The 7 hour bus from from Salta to La Quiaca at the border between Argentina and Bolivia went without a hitch. Still, you never know with border crossing. If you want to travel for adventure
, border crossings are the way to go. The roads were paved and the ready supply of coffee along with a fully charged mp3 player made this ride better than many before.
I even had that smug look on my face as a blond gringa girl sitting in a seat in front of me nervously kept asking the non-English speaking Argentines if we had arrived, every time the bus stopped. But that feeling was unwarranted after one of the many stops when the bus exited. Pitch black outside, I assumed we must have arrived. Both the gringa girl and I exited the bus and thats when we first exchanged words.
“So is this La Quiaca?”
“It must be”
Like many times before I was wrong so we got back on the bus and started chatting. You know the usual.
“Where are you from?”
“Whats your name?
Her name was Lee and she was a decent looking British girl traveling alone. Only a year older than me and a recent college graduate doing a round the world trip. Basically your ordinary traveler.
It made perfect travel sense that as we finally exited the bus in La Quiaca, a tiny town bordering Bolivia, that we would walk down the dark streets together in search of a hotel. I do have to mention that the moment we exited the bus we could feel the cold air. We could even see our breath. Even though we were still technically in Argentina this was the infamous Bolivian weather I remembered from my first trip 4 years earlier. Freezing.
We kept walking away from the bus station as another traveler approached us speaking passable English.
“Hey, are you guys looking for a hotel too”
The guy was a Brazilian studying in Buenos Aires. He was taking short week long vacation from classes. A few moments later the 3 of us joined forces and walked down the dimly lit street, entering the first hotel we saw.
It made better sense to delay the border crossing until the morning when it was light outside. We had no idea how safe it was on the Argentine side nor the Bolivian side.
The hotel we chose was a step back about 6 decades. The interior was a chipped neon blue and the entire town was inside the restaurant drinking beer and eating cheap burgers. The type of folk inside were the toothless, rural kind. Nothing against them but between the buidling’s interior and patrons, this place had real charactar. Straight out of a movie set.
Are you wondering why I have no photos? Again that relates to how cold it was!
The three of us sat down for a quick dinner. I ordered my last steak in Argentina. That’s what is important!
Our hotel room was basic. 3 beds, 5 layers of blankets, and blue walls. That is it.
We awoke at 6am the next morning to cold showers in even colder weather. With all of our bags strapped on our backs we walked a good 20 minutes to the border crossing.
We were early. In fact, it was still dark outside when we arrived and we would have to wait an hour in the cold until the bordered opened. In back of us we could see the day beginning and a big sign that we had almost arrived in Bolivia.
But still not quite there. Unlike many other tourists, I am American and therefore required a more extensive visa.
With $135.00 of US dollars in cash, my passport, spare passport photos, international yellow fever vaccination certificate, fake hotel reservations, a fake plane ticket out of bolivia, a copy of my latest bank account statement, a copy of my proposed itinerary I was more than prepared to get my visa.
It’s no wonder I saw so few Americans in Bolivia. Why do they make tourists who are going to spend a good chunk of money in their country go through such hurdles?
When I handed over my $135 in cash the annoyed immigration officer gave it back claiming the bills were scuffed. Always the prepared one, I took out a spare hundred crisp US bill and traded it back for my barely scuffed hundred dollar bill. That still was not good enough. My $5 in one dollar bills were still not new enough.
Come on! I rummaged through my bag and found some cleaner bills and so I finally had the proper ammount and look in cash acceptable to the officer.
After filling out my paper application I was in.
The three of us crossed the border into a Villazon, Bolivia. A different world.