Monday, July 13, 2015
It feels like revolution is in the air.
While Sunday evening Potosi felt safe and laid back, Monday morning feels rather dangerous and threatening. The city doesn't feel particularly safe as the general rule we are being told is: stay away from demonstrations (which are constant and numerous). This is all very well but the problem here being you walk down a couple of quiet, narrow streets and then, just like that, a demonstration suddenly appears from nowhere coming in your direction. At one point, during a stroll, we actually seem to be comically leading one particular demo that appears out of a side street with a band playing, and follows on 5 yards behind us up one hill. The majority of the demos are peaceful and friendly but we've no idea if the police or army are about to show up.
Since noon time a dusty wind has been blowing in giving the town a rougher air to it as the sun is blocked out by a sandy smog.
Most of the day is spent holed up in the hotel. I am not happy about taking Katya around the streets and putting her in danger.
As we go into the afternoon, firecrackers keep going off and dust is engulfing the town, giving it a sinister feel. All the time, we can hear the sound of distant explosions and locals shouting and screaming.
We do venture out for dinner. There is, apparently, only one place in the whole of Potosi, which is open, and we need to do a secret knock to get in. Outside it, the windows are covered with corrugated iron and after several failed attempts to get someone to open the front door, we begin walking away, until a man appears at the door, checks in both directions, and gesticulates that we should get inside as quickly as possible.
Once inside the elderly Bolivian owner and his wife are offering a full menu minus the products that are no longer available due to 'the seige' - such as bread. He does though have quinoa soup and Johnny Walker Red Label, so we're not exactly slumming it.
Just as he brings out our soups, motorbike thugs drive past checking for strike breakers and the host hits the lights and tells us to be absolutely silent. This is truly absurd.
Leaving 'the secret restaurant' at 7.30 the streets are calm (aside from the motorbike squads) and people are scurrying about in the darkness trying to buy resources from two or three hole-in-the-wall shops that have suddenly opened up. Being Irish, English and Russian we buy eggs and beer. Jeez this feels like some kind of war film with people out scurrying around, breaking curfew buying a few eggs and water.
All jokes aside though, how the hell are we going to get out of here?
Earlier today, I wrote to the British embassy in La Paz telling them of our situation. They have replied, telling us: under no circumstances try to cross the blockades.
That is easy for them to say when there are no shops open selling products, half of the bank machines have stopped working, and we are not allowed to leave the city. This is a pretty unique situation as even when war breaks out you can at least attempt to evacuate through part of a city. Here though, a night time run could end with us being attacked by the motorbike squads, while a pre-dawn, early morning 3-hour hike with 30 kilos at 4100 metres could kill us, if we don't get attacked by a protest march. WTF?!
At 10pm a loud boistrous march goes past our hotel. Andy and I nervously peer out through the curtains of the balcony, half cut from our beer and eggs diet. We just don't really understand how dangerous the situation is. Are they likely to turn on the few foreigners marooned in the city or couldn't they give a damn about us?
Just before bed, trawling the Internet for any news we can find about the general strike, I discover a local paper is running a story about three people being crucified just outside of Potosi!! It is not clear whether they elected to be crucified in protest or if they were nailed to a cross for some misdemeanour or other.
It is fair to say I don't sleep very well on Monday night.