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Vallegrande to Sucre, BOL


(on this map ignore that big dip south; for some reason, Google does not have the road between Tomina and Zudanez! which is what we drove)

NOTE:  This is one loooong @ss post, so grab a coffee or a beer, settle in and we hope you don’t get bored! 🙂 

August 11th

To get to Vallegrande from Samaipata, we had to drive back 70km on the F7 (mostly good road) to the F22 turnoff which was a great road for 50km to the town.  It’s a cute little town with a nice vibe.

We arrived at 9:30 and found out the next Ché tour was not until 11:30 so we decided to get some stuff done and went to find a garage to get the skid plate at the back of Tigger hooked back up – it was a little bent and Doug was not able to get the last bolt to line up.  We also wanted to buy a new Jerry can as the middle one of our three had sprung a small leak.  The former was easy to get done, the latter not so much.  Fran & Mark had looked while we were in Samaipata with no luck and we were not having much luck here either.  To be fair, we were being a little picky as we wanted it to fit in the same holder as the ones we already had and after a few places we were referred to the market area where we thought we’d found one.  It was nearly the same size but the bottom was a different shape and it turned out not to fit so we kept it anyway and will give it to Mark.  We decided to tape up the top of the existing container with Gorilla tape and hope it would hold.

We returned to the plaza and signed up for the tour.  Turns out we were the only ones and our guide, Maria, took us on the walking tour which we’d understood was about an hour long.

Ernesto Guevara was born in 1928 in Argentina. He was a Marxist revolutionary, a physican, author, guerilla leader, diplomat and military theorist.  His stylized visage has become countercultural symbol of rebellion.

As there is much history about Ché available, we will not delve too deeply into his story here suffice to say Bolivia was chosen as a central base in South America to revolutionize the continent and bring equality to the indigenous peoples.  The CIA and the Bolivian Special Forces captured him on October 8, 1967 and the order was given to execute him in the schoolhouse where he was held prisoner by the then Bolivian president the next morning. 

The first stop along the tour was the hospital – this is where Ché’s body was shown to the press and the public after his death.

He was actually killed in a small town called La Higuera (60 km / 37 mi south) but he was brought here to the hospital, cleaned up in the laundry room of the hospital and on display in the hospital.  We walked around back to the “lavenderia” (laundry room) which has been left as it was and then to the morgue which is also still in it’s original state albeit both places now contain a lot of graffiti.  They are both cordoned off within a gated area and you can only access them on this tour.

Next we walked quite a ways to an area near the airport where a number of is compadres were buried and finally to the mausoleum and conference centre where he was buried until his body was returned to Cuba.

Maria was quite well informed and spoked nice slow Spanish although she did speak a little English as well.  The tour ended at the conference centre where every year, people all of the world come on the anniversary of his death, October 9th, to celebrate his life.

We grabbed a cab back to the main plaza with Maria and then made our way out of town southwest to La Higuera.  The road out of town quickly turned to hardpack dirt and remained that way for about 180km with sections of gravel but nothing that needed anything more than airing down the tires.  The altitude was down as low as 900 m / 2952′ where we spent the night by the river up to 2900 m / 9500′.  There were some pretty darn good bridges

And it’s quite surprising how much money is spent on them considering the condition of the road but at least there’s a road!

Tigger’s engine began sputtering a few times on the drive again.

Our campspot was a little turnoff down to the Rio Grande (yes that was the name of the rive)

There were a lot of sandflies so we were lucky to get there around five so we didn’t’ have to spend much time outside (sun is gone before 6).  It was super quiet and the only company we had was a braying donkey that we heard but never saw early in the evening.  The night was clear and full of stars.

Doug emptied the jerry cans into the tank hoping that would solve the engine issue but the next day it began and again and got worse and worse after about 90 minutes when the engine was quite warm.  (We also lost a muffler hanger enroute and later discovered our outside side cubby had come open and we lost the bag with our hose and its fittings.)

The problem continued to worsen going uphill mostly and when we reached the small town of Zudanez, we stopped at a gas station and asked about a mechanic.  The attendant called someone and he came to us

(and this is a Sunday mind you) and after speaking with Doug and looking at the codes felt that the problem was the mass air flow sensor and he could not do much about it except try and blow it clean but he was not optimistic.  He said we could continue to drive slowly to Sucre (just over 100 km / 60mi) but he could not get us the part in this town.  This kind gentleman would not take any money for his time but we managed to get him to accept a “propina” (tip) after telling him how much we appreciated his help on a Sunday.

