crossing the border to Bolivia

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We turned up in La Quiaca yesterday evening and stayed in a weird but clean and cheap hotel for the night. Woke up early to make the border crossing, in hopes of getting to the train station in time to get tickets for this afternoon’s train. The border crossing was OK, waited in line with a bunch of other backpackers to exit Argentina, then walked across a high bridge and waited in another line to enter Bolivia. Wish we’d known in advance that we were supposed to have brought extra passport photos for our Bolivia tourist visa, but we got it worked out without too much trouble.

border crossing, Argentina to Bolivia

crossing the bridge that separates La Quiaca, Argentina from Villazon, Bolivia

Immediately across the border into Bolivia, the city got kind of crazy and intense! The street is super crowded, there are tons of money-changing places and little shops offering every possible kind of bright colored plastic stuff, giant sacks of coca leaves, old ladies dressed in skirts and bowler hats, squatting beside the street selling steaming pots of stew and rice that looks delicious. Intense smells of stewing meat, sweet kool-aid smells, and toxic solvent smells all mixed together. We tripped over a furry little severed-goat-foreleg which was lying in the middle of the street. We made our way up from the border into Villazon, and took a long sweaty walk with our stupid heavy packs all the way to the train station, to find that it’s closed – train service is suspended because of heavy rains. Backtracked to the bus station and bought tickets for the next train to Tupiza, checked our packs in the very dodgy looking bus station (As of press date I am not sure whether or not we will ever see our packs again. I will admit that I would be a bit relieved to find them gone). Then we had 9 hours to kill in Villazon. Wandered into the public market which was honestly really awesome and fun. Another crazy jumble of people and things and foods and smells and sounds. People speak spanish here, but we also heard indigenous dialects (probably Quechua?) that we couldn’t understand. There are tons of used clothes for sale here, stuff that comes from the United States with aid organizations, a lot of the items still have Salvation Army pricetags on them. We bought watermelon slices, roasted chicken, and since I’m almost done with my knitting project I got supplies for my next project- an embroidery hoop and floss, and a few used t-shirts to practice embroidery on. They sell everything in the market, it’s great. Then we hunkered down on a park bench to read and embroider for a while. Good, relaxing Saturday afternoon!

they eat a lot of chicken in Bolivia.

our first (and second) meal in Bolivia: roasted chicken. Pretty tasty. Note the Bolivian version of coca-cola which came with our meal.

bus station waiting room

we waited for a bus in the attic above the bus station. There was a pay bathroom (two Bolivianos = US$0.28) where you have to scoop water out of a giant bucket and dump it in the toilet bowl to flush. The waiting room doubled as the youth boxing club; they were setting up for a boxing match but unfortunately we had to catch our bus before the match started.

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