To The Border!
Leaving Potosí, I enjoyed the fairly relaxing ride to Tupiza where I spent a night watching the World Cup that was taking place in Brazil. The reality of leaving Bolivia was starting to hit me. It had been a difficult place to travel through but the natural beauty was unending, diverse, and I was thankful for my time there – including the challenges.
The ride from Tupiza to the border was less than two hours and quite a pleasure as it took me along winding roads that split a beautifully sun baked, red rocked valley. I arrived at the border town of Villazon in an upbeat spirit as a new country awaited me.
Let Me Through!
At this point in the journey, it’s safe to say that border crossings are salt and lemon juice in an open wound. They’re painful. The process is never quick, never smooth, and almost always excruciatingly frustrating in some way. This crossing would soon become the most frustrating of them all.
Stamping out of Bolivia was a quick process. I managed to get ahead of a whole bus load of people and moved to the Argentinian side to get my stamp. I knew that there was a reciprocity fee to pay. Wrongly assuming I could pay it at the border, I was told that I needed to go back into town, find a computer, pay online, and then print the proof. Needless to say, I was not happy but what could I do?
Stopping several times to ask directions, I eventually found the internet cafe. The sweet lady at the front desk pointed me in the direction of a computer and I hurriedly searched for what I needed. The total seemed higher than what the border agent had told me but I wanted to cross the border, so I paid and printed my proof and back to the border I went…
…Only to be told that I paid for the wrong thing. Back to the cafe I went–nice lady at the front desk–same computer–same website–different link now. I paid another large sum, printed my proof and back I went. As I reached the front of the line, I realized that the first proof of purchase printed and not the latest! The mixture of anger and frustration at that point was dizzying. But what could I do? I had to get this done to move through the border. So back I went.
Same shop, same nice lady, same computer, but this time I printed the right document. Back I went to the border and this time I got my stamp and was able to move onto another line! My main concern was getting a stamp for my motorcycle that would allow it to stay in-country for 8-9 months. After a short search of my belongings by the border agents, I was given the all-clear and I gingerly moved through the final checkpoint into Argentina! Oh what a feeling! Especially after 4 1/2 hours at the border.
A Few Thoughts On Bolivia
Type I fun can be defined as fun in the moment. Type II is classified as fun in hindsight. While there were moments of Type I fun, much of my experience in Bolivia was of the Type II variety.
Unless you are on a fully catered tour, Bolivia will undoubtedly frustrate you. To those from western countries, the pace can seem so lethargic that they are going backwards–Bolivian time seems even more snail-paced than the standard Latin American time. The infrastructure is abysmal; roads are inadequate and should have been repaired years ago. Regular strikes and public dissent certainly detracted at times and professionalism in the tourism industry was inconsistent at best. With all of that said, some may wonder, why even bother?
If you are a western tourist looking for a relaxing vacation from beginning to end, Bolivia is likely not for you. However, for someone seeking a little adventure, stunning biodiversity, and a raw travel experience, then go to Bolivia. I was happy to say goodbye and I cannot say with any certainty that I will be back, but I am beyond grateful for my time in this country.
The journey continues to Argentina…
Start the journey from the beginning: Introduction