Coast through Peru and Chile.
Back to today and the cacti: S2391 was at Millares, for Blossfeldia lilliputana, easily accessed with huge numbers of plants on rocks along the river. Also here were Weingartia platygona and a Gymnocalycium pflanzi ‘Millaresii’.
S2392 was prompted by yellow flowers appearing from the ground: Cumulopuntia (or is it Maihueniopsis) rossiana. Also here were Echinopsis (Lobivia) cinnabarina and Harrisia tetracantha. There was more of the same at S2393 and S2394.
At S2395 Echinopsis (Lobivia) tarijensis ssp bertramiana was in flower, with flower colours ranging from white to bright red to yellowish.
As in most of South America, there are plenty of Eucalyptus trees everywhere, but not arranged in plantations as was the case in Brazil. It is also worth noting that there is no need to cross fences to get to the cacti, although the land they grow on does belong to private individuals, as we discovered by being blocked in a few days ago, because we looked in on somebody’s land without asking permission.
The intensive road works in the area, especially around Potosi, caused a bit more confusion. Roads that were on shown on maps (dating back to the 1960s) were no longer there but there was a new ribbon of black tarmac – not on any map and not yet open to traffic. Along this ‘tarmac river’ (that’s what it looked like from the hills) were a number of service roads. We got lost around the town of Belen, driving some 30 minutes in the wrong direction before we realised and had to go back.
Bolivia’s main roads are toll roads, even though some are little more than gravel roads. They are – at this time of year – in good condition. Tolls are not high. There are about 10 ‘Bollies’ to the pound (8 to the US$) and the usual toll price is 5 Bollies for a variable length. You have to hold on to your last ticket to show at the next one where it is either stamped or has a new ticket stapled to the previous one. Because we had by-passed Potosi, we had missed out on some stamps so were charged 10 Bs even though we had not used the stretch of road for which stamps were missing.
It was dark when we arrived at Camargo, but as we are here for three nights (no wifii!) we’ll get a better look in days to come. The town has a population of about 6,000, grown by some 50 % over the past two decades. There are again plenty of road works as Ruta 1 will pass close to it. We’re staying in a nice family run hotel with a very friendly couple warning me continuously to mind my head on the low doorways. The atmosphere reminded me of the small family run hotel in Bustamante, in Coahuila,Mexico. John had stayed here many times and was welcomed like an old friend. There were four German cactus explorers also staying here and we cautiously exchanged some information of where we had been and where we were going. With accommodation sorted, our mind turned to food. Although there were plenty of eateries, they were all of the Bolivian fast food type, serving very tough beef, hamburgers on stale rolls and chicken, all served with chips, boiled rice and a boiled potato.