Journey from Argentina to Bolivia: Dehydrated and Hungry at the Border

siOlivia was never high on my world travel plans. But because the flights from Argentina to Peru (which is high on my world travel planning) are cumbersome and expensive, I decided to travel by bus through Bolivia to get to Peru. In addition, this is theoretically a good opportunity to meet another country in South America.

In practice, however, Bolivia is a bit of a culture shock for me and exhausting in many ways. It starts from the border crossing. At La Quiaca you can cross the border on foot. Maybe I should not have tried it at Christian holidays: because while the Argentine border guards are numerous, the Bolivians do not seem to want to work at Easter.

And so I stand with another 30 to 40 people who want to leave the country for more than two hours under the bright midday sun at an altitude of 3400 meters in front of the Bolivian border checkpoint. At that time, I did not realize that waiting was part of everyday life in Bolivia.

Unexpected problems at the border

At some point, fortunately, an officer appears who is obviously surprised by the rush. He is not in a very good mood, he carefully checks all the required documents: passport, passport copy, travel health insurance including Covid liability, negative corona PCR test, complete coronavirus vaccination and completed entry form. But even that is not enough.

Duplicate copies of all printed documents are required. In the end, though, she politely seals the simple execution of my documents with a twisted corner of her mouth and gives them to me. Unfortunately, he forgets to tell me that I then have to go back to the Argentine border control to get a certificate of exit from there. When I then try to cross the border without this smudge, the Bolivians send me back without knowing what I am still missing. After a few questions, I finally found out.

The route from the border to Tupiza in Bolivia leads through a barren but attractive mountain landscape

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Harald von Radebrecht

Crossing the border is even more complicated for my friend from the USA. He is missing a printed visa application. So he has to walk back to the city to print and complete the appropriate application downloaded from the Internet on a copy. Back at the border, he is sent to another office where he theoretically has to pay a $ 160 visa fee. Although various online sources explicitly write about US dollars, the Bolivian border guards do not want to accept the US currency.

So I have to go to a bank in the border town of Villazon in Bolivia to make money with my friend in Bolivianos. With the money he goes back to the border. There he may eventually pay the entrance fee to enter one of the poorest countries in South America. By the way, entry is free for Germans.

The whole stay at the border lasts almost five hours. This applies not only to us, but to most travelers. Some Argentines who want to drive to Bolivia by car continue to negotiate with border officials as we head to the bus station in Villazon, completely annoyed, dehydrated and hungry. Ironically, on the border bridge, we see Bolivians walking uncontrollably across the dry riverbed of the Rio de la Quiaca to Argentina. Of course, this also saves time.

Bolivia is one of the most impressive countries in the world

From Villazon, continue in a minibus to Tupiza, 90 km away. I know such minivans from Southeast Asia. They are full of people, luggage and more luggage. After all, the trip costs only two euros, so I tolerate the rods that push through the seat to my butt for two hours.

After all: The fact that Bolivia is one of the most spectacular countries in the world in terms of landscape can be guessed at the first trip. The sunset bathes the barren mountain landscape on one side in a purple sea of ​​lights, while on the other the full moon shines incredibly bright.

Bolivia: The city of Tupiza is located in the middle of the mountains at an altitude of almost 3000 meters

The city of Tupiza is located in the middle of the mountains at an altitude of almost 3000 meters

Credit: pa / imageBROKER / Karol Kozlowski

Arriving in Tupiza, my first correlation is: “It’s just like Nepal here!” It is filled everywhere with rickshaws, which, along with the movement of buses and trucks, make the air as bad as in Kathmandu. After all, honking is not as strong here as there.

Hungry I hope to find an open restaurant in the evening. Not realizing that Tupiza has the nickname “Tupiza”, I come across a surprisingly good pizzeria. Otherwise, Bolivia is not exactly known for its culinary specialties. In almost every corner there are the so-called “Broasters” that offer fried chicken with chips or breaded meat with rice. So I can consider myself lucky with my pizza.

When I want to go hiking the next day, I quickly realize that the conditions are not ideal. The sun burns mercilessly at 2800 meters above sea level, even my sunscreen with a protection factor of 50 does not help much. It is dusty and dry, my lips have cracked for days and I do not like the nose in the dry air. In addition, I can not sleep very well at these altitudes.

Will Bolivia and I become friends in this life? I’m curious to see if things will get better at my next stop, the largest salt lake in the world.

Read more about the One Way Ticket world tour series here. The column appears every two weeks.

candy for the dead

After All Saints’ Day, believers in Bolivia thank their skulls, the so-called natitas, with sweets, cigarettes or coca leaves.

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