So it’s now one o’clock and we pushed ever so slowly.  We stopped once to let the engine cool for an hour but it didn’t make much difference.  We drove until the town of Tarabuco – 43 km / 26 mi in four hours and called it quits for the day.  We stopped at the local gas station to see about a tow truck to take us the rest of the way to Sucre and the attendant gave us a card.  We called Luis and he said he’d be there that night if he could but he’d call us back later.

We spent the night on the town square and took off early the next morning without hearing from Luis at all. Now the engine had cooled nicely overnight and we made it almost the whole way to the mechanic we’d find on iOverlander without a “chug”.  His shop didn’t open until 8:30 but we arrived at 7:45 and waited outside.  Julio arrived and was able to help us almost right away.  His code reader confirmed that the mass air flow sensor combined with the dirty air filter caused the issues we were having.  We’d know for a while that the air filter needed replacing but had been unable to find one in Peru – we were hoping to make it to Chile to find one….

Anyway, they could not replace the mass air flow sensor but they could clean it up and they replaced the spark plugs.  They offered to clean the air filter but Doug opted to do this himself (thanks to some advice from our Silverado owning buddy, KP) and after having them also fix the muffler hanger and tightening up the sway bar (AGAIN!)  we headed to our camp spot for the night where Christine and Mark were waiting for us.

Fun facts:  Bolivia has two official flags.  Most people recognize this flag

as the Bolivian flag but in 2009 President Evo Morales, who is of indigenous Aymara origin and the first indigenous president of Bolivia, declared that the the “whipala”, a checkered flag in rainbow colors,

would be a new second official Bolivian flag and must be flown anywhere Bolivia’s original official flag is flown, side by side. This set off much controversy among the general population at the time.  Why? Because the whipala is a flag that represents only the Andean peoples, the Quechua and the Aymara, and in a country that has 36 different native cultures and had just changed its name from “Republic of Bolivia” to “Plurinational State of Bolivia” in order to ensure all of Bolivia’s people feel equally represented, imposing the Andean culture on everyone else goes against the laws of the new Bolivian Constitution that was ratified in 2009 as well, a new constitution Morales himself insisted be re-written to ensure the equal inclusion of all Bolivian people.

The whipala contains 49 squares using the seven visible colors of the rainbow which represent the following:  Red – the earth and the Andean Man; Orange – Society and culture; Yellow – Energy; White – Time; Green – Natural Resources; Blue – The heavens; and Violet – Andean government and self-determination.

This little spot right in the city is a lot owned by a Bolivian couple Alberto & Felicidad, and offers bathrooms with hot showers, a small kitchen and good internet.  It’s an overlanding favourite and it’s amazingly only a few blocks from the main plaza!  It’s not large but there are no height restrictions.  There was only camper van already there besides Christine and Mark – an American couple from California, Camilla and Ryan and that night another van arrived from Europe.

Tuesday saw Doug running around getting errands done (trying to find a new hot water heater (the computer board died about a week ago…), help with the darn security cameras, a dentist, a new hose and the like while Fran tried to catch up on the blogs and editing photos.  Camilla put it out there that she was a software engineer and “geek” so Fran discussed with her a problem she was having on our site, and lo and behold, she had it corrected within an hour – all for the price of a Corona!  Sometimes you meet the right people.

Doug was successful on the hot water heater front; turned out the security camera contact bombed, he found a dentist and got two new water hoses (they were cheap and may not last long so he got two).  So the hot water heater should arrive Thursday morning and the fellow will come remove the old one, install the new one and has a tinsmith coming to building a box around it to help protect it from dust better.

Wednesday – Happy 58th Birthday Doug!

We both had dentist appointments for cleanings and that evening Mark and Christine joined us to go out for dinner and a cultural show but when we arrived they told us they were having “technical difficulties” and if we were to return tomorrow now, we’d get 2 for 1 entry so we had to put off the birthday dinner.

Before we left three other rigs arrived; Barnaby and Tsugumi (whom we met in La Paz) as well as Kirsi, an American from Florida travelling on with her dog and a British couple, Angela and Graham and we had a bit of a happy hour getting acquainted.

So Thursday we awoke to clear blue skies (it has been cool and partially cloudy the past few days) and we decided after breakfast to walk to El Centro to check out the square and the architecture for an hour or so.

As we mentioned earlier in our Bolivia posts, Sucre is the second capital city of the country; where constitutional matters are dealt with and where independence was declared in 1825.  It sits in a highland valley at about 2700 m / 8850‘ and has cool spring like temperatures.  The city was declared a UNESCO site in 1992 and is considered the most beautiful city in the country.  It has some of the finest Spanish colonial architecture and actually has a city ordinance that all buildings must be whitewashed annually hence it’s nickname is the White City of the Americas.

