Bolivia Situation - Road Blockades (Oct 2019)

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by JimsBeemer, Oct 29, 2019.

  1. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Could not find a recent thread on this topic, and so I'm starting one. I will share our (wife and I - two motorcycles) recent experience, and also hope to get input and experiences of others who are currently in the country.

    For the uninitiated: The current (see date stamp in thread title) unrest in Bolivia is due to controversy surrounding the recent presidential elections. Among other ways, this unrest is manifesting itself in the form of road blockades. These in turn are currently making smooth travel by motorcycle difficult.

    To start this off, I am just going to copy what I also posted on the PanAmercian Riders Association Facebook page and on my current trip report. Not trying to "liter the web", but I expect that there may be a non-overlapping audience here on this regional forum, and hope that this thread will grow with useful input from other riders currently in the country or otherwise with useful information.


    We (wife Carol and I, two motorcycles) rode yesterday (Monday October 28) from Ururo to Sucre on Route 6 (which despite Google Maps is a complete, paved route). We ran into quite a few (~6 mas o menos) roadblocks on the main highway, some unmanned, some with crowds which in one case were NOT friendly; picked up rocks, angrily told us to get off our bikes and take off our helmets - which we did not do. Some shook my bike - but eventually lightened up and let us through. Others were more amiable. But still a hassle and lots of stress not knowing if we were going to make it past each one we came to.

    Coming into Sucre around 5:00PM, there were roadblocks literally ever other block - city was totally shut down. We lost count of how many we diverted around or talked our way through - until one person told us they would end at 6:00 PM, at which point we just waited, chatted and posed for pictures. And at 6:00PM, they MOSTLY did open up - but on the last few km to our hotel we still ran into a few who didn't seem to have gotten the memo.

    All in all, a very stressful, long day, to which Carol wittingly commented "Let's not do that again!"

    So that is our experience - hope it is of use to others. At least in the city, there appears to be some understood schedule for what days roadblocks will happen and what hours - but we don't have that schedule!

    From here we were intending to head to Uyuni via route 5, breaking the ride up with an overnight stay in Potosi. But we are a bit spooked from yesterday's experience - if anyone has current info on conditions on the route, and the towns (Potosi and Uyuni) it would be greatly appreciated. Our other option may be heading to Cochabampa and then to La Paz and exiting back into Peru, skipping Uyuni, which I'd hate to do but I don't want to get stuck either.
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  2. knight

    knight Long timer

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    In all of the Americas ,Potosi to Uyuni was one of my most favorite rides

    The area is very remote , only a couple of small mining towns along the way with traffic almost non existent

    Good Luck
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  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA

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    Update: Things are not getting better, in fact seem to be trending worse, all across Bolivia, with a few exceptions like in the Uyuni area. The problem with getting out or (if you so choose) getting in is that mobility by roads is increasingly difficult (air is still an option at this time, but flights are being cancelled regularly). In most of the country, all major roads of the cities are blockaded, and within the cities (e.g., Sucre) there are blockades that cripple ability to move in, out and around the city. Santa Cruz is literally a city under siege - they will start running out of food, gas, etc. at some point, which will surely escalate the potential for violence. We heard stories (not confirmed - but fits what we see) of buses trapped at blockades with drinking water running out for the trapped passengers. And the situation shows no signs that it will resolve or de-escalate soon - in fact the opposite. Locals we have talked to have the same opinion. We do not, at this time, feel that we are at risk in terms of our physical safety - but we do feel trapped, and as the protest seem to be turning more and more violent, the concern of personal safety risk is on the horizon.

    So - taking it all in, considering what we have personally seen and experienced combined with the news and anecdotal information leads us to conclude: It is time to get out of Bolivia, and we would advise against coming into the country if you are considering it, at least as things stand now.

    Multiple sources here in Sucre confirm that the border to Chile at Pisiga (our original plan) is closed, but the border to the south, with Argentina, is open.
    So we are going to make a run for the Argentinian border via Rt 14 at Villazon/La Quiaca. To get to Rt 14 from Sucre we have to go towards the town of Potosi, but we do not have to go THROUGH Potosi, which is important, because every one we've talked to says that Potosi is really locked down and likely impossible to transit.

    If you are in Uyuni, this same exit should be possible by taking Rt 21 SE to the town of Tupiza, where it meets up with Rt 14. I have no information on the blockade situation on Rt 21, but general input has been that Uyuni and south are more calm.

    One blockade in our path that we've been warned may be difficult is at the town of Betanzos. I found a dirt road bypass that we will take if we can't talk our way through. Once past that we believe it should be pretty smooth sailing.

    Depending on how the day goes tomorrow, and if we are successful getting around the blockades, it will takes us one or (more likely) two days from Sucre to the border at Villazon.
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  4. TeeTwo

    TeeTwo Been here awhile

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    Jim, you had me worried - no recent post on your main thread, so I went a searching and was happy to see this thread, but not the circumstances that prompted it's initiation. I'm sure it was a disappointment to skip Uyuni, but I have no doubt the right one to keep your momentum south. I hope you are making progress and get safely out to Argentina.

    Route tips are probably the last thing you need but as you missed out on the Salar de Uyuni it would be remiss of me not to mention there is a really good one in northern Argentina (Salinas Grande) in your direction of travel, if you want to see an horizon of salt. Take the road out towards Paso de Jama, it is a beautiful ride, blacktop all the way. You could make it an in and out day trip from Purmamaca or Jujuy. The other side of Susques is another large salt flat, but not the shiny white of Salinas Grande as I recall.

    If you decided to go all the way to the border there is a modern YPF station just on the Argentine side of the border to gas up, no need to cross into Chile. (But from the border to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile there are no towns. SPdA is a tourist, hippy, funky kind of town, I liked it, I can't imagine protests there, but I didn't think they would happen in Puerto Natales either!)

    Be safe. Onward.

    Cheers T2
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  5. Bovino

    Bovino Been here awhile

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    I‘m in Villamontes as of today. Word is the blockades should be lifted by tomorrow, at least in the area. I got through one today no problem.
    The boarder crossing from Paraguay was interesting. As Evo fucked off via Paraguay last night, the situation was tense. The Passport dudes are contra Morales and seemed happy. Ripped his picture of the wall and all.
    The customs guy was a pro, and very much pissed off. He made a shit show of going through my papers, not really wanting me to get on with my day. One hour of insisting and he gave up though :D

    52EB8961-3EB5-40A3-ACEE-EFE6CD1B44B5.jpeg
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  6. Three Dawg

    Three Dawg Into Africa

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    All cool between Ollague border and Uyuni.
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  7. Parcero

    Parcero Mundial Supporter

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    Bolivia's such a great country to ride in--I hope the situation improves, especially since I'l like to get back there in 2020.

    When I last passed through Sucre in 2017, the normal traffic was about as bad as you described during the protests. I crept along at a snail's pace from the edge of the city to my hotel. The narrow streets and heavy traffic didn't allow for much lane splitting.
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  8. doomy

    doomy n00b

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    Any news on the situation in bolivia? We are on ghe way to San Pedro de Atacama and thought about riding the lagunas route.
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  9. Three Dawg

    Three Dawg Into Africa

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    Heading south from Uyuni to Villazon we rode through the remains of several roadblocks. Nothing from Ollague to Uyuni, not many people out that way!
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