Bienvenidos a BOLIVIA
Trip Start Jun 09, 2010
16Trip End Jul 25, 2010
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We then made our way to La Fronteria (the border), handed our passports over, and hoped for the best. The good news is that we successfully entered Bolivia, the bad news is that as Americans, we had to pay 135 USD for our visas. Eh, c'est la vie. The coolest part of this experience was when we physically crossed the border - in order to get to the Bolivian immigration station, we had to WALK across the bridge. Pretty cool feeling, especially because at one point, we were neither in Argentina nor Bolivia!
The next step was to take a local bus from Villazon to Tupiza. Although we were skeptical about boarding the bus (we didn't receive any baggage tags, there was no sign on the front of the bus, and we didn't have any seat assignments), it was our only option for getting out of Villazon. In this moment, it became clear that transportation in Bolivia leaves much to be desired. This most likely is a reflection of the relatively new nature of tourism in the country. In addition to the unreliable transportation services, the limited hostel/hotel options, the lack of restaurants, and the scarcity of atms further indicated that there is a lot of room for growth within the tourism industry in Bolivia. It will definitely be interesting to observe how tourism grows in what is now a fairly underdeveloped country. Anyway, while the bus was questionable and we were unsure if we would ever see our bags again (another time when our uncontrollable laughter was inappropriate), the views were well worth the 15 bolivianos (2 USD) that we paid for the ride. We woke up the next day after a trying night of sleep - Samantha was up with altitude sickness (why did we not read up on altitude in Tupiza!?), and we were both shivering in our sleep sacks. Anyway, we ran around collecting last minute snacks and essentials (chocolate, crackers, batteries, and water), and we were on the road by 930am.
Looking back, our four day 4 x 4 ride was really spectacular. We shared our jeep with Estaban (a 60 year old hippie from Ottawa) and Frida (our new friend from Germany), and together we shared some good laughs and stories. We also met a bunch of people along the way - it turns out that although you are with your jeep during the days, you share lodges with people from other jeeps each night. We spent our nights huddled around wood stoves playing cards with people from all over the world, and our days generally consisted of a LOT of driving with occasional stops at breathtaking points along the "road". We stopped at a few volcanoes (only one of which is active), and we spent time at lagoons, mineral areas, dining with llamas (while eating llamas...), and simply gazing at stunning mountain scenery. It is difficult to find words that describe the beauty of these natural wonders, but Estaban came pretty close when he quoted Edwin Aldrin, the man who joined Neil Armstrong on the first walk on the moon, when he called it "Beautiful! Beautiful! Magnificent Desolation." Our four days were spent driving through untouched land and seeing places that we will hopefully never forget.
Anyway, we finally returned to Tupiza and eventually bused it back to Salta...and wow, does it feel good to be back. Although our days in Bolivia are some of the most memorable from our trip, there is something comforting about driving on paved roads, eating decent food, and sleeping at temperatures that are above - 20 degrees celsius. So here's to Bolivia, a once in a lifetime experience... And here's to Argentina, a place for steak and empanadas, good wine, and snow.
(It is snowing in Salta right now...this is the first snow they have seen in 10 years. Hah!)