We had a pleasant walk and upon returning to Tigger and the campsite where we decided it might be wise to have laundry done here as we might be away from cities for well over a week when we leave here. We had expected the guy who had ordered us a new hot water heater to arrive today but due to “delivery vehicle issues” he was not able to install it today but promised tomorrow morning.  Mark had gone with his truck to finish the welding job needed so we then decided that we’d head to the Dinosaur park in this city which was on our “to visit” list.

We dropped off the laundry and then caught a cab to Parque Cretcico aka Cal Orko and what a nice surprise it was.  This park is well done with good maintenance and a nice ambiance.  This is the most significant dinosaur footprint site in the entire world.

68,000,000 years ago, this area was under water and the prints would have been made on the shoreline of that lake.  With the movement of the tectonic plates, the shoreline was raised up to nearly 90° and this is where over 5,000 prints are found.  The “wall” is 180 m / 590‘ tall and 1.5 km / 0.9 mi long.

Back in the mid twentieth century the mountain here was mined for limestone in the making of cement.  In the fifties they encountered “a wall” with a chemical in it not conducive to making cement.  They left it alone and with wind and water erosion it eventually revealed itself to some factory workers and they spotted foot prints in 1989 and five years later it was verified that they were legitimate dinosaur prints of four different species:

sauropods – over 12 metres long!





and ankylosaurus:

We first wandered through the small museum

and then through the walkway of dinosaurs models complete with sound:

after which we joined a tour that takes you down to the site and you walk along the wall of dinosaur prints.  Quite amazing!


We took a taxi back into the city, stopped for beer and made our way “home”.  That evening the plan was to head to the show we’d been unable to see last night but Christine was not feeling great and we opted to go to a restaurant near the square instead to celebrate Doug’s birthday.

Friday, the hot water heater guy showed up as promised and installed the new Brazilian on demand hot water heater.  Amazingly, all the fits were the right size and it is working!

Next a tinsmith came by to build a box around it to help keep the dust off.  He measured the space and returned Saturday morning and installed it.

We’ve found an interestingly good idea here in Latin American when it comes to toilet paper.  Instead of a cardboard roll in the centre, they put a “mini” roll of toilet paper that you can carry in your pocket/purse as many times public washrooms have no TP.

Saturday was a chill day and Felicidad, the owner’s wife, told us that it was worth checking out some of the parades that were going on this weekend (we think it had to do with the national flags…. but Latin Americans don’t need much of an excuse for a parade! 😉  The part we saw was not very “cultural”, lots of bands and dancers in sequins.

We left Sucre late morning on Sunday hoping the truck was fixed and that we could make Potosi which was only 140 km away and what we were told was a really good highway: the F5.

Before we left we got a group photo:

Back Row:  Fran, Doug, Barnaby (on ladder), Portia,

Tsugumi, Angela, Graham,

Front Row:  Figgy the dog, Mark, Cope, Christine, Felicidad, 

Kirsi with Jack, Alberto, one of his students

Well, first we got screwed up in town because of dead end roads that were not supposed to be dead end roads and when we finally reached the F5 the truck began acting up; surging and lurching again when we tried to pass a truck and then when we had to go uphill.

Then the unavoidable issue: at about 20km from the city, the highway was closed due to a race car race!  Middle of Sunday and they said it would be closed until 4pm.  We decided that instead of trying to make Potosi, we’d got back about 5km to a wild camp spot and spend the night debating about whether to return to the same mechanic in Sucre or limp out way to Potosi the next day.

In meantime we messaged both Christine & Mark and Barnaby & Tsugumi and advised them of the road closure as we were all going to meet in Potosi.  Barnaby messaged back that their plan was to stop for lunch in Yotala (right where the race was) anyway and there was a back route there.  Turned out it was right on the other side of the highway from where we had planned to wait anyway, so we decided to try it and report back to them on the road condition.  It was a dirt/gravel road in pretty good shape with some rough sections that needed high clearance but nothing that would stop either of our vehicles (they drive a Sprinter van) but it was much longer:  19 km instead of 6km.

We almost made it when the truck decided that it had had enough climbing and wouldn’t go; we backed up no problem and stopped debating whether to spend the night just pulled off this remotish road.  Tigger started again and we pushed forward in the hopes of making Yotala only 4kms more down the road.  We made it and parked on a square and then decided returning to Sucre made more sense as who knew what kind of mechanic we’d find in Potosi (not many reviews of any of them on iOverlander) so we looked for the road out of Yotala that could get us back on the F5 on other side of town; it too was closed but until six!

