Day 38. Chile to Bolivia Border Crossing (Arica to La Paz)
Sleeping on the bus was as usual–not awesome. We had a bit of a rude awakening at about 5am when we arrived at a checkpoint. We were asked to gather our ID’s/passports so we gave them to our bus attendant. Five minutes later a few passengers were asked to get off the bus. About twenty minutes later everyone got back on the bus and we were on the road again.
We arrived at Arica at 8am. We got down and started looking for the buses to La Paz, Bolivia. There were definitely some shady guys trying to get us to choose the company-even lying to us that we would not have to pay a visa fee for Bolivia. We ended up going with Nordic Bus which was leaving for La Paz at 10am. This gave us some time to get U.S dollars and other documents prepared for the border crossing.
Finally we were on the bus and headed to La Paz. Leaving at 10am, we were scheduled to arrive in La Paz at 5pm. After falling asleep, I woke up to see a huge snow capped mountain that I’ve seen in photos before. The mountain was massive and almost rather random. There ended up being a few mountains like this one with snow and glaciers on them.
We reached the Chile border. There we stopped and entered the building. Here we basically checked out of Chile with a stamp. (Make sure you always keep your documents that you received when you entered the country when you are leaving the country as they may ask for them on exit). We were told to get back on the bus.
Four minutes later we reached the Bolivian border. This has been the moment we have been dreading and preparing for over the past couple months. What were they going to ask us? What were they going to charge us? We had been Googling and reading other United States American stories and they all seemed to be about the same, some worse than others. Tallon and I were nearly first in line for the stamp. Once we finally handed over our passports we heard some scoffs and laughs from the other side of the window. They explained that we needed a visa and it would be $135 cash. We knew this so we nodded ‘yes’. Then we were told to fill out some papers so we went to the office. There we filled out a paper with our contact and profile information and also emergency contact info as well. There was another document declaring that if you did not get the Yellow Fever Vacine then you could not hold Bolivia responsible if you got yellow fever during our stay. Since we came with the Yellow Fever vaccination, we did not have to sign the paper. They took a photocopy of our passport and put their Bolivian visa sticker in our passport. They asked for the $135 and they said we were done. Boom!!! We were in Bolivia. We felt completely relieved the process wasn’t too drawn out.
We got back on the bus and continued on our way. We started seeing a lot of lamas and little houses. Every now and then we’d see the farmers herding the lamas, pigs and sheep.
The heart of La Paz sits in a sort of deep valley. To enter into La Paz, you drop down from the tops of the valley. As we were near the section that starts the decline into the city, we drove through a populated suburb. There were van taxis, buses and lots of indigenes people selling and buying (no tourists). It was a bit of an eye opener being that this was the first populated city/suburb of Bolivia we had seen on our trip.
Finally we started dropping down into the city of La Paz. It was very cool to see the city and both sides of the valley to be filled with houses and lights. We arrived at the bus stop shortly thereafter. From there we knew our hostel was in walking distance so we tried our chances of finding it. After a couple minutes we found it, The Adventure Brew Hostel. Like most hostels we choose to stay at, we pick them because of them generally being highly ranked on HostelWorld.com by other travelers.
At about 7pm, we checked in and learned what we needed to know. We kept seeing the available tours and excursions posted everywhere. Our main goal was to see Lake Titicaca and its surroundings so that’s what we were asking for. The girl at the front desk told us to call a tour office to check on availability. I called and found out there were seats on the bus but we needed to purchase the tickets from the office tonight. So we hopped in a taxi and made our way to the Republic Tour office. Thankfully we bought our tickets to the Lago Titicaca and learned how we could do the whole tour in a day. While we were still at the office, Tallon and I had another excursion pop up that we really wanted to do and we also figured this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do it. For that excursion, stay tuned–we’re doing that one on Monday.
Instead of getting a taxi back to our hostel, we figured we’d walk it because we had a map. Although by now it was dark and getting late, there were lots of street vendors out and people shopping. Along the way we grabbed some food. We made it back to the hostel and got our things ready for the morning. Tomorrow were getting picked up at 7:45am to go to Lake Titicaca.
Btw the WiFi at the hostel is horrible and main cause for the delayed daily posts.Google+