Breaking into Bolivia
Copacabana Travel Blog› entry 53 of 74 › view all entries
The bus was a fairly long one of 10 hours, and there were the 5 Irish I had met the day previously on it as well, so I was glad to have some other gringos with me for the border crossing...how glad I would be was soon apparent, for the border crossing turned into a nightmare! The first issue happened about 3 hours into the ride when the bus driver came around to check that everybody had their papers in order. "Tiene su visa?" he asked me, to which I replied no, as I had read online the visa application could be attained at the border. "Pero hoy es Domingo" he told me, Today is Sunday, and I was supposed to have it sorted in Puno already.
A few minutes later we were at the border, and we all filed off the get our exit stamp from Peru. The bus driver sought me out and walked me across the "no mans land" between the borders to the Bolivian entry port. He explained to the official I was American and didn´t have the form yet. This turned out to not be an issue as he had one for me, and I reluctantly paid the 135 usd (I had thought initially he was trying to rip me off, but frantic texts back and forth to Darren proved that the Great World Web confirmed it had been raised).
Luckily all went well and I got my stamp in, so I hopped into a collectivo made for 10 people but carrying 15 to try to catch my bus. I knew they were stopping for 1 hour for lunch but I was still anxious to get there as fast as possible, and cursed the 10 different stops on the way to unload locals and their gigantic hauls of produce. Finally, we reached the town, and along the way I spotted the Irish crowd walking. "Pare!" I cried, "Stop!" and I paid my fee and jumped out of the van, and ran to catch up with the group. Once there they reassured me all our luggage were safely waiting for us, and for the next hour we wandered around the tiny lakeside town, laughing about my adventure.
Eventually we were back on the bus and on the road again, and without further incident arrived in La Paz for around 5ish. The Irish and I had all booked into the Loki so shared cabs down there, where I changed my reservation and moved into their room. We soon left the hostel to explore the city, which was huge, busy, smelly and dirty, and had similarly red coloured brick for all the buildings. We wandered through the streets completely overtaken by little market stalls, selling mostly shampoo, watches and bootleg DVDs, but were also varied with pretty much any other miscellaneous crap you could possibly want. There was even one stall of only diapers!
We eventually went for a meal in a lovely place, after much ado about locating an ATM (we had found 3 earlier, all broken). After such a day I treated myself to a large steak with some wine, and we had a great dinner conversation, mostly about the different Irish accents, as the group was mixed between many counties, plus my own half breed Cork accept that creeps in now and again. I really liked this group a lot, and I must say out of all the travellers I´ve joined up with along the way I "fit" the best with these guys, and we continued afterwards with a few drinks at the hostel bar.
A "few" turned into many, and towards the end we were all pretty much drunk and rowdy. The Loki Hostel chain is ran by an Irish crowd as well, and right before closing all the well known overplayed Irish tunes came blasting through the large bar, firing everyone up. They even played the Christmas tune, Fairytale of New York, definitely too early in the year, but it made me once again homesick for Ireland and my life there, as has happened so often on this trip.
Once the bar was closing some of the group went off the bed, myself included, while some stayed for one last cigarette. I was changed and in bed when the rest came bursting in, insisting we all get up and go out clubbing. This evoked a pretty negative response from James, but I figured what the hell, got up and changed again, and the 4 of us headed out.
We tried to go to the local dance club but it was too late, so we had to take our cab drivers advice and go to the place he recommended. The place turned out to be Route 36, infamous in its own right for its lax attitude on some types of drugs, which I had heard about from many many travellers along the way. I was curious to check it out so didn´t mind at all that we ended up there accidentally, one of the girls however freaked out and decided it was way to seedy for her. In the end we reassured her and she stayed, and we hung out there until around 6 am before finally heading home for bed.