We heard from Barnaby that they were now in Yotala at the main square and backtracked to find them.  We had to walk to the restaurant they wanted to go to due to the race; there was a pedestrian bridge over the race track/river.  Here we encountered the race:

Turned out to be a 5 star rated restaurant on Trip Advisor that Barnaby’s daughter, Portia (ten years old) had found.  It’s run by a Bolivian woman and her American daughter, Cristina.  She welcomed us warmly and they were glad to see us as due to the race, customers were scarce that day.

We enjoyed a really good lunch outdoors and then began speaking to Cristina about making her hotel/restaurant into an overlanding spot and she was very keen.  She said some showers and the internet were being added next week.  We decided that we would stay the night but when Doug and Barnaby attempted to bring the rigs over late in the afternoon (which endeavour included crossing the shallow river), it turned out we were both too long to make it through the entrance gate which was angled the wrong way.  Cristina asked where she should put an overland entrance and Doug and Barnaby helped her with that.  As it was already after five, we parked in the narrow driveway leading to the gate for the night with access to bathrooms.

It began to rain around three the next morning and at four, there was a knock on our door.  Cristina had messaged Barnaby advising we might want to leave sooner rather than later because if it rained much longer and much harder, crossing the river might be impossible.  So off we went to a wild camp spot on the other side of town to spend the rest of the night.

We left at 7:30 for Sucre and Barnaby’s family left later enroute to Potosi to meet Christine & Mark.

We arrived at Julio’s garage as he opened and he worked with us right away.  However, after to attempting to diagnose the problem he was stumped; no codes were appearing either on his reader or ours but the only pending code that made sense was the darn mass air flow sensor again (which he’d cleaned).

So he took Tigger to an electrical mechanic to see if he could figure it and he agreed with Julio’s only solution: the mass air flow sensor needs to be replaced but of course, that part is not available in Bolivia.

So, we began the hunt online for the part to be sent here; we did not have much luck so we reached out to our buddy, KP who is currently in Canada (they left South America in June for the North American summer) and he’d said last week, he could help us source parts if needed.

He got back to us and said he couldn’t help us at the moment as he was in the Yukon  but to reach out to his brother Jordan, back in Oregon.  Well, Jordan was more than happy to help us and he actually advised that you can usually only clean and replace this sensor once and Doug said we’d had that done last year so that’s probably why this cleaning didn’t take.

So we found the part on Amazon and decided to order a new air filter too (Doug had cleaned ours but it was not that great). 

Jordan advised we could ship to his work and that he’d then ship them to us via DHL (which Julio said was the courier company to use).  We worked out shipping costs (not cheap!!!) and how long it would take and figure we’ll be here at least another two weeks but Sucre is way better than being in Potosi (which is 1200m higher, a smaller mining city and not pretty).  So we returned to Alberto’s camping spot, there was still room (after we three rigs left, only one had arrived) and we settled in.  With any luck, we’ll be out of here around the 6th of September but who knows how long getting the parts through customs will take (and of course, we’ll have to pay duty).  The new van was home to a French couple, Fabian & Audrey, who had purchased their vehicle in Costa Rica and currently had it for sale as they are ending their trip in Santiago in about a month.

Outside of Camping spot: nice and secure – you can just make out Tigger on the right end of the gate

Inside camp spot now with four rigs:

All in all not a huge issue unless that part turns out NOT to be the problem; then we’re stumped.  We’ll have to renew our visas as well as we have until the 10th or so, and it is possible to do this in Sucre.

Happy hour!

With Kirsi, Stef & Daniel, Angela & Graham

Tuesday morning, we discovered that our hot water would begin to get warm and then crap out.  So lucky we are back in Sucre and Doug called David, the man who sold it to us and installed it, and he said he’d come by tomorrow.  Turns out the fancy new cover was not giving the heater enough ventilation!   He’s the one who told us to put a cover on to prevent dust!  Oh well, he contacted the tinsmith, took Doug there with the cover and we had it modified.

We spent the next two weeks in somewhat of a daily routine: exercise on certain days, brekkie, chores, walking, Spanish practice, and happy hour.  Not a bad way to wait for truck parts!

Friday morning, the 24th, we heard from Jordan once again and both parts had arrived by yesterday and DHL had picked them up from his office last night so the arrival in Bolivia waiting has begun – customs will be the next hurdle…..

