Monday, August 26, 2013

34 hours in Transit to Sucre, Bolivia

Good Monday morning!
Jan and I have arrived at Casa Verde in Sucre.
Our flights went off almost without a hitch. The Ottawa to Toronto, Toronto to Panama City and Panama City to Bogota, Colombia legs were uneventful and pleasant. We flew with Copa Airlines and Avianca (Colombian airline) and were pleased with modern planes and great service. The Bogota to La Paz flight left on time (just after 11pm) and was about to land in La Paz on time (3:45am). I noticed the plane was circling a couple of times and then the announcement that due to a major snow storm (yes, it is winter in the southern hemisphere) the El Alto airport did not allow anyone to land or take of. The storm was expected to last another  2 hours, so we would be diverted to Santa Cruz, an hour away by plane. Santa Cruz is in the jungle, at about 300 m above sea level, so perhaps not surprising it is Bolivia´s largest airport. Once we arrived, we waited for information about the next steps. Would the storm let up? Would we disembark and clear customs? Or perhaps we´d be able to get off the plane and just wait in the international waiting hall for updates?

The Avianca crew kept information flowing and everyone took the situation in stride. We were a bit concerned about flying on to Sucre and whether we´d make that flight if it was to leave. Well, at about 6:30 am we boarded the Avianca flight which was to leave to La Paz shortly. We taxied to the runway and the captain announced that it had started snowing again and that we would have to wait until El Alto gave permission. Most people - and certainly we - were sleeping. Nothing else to do really and we were working on a full day of travel already. There were a couple more on again, off again moments and by about 8:30am we took off to El Alto at 4,000m. Seeing the Cordillera Real with its glaciers and 5,000 and 6,000 m summits and the Altiplano clad in snow was beautiful. The landing was quite smooth.

We cleared immigration and customs and were so happy to see Eduardo waiting for us (he will be our mountain guide in 2 weeks when we head into the Cordillera Real)! We had asked him  to meet us at the airport so we could hand off our mountaineering equipment to him for safekeeping until we need it. With the storm he had kept track of our flight and waited for us even though we arrived 6 hours late.

Then, moving slowly at 4,000m trying to avoid the altitude headache (we succeeded), we needed to work out our flight situation to get to Sucre. Our initial flight had left and only one other company had seats on their delayed flight (yeah, for the ripples of flight delays when strorms hit). We boarded at 1:20 pm and got to Sucre by 2:20. A 10 km cab ride and we got to Casa Verde. A beautiful B & B in the downtown area of town that Jan researched online. We unpacked, napped for 3 hours and then went out for dinner. We walked to the Plaza 25 de Mayo, the central square, and found many options settling on a trattoria with a cool vibe called Tentaciones. I had the best Chicken Parmesan, Jan enjoyed her pasta, the Campos de Soltanas Riesling (a vineyard in the Ssouth of Bolivia) was tasty and not sweet and the cappucinos were lovely.

It feels great to be in Bolivia again. And we are pleased to start in Sucre, at 2,200 m and not in La Paz at 3,600m, as this gives us a chance to manage our acclimatization process step by step and not just battle the symptoms of living high. We will head to La Paz at the end of the week.

Today, we will meet with Condor Trekking, deal with some electronics issues I have - didn´t find my camera´s battery charger when I was packing - see if I can get any refunds on the other flight we had booked, find some dinosaur tracks, and generally enjoy our first full day in Sucre.

Our transit stats: 34 hours (net flying time about 14 hours), 7 airports, 4 countries, 4 airlines, 1 snow storm, 2 happy travellers.

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