Generally speaking, the countries we’ve visited so far have been very tranquil and safe places. Not once have we felt threatened or in danger in Ecuador, Peru, or Bolivia. But twice now, we have been the unintended victims of peaceful protests, preventing us from accessing our planned activities.

The first, and more significant issue we encountered occurred throughout the south of Peru. We were in Cusco at the time, and had just returned from our Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. During the 3 days we were set to be in Cusco, we had arranged AWR product testing biking, rafting, and hiking in the Sacred Valley. We got to do the mountain biking, but after that, transportation in all of southern Peru was halted due to these protests, apparently tied to water rights. During these protests, road blocks are put up and no traffic is allowed to pass. Any cars caught on the road during these protests are in danger of being stoned (the only violent aspect to this civil disobedience, and stoning rarely happens because everyone knows not to drive). In addition to the roadblocks, protesters walk the street, chanting their calls to action, while police in riot gear stand idly unless something breaks out (but never does).

Such protests have come to be quite regular in Peru, happening roughly 15 times per year! So regular, that certain tour operators put roadblock bribes into their operating budget. For us, it was a bummer to miss out on the rafting and hiking days, but it allowed for some very tranquil days exploring downtown Cusco with no automobile traffic.

Our second encounter with roadblocks occurred in northern Bolivia. We were excited to do one of Bolivia’s most famous tourist activities – mountain bike down the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” (the road is no longer that dangerous, as nearly all vehicle traffic now takes the new road to Coroico, leaving the road pretty open to bikers). Well, it turns out that a lot of the country’s coca is grown near Coroico, and the coca farmers were a bit angry at the government for some new regulations put on their production (coca is both legally and illegally produced in Bolivia). As a result, they blocked the roads to their town, and thus our access to the bike trail.

All in all, we’ve been very lucky in our travels to date, with no major interruptions, detours, or delays due to uncontrollable circumstances, so I’m not complaining. When traveling in the Andes, you never know what roads might wash out, what bus might break down, and what roads are impassible. So far, our patience hasn’t been fully tested….yet.

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