Fabian and Audrey left that morning and Stephanie & Daniel from Austria (whom we’d met briefly in Cusco (they left the day after we returned from our trip home) arrived that evening.  Us, Kirsi and Graham & Angela, are still here….

On Saturday morning, Fran plugged in her computer cord (while not plugged into actual laptop) and she got a spark and the power in the rig died.  It turned out her cord was torn at the connection point to the “box” in the middle of the entire cord (this happened in Costa Rica two years ago and it cost over $100 to get a replacement cord as they would not sell just the three pronged cord part but she had to buy the whole thing).  Luckily at that time, her laptop was still under warranty and she shipped her a new cord (to our address in the US of course) and we had that spare with us now.

Alberto, the campground owner said he could fix it and also looked at our extension cord (as we’d been blowing the breaker a few times while here) and it seems the latter’s connections were too tight and causing an issue.  He then told us it would be better to by a new laptop cord and we could get one at the locals market; as he was telling us this, his grown daughter, Carolina, arrived and she speaks perfect English (she’s a doctor) and she said she could drive us to near the market to a computer store where her work buys computer stuff and so we and Kirsi and her dog, Jack, piled into her SUV and she took us to a store where Fran was able to buy a new cord for 20B – less than $3!   Since Alberto fixed our extension cord, our power has been fine. 

Since we had a doctor in the car, Fran asked Carolina about where she might get a pap test down in this city and it turned our Carolina is a doctor doing research on cervical cancer and knew a clinic where it could be done and a lab to get the results from.  Kirsi too decided she’d like that done and all three of us also wanted to get a cholesterol panel done.  Carolina called us on Sunday and said she’d made an appointment for the ladies on Monday, late in the afternoon, and at the same time she could get the order for the blood work done so we could pay for it and just go in the next morning before breakfast for the blood draw.  Sometimes, things just work out!

That night Fran was craving a burger so she after searching Trip Advisor we went to the #1 spot in Sucre to have one.  It was very good and satisfied the craving. Enroute we met this little fellow doing street art in chalk:

It was a little cooler this weekend – maybe hit 15° C / 60° F instead of low 20’s/70’s but it was sunny and it warmed up on Monday.  It still drops to a bit over freezing at night.  We’re at the final month of winter now so days are getting a little longer and warming up some.

Tuesday morning, a French RV pulled in; Samuel, with his family and three kids,  joined us and that pretty much filled the lot.  We (us, Kirsi & Angela) went for our blood work and that afternoon were able to pick up results for both the pap tests and the blood work; mostly all good and what wasn’t, wasn’t that bad.  Pretty darn cheap though; blood work cost 125BOL which is about $17 and Fran’s pap was slightly less.

It was pretty warm during this week; beautiful sky and temps hit mid 20’s C / 70’s F – a little too hot right in the direct sun.  During the night it only went down to 7-8 C (40’s F) and no rain in sight.

Felicidad – the co 0wner – sweeps and cleans every morning to make us feel at home

Wednesday, Fran went for a haircut (first time in Latin America); maybe a tad shorter than she wanted but it will, of course, grow.

August 30th came:  the day the parts were to arrive; we’d heard from Jordan that DHL told him they were expected to arrive on time but we’re still not clear if they cleared customs before leaving, or will do so in Bolivia.  We did a few things to prepare for a Friday departure  (laundry/shopping/ bank/filling water) but by sundown had heard nothing – not really surprised.

Next day, Stefanie & Daniel left and we continued to wait for our parts; DHL no longer shows an “estimated arrival date” which is not encouraging.   We asked Jordan if he’d mind calling and after a few calls and emails, he was told basically “we can’t track it well once it leaves the US and we’ll get back to by end of day Tuesday (as Monday is a holiday)”; we’re not impressed at all. Oh well, it is what it is, right?

Yet another parade in Sucre – this time all preschool kids:

That evening a Dutchman, Rene, arrived and he suggested we all check out the Pink Floyd tribute concert on Saturday night so we agreed on a max price we’d pay for tickets and he went out that night and got tickets for himself, us and Angela & Graham.

We did have a touch of rain overnight and although it wasn’t much it did feel cooler on Saturday morning.  The French family left today as did Kirsi, so we are three rigs now here.

About 8pm the five of us got a couple of cabs to take us to the concert venue.  Papa George’s is a very eclectic venue with three floors and good acoustics.

We had a beer each and then Rene bought the table a bottle of red label Johnny Walker

which came with a pitcher of Coke, a beautiful glass water holder and an ice bucket for 400 Bolivianos (about $59).  We all chipped in and the band, who were from Argentina, began around 10:30.  They were actually quite good and there was a small dance floor for those who wanted to use it.  Fran doesn’t find Pink Floyd music that great for dancing so Doug danced with Angela and a few women also watching the concert. 


By 11:30 the venue was quite full (when we got there it was empty!) and there were at least two smokers at each table; this began to bother Fran a great deal so she left the table area and watched from the side foyer.  She’d had enough by 1:30 and decided to go home (the concert was winding down anyway) so Doug left with her.  Turns out Rene left shortly after buying a second bottle of whiskey for the table and Angela and Graham got back shortly after we did.  It was better than expected and we had fun.

Sunday was a day of NO driving in Sucre anyway; we heard conflicting reports that it was actually the entire country except maybe main highways.  Rene had planned to leave that day so he ended up staying another night.

It was very pleasant walking around today with no traffic or honking horns.  El Centro had a party atmosphere as families were out with their kids, the central market spilled out onto the street, people were on bikes, scooters, skate boards and fathers were teaching their children how to ride a two wheeler.

By Sunday sunset, traffic was once again allowed and Rene left early the next morning. 

We have been parked under a tree the entire time we’ve been here and in anticipation of leaving, we decided to move to the spot he just left so we could better clean our solar panels, roof and awning.  Frustratingly, DHL still shows our parcel as “processed” in Miami so Carolina, the campground owner’s English speaking doctor daughter, called DHL here for us and after they called La Paz airport, they advised the parcel is NOT in Bolivia and it seems to be stuck in Miami but they cannot tell us why.  

So on Tuesday morning, after 24 minutes on hold with DHL in the US, Fran spoke to a person and was advised that at least one (but maybe two sorting errors) were made by DHL in Miami and our parcel will today be on a plane to Bolivia.  Ridiculous!  Our mechanic was also called by DHL and advised package should be here tomorrow (but we’ll believe that when we see it!).  You can bet we’ll be asking for some compensation back from DHL for this “mistake”.  By that night we saw it had “departed” Miami and Wednesday it had gone through customs in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (not La Paz surprisingly).

Yesterday, Carolina came to our aid again and began the process of registering our mechanic as an “importer” in the system.  Doug went over and got a copy of his ID and information and she registered it online AND contacted DHL to give them this information.

This evening during happy hour, Alberto (the owner of the camp spot), came over with his “charanga”, a local instrument, and played us a tune.

The charango is a small Andean instrument which probably originated in the Quecha and Aymara (who joined the Incas) populations in post-Colombian times, after European stringed instruments were introduced by the Spanish during colonialization. The instrument is widespread throughout the Andean regions of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and northern Chile.

It’s about 66 cm  / 26” long, and was traditionally made with the shell from the back of an armadillo but in modern times it is made of wood, which some believe to be a better resonator. Charangos for children may also be made from a gourd called a calabash.  It typically has 10 strings in five courses of two strings each, but many other variations exist. The charango was primarily played in traditional Andean music, but is more and more frequently being used by other Latin American musicians. A charango player is called a charanguista.

That night after dark, a Swiss family of three arrived in a VW van owing a small utility trailer; Gallay & Penifaure speak four languages; oh the advantages of growing up in Europe, especially Switzerland.

One huge step over; now we have to deal with customs, pay any duty, get the part, have it installed and see if it fixes the issue.

This morning we walked over to Immigration with Angela & Graham and we all extended our visas for another 30 days (this is the last 30 days we are allowed).  It was easy peasy.

Thursday came and went and we had no news about the parcel other than it “cleared customs” and would be enroute.

We were three rigs, now a MANN unimog pulled in:

Friday, Carolina, learned our parcel would arrive today.  First it was said to be before noon, then after three.  Mid morning a German couple arrived, Marion and & Walter, in a large MAN unimog. They just barely fit inside and will move spots tomorrow when Graham & Angela leave (and with any luck us….).

As we’d heard nothing by 2;30, we joined Angela and Graham and went to see the Templo de San Felipe Convent more for the rooftop views than anything else.  We tried to find the entrance as it was supposed to be open from 2:30 to 6:00.  We got there at 2:45 and could find no entry; Fran asked a man on the corner and he pointed down the block saying 2nd door; nothing was open so we went around the corner and then gave up.  Angela & Graham wanted to go for lunch so they headed on and we turned around and went back as the supermarket is in the next block.  As we passed a door we saw a tiny wooden sign saying “Museo de San Felipe” beside a closed door.  Fran tried the door but it was locked.  We got no further than 10m down the road when someone opened the door and said hello.  She said they were open and after letting us in shut the door again – maybe it opened at three!?!  Anyway we paid our 15B each and wandered around the courtyard before going upstairs to the rooftop for city views on two levels and up a bell tower.

By 4:30 we’d heard nothing new AGAIN so Fran called DHL in the US again.  She was told their records showed a “transit delay” from Miami.  This could coincide with what Carolina heard from Santa Cruz that the cargo airline DHL uses to Bolivia only flies Fridays and Mondays so the parcel could arrive tonight or tomorrow but we won’t know until Monday.  DHL US said they’d put in an “inquiry” and someone would call us by 5pm on Monday (where have we heard that before?  Mmmmmh).  Anyway, even if parcel arrives on Saturday, Customs is not open on weekends so we’re waiting until Monday.  Fran did inquire about a refund for bad service and the DHL rep said for sure we should do that and we’d be within our rights.  So maybe we can get a refund…..

Later that afternoon another unimog from Germany showed up at the campsite along with a Land Cruiser from Belguim and then a Sprinter van from Holland.  Alberta asked the Dutch couple to camp on the street until tomorrow when Angela and Graham (and maybe the Swiss couple) leave in order for them to fit.  We’re glad we moved a few days ago to an easier spot to get out of – whenever that may be…. We are quite tightly packed in the campground now –maybe a metre apart….

impossible to get a shot of all five rigs (and the two on the street!):

Saturday morning after a WhatsApp chat with our grandkids, the Swiss family left and the Dutch couple from on the street pulled in (Amber & Lucas) then a Class C rig with Chilean plates arrived and were told, “no room” followed by a German van later in the day – so two rigs outside and five inside right now.

Fran began sneezing and a runny nose today and by evening she had a cold; no sore throat which is usually the first sign so no time to take her fall back cold deterrent: zinc which she usually does at the first sign of a sore throat.  Luckily, we have decongestants so she’ll have to ride it out.

Finally on Monday morning we had some good news; Carolina had spoken with DHL Santa Cruz and the package had arrived on Saturday aboard the cargo plane that left Miami on Friday and would be sorted and processed today.  She was able to find out the amount we needed to pay for customs and she and Fran met at the bank to take care of that before lunchtime.  She was then told that the paperwork would be completed this afternoon and the parcel should be on the 9:30 am flight to Sucre tomorrow. 

By mid afternoon, Fran received a call from DHL and they basically only had the info that we could now see on the web and we actually knew more since Carolina was able to deal with the offices in both Santa Cruz and Sucre.  Fran asked for information on how to claim a refund for bad service and Nick sent her the forms to begin that process; we’ll see; wish us luck!

We met with Felicidad and Alberto about leaving, and as they have offered other overlanders, they offered to fill Jerry cans at the local station for us at local price so we’d be full up to leave; another kindness by these wonderful people.  We also wanted to pay our bill so that we wouldn’t have to hunt them down tomorrow (they do not live on the property but rather about a block away and he is a university prof in his retirement so he’s teaching three mornings a week).  Our stay here this second time was 22 nights (hopefully no more as we both have itchy feet!) and she gave us a discount; price is normally 100BOB a night for a couple and after paying her 2200BOB she “returned” 300BOB to us for our extended stay.  They will also provide us with a receipt if we want to try and claim that from DHL as part of a hardship for the late delivery.

Tuesday morning we heard from Carolina who confirmed we could pick this up at the DHL for our mechanic, Julio, and so we can pick up at 3pm this afternoon.

So Carolina advised we can pick up the part at the local DHL office at 3pm.  Doug took truck over to Julio at 2:30 to begin work on the shock he’d been working on and Fran walked up to the DHL – the box was there!

Fran jumped in a cab and joined Doug at Julio’s as well.  He installed both parts but for some reason the engine will still not rev past 3500 rpm’s.  He’s thinking we need to see an electrical mechanic and have him reset the engine’s computer to read the new part.  Also, in the past few days the truck’s battery has been acting up and having difficulty starting so we hoped Julio could replace it but he says he would not be able to find that battery type here.  Luckily, we have a backup battery that is constantly being charged by a small solar panel.

Fran walked back to Alberto’s place and waited for Doug to bring Tigger for another night.  Wednesday morning we fared no better; we took it for a half hour test drive, seemed fine:  had Julio take it for a test drive seemed fine so no trip to electrical guy.  Julio took Doug to a battery shop and after two trips, found a battery that fit to replace the backup battery as we’ve moved that battery to the position of the main battery.

So we paid Julio and took off; didn’t get 10 km when the truck began surging and losing power again!!!!!  So we texted Julio we were coming back; who knows – maybe it does need the electrical guy….

Since it was almost lunch time (and that takes 2.5 hours here!) Doug suggested Fran head back to Alberto’s and rest and use the Wi-Fi while he dealt with trying to get Julio to take a test drive before lunch while engine was still warm.  He is rather stumped so we’re staying ANOTHER night at Alberto’s and we’ll try the electrical guy in the manaña!

Upon returning to Alberto’s, his son, Luis, reached out to us; he teaches mechanical/civil engineers and asked if Doug would be interested in talking to a class of students for “motivation”.  Alberto has informed us he is no longer charging us for camping as he feels we are going through enough hardship!  This family goes way beyond helpful as a matter of course.  Doug and Luis agreed on a talk time tomorrow of 11 or 2, class schedules dependent.

So… Thursday morning, we got up on the early side to be up and ready waiting for the mechanic at his place at 8:30 as he requested.  By 9:15 Julio got around to us and we followed him to the electrical guy. His scanner found no new codes and he felt we needed to get the truck warmed up to the point it was acting up so he could read the codes during the “action”.  Doug had his engineering talk scheduled for 11 so it was agreed that Fran would drive around for the hour more or less it would take the truck to act up, return to Carlos’ place (the electrical guy) and he would scan for codes again.

Upon departing Carlos’ no one told Fran which way to head so she just went straight; straight into a market area that is!

Anyway as it was slow going the engine warmed up quick and within 30 minutes the truck began to hesitate while giving it power.  She made her way, getting off course a few times due to one way streets, back to Carlos and he attached the code reader and they returned to Julio’s together in Tigger.  Now Julio jumped in Tigger and took it for another test drive while it was warm using a gauge to measure the pressure from the fuel pump.

Carlos had no codes showing up once again and felt the issue was the fuel pump.  He and Julio spoke and after some discussion agreed that was the first thing to at least rule out.  Five guys then got under Tigger and began to remove the gas tank as the fuel pump sits in the top of it. This took about an hour due to the fact that the gas tank was full!

Carlos had told Fran when asked that “sure we could find a fuel pump here” but she was doubtful and had visions of another DHL fiasco.  When Doug returned from his lecture (more about that later), he too was pessimistic and even more so that the fuel pump was the issue at all.

After the tank was removed it was almost one pm and of course, well past the beginning of lunchtime.  So they took a break and at 2:30 ish returned to work.  Doug heard Julio on the phone trying to track a fuel pump down and not having much luck.  Next thing we heard was him calling someone about whether you can and if so, how to clean a fuel pump.  Doug is now worried things could go wrong in so many ways now.

A couple of hours later the pump was cleaned, and Doug helped them drain the tank into Jerry cans to make it easier to reinstall.


One of the guys then cleaned the tank itself and showed Doug yucky  black sludge inside.

By 5:30 they were reinstalling the tank and at 6 we all went for a test drive.  Julio advised Doug that on the earlier test drive, the pressure was reading only 5 going uphill and now we are seeing 60 so a major improvement.  It was well after dark by now and we returned to Alberto’s where he was waiting for us to open the gate.  Walter and Marion were still there and after checking in with them, we made dinner.

Now it’s Friday and we are itching to get moving so we left before 7 in the hopes that IF we had problems, we’d have time to turn around and get to Julio’s when he opened.

Well yesterday, September 13th, our little girl’s birthday, was a lucky day as today we had NO issues with hills or power up to the 100km so we are fairly certainly the problem is fixed.  Amazing, after spending all that time, money and effort on the MAF and air filter, it was the fuel pump which really did not cost a lot to get cleaned.

Doug’s talk at University of Univalle, Sucre went well.  Started late (but doesn’t everything down here!?) and turned out most of the students don’t speak enough English so he had to do in Spanish.  Luis reported to Fran that he was able to do 80-90% in Spanish – even the technical terms – and needed only a small amount of help in translation.  Pretty proud of him, she is!

We are happy campers and are heading to Potosi.



Shots around the city:

An almost full moon:  

“Zebras” promoting using the crosswalks not jay walking

Dinosaur phone booth:

Ché is alive in their hearts:

a car decorated for a wedding:

Not sure if it’s a jacaranda tree but it’s very pretty:

A nice green boulevard park:

a red spectacled parrot in the tree above Tigger –  a few of them showed up just before happy hour a few days:

On the main boulevard, you see men flogging their trade:

Dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere!  Here they’re in a roundabout:

one of very few tall buildings in the city:

you actually see a surprising number of Beetles in decent condition here in Bolivia: