We got the sense that our last post left a Dukes Of Hazard-like cliffhanger in the thin, altiplano air. Freeze to an image of llamas galloping, and as El Jefe Puerco y Roscito give chase, the narrator asks, “Looks like a real pickle of a barrel there; will the boys make it?”
We did indeed make it to Boliva, not without a bit of improvised twilight moxy. After spending a day in the Argentine hamlet of Humahuaca, we made a press for the border. We knew we were getting close, as the far Northwest Argentine province of Jujuy has a distinctly Andean, indigenous quality to it.
Jujuy is a transitional zone, both with regard to the culture and the climate. Humahuaca is 9,500 ft above sea level, and I, for one, was nearly bowled over by the altitude our first evening up in the thin air. The following morning I procured some coca leaves, legal throughout the Andean highlands in Northwest Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. It helps a lot and is not at all an intoxicant, for those of you who wish to judge my coca-chewing ways. Put a wad of dried leaves in your mouth and the lightheadedness and heavy-footedness dissipates. People here have been doing it for thousands of years and I was somewhat relieved to notice our bus driver with the tell-tale bulge in his cheek as we ascended over the 12,000 ft high altiplano.
We intended to cross the border in the morning, but arrived at the Argentine border town of La Quiaca and decided that, with a mere 7 blocks separating us from Bolivia, we may as well press on. The border crossing is a bridge traversed by foot from Argentina into Bolivia. As previously reported, Lex had her visa all in line, but what would become of my efforts to cross?
The sun was setting as we approached the immigration office, behind which a flurry of Bolivians ran to-and-fro, dragging huge bags of who-knows-what through the streets of Villazon, the border town. We walked into the office and as I leaned into the officers booth, I could hear the sounds of The Verve’s second record, “A Northern Soul” playing through the window. With bright orange lighting up the sky and a friendly hello from the border officers, we realized things were going to be ok. About six minutes and $135 U.S dollars later, we strolled right into Bolivia.
Immediately after crossing, we changed money and took the night bus two hours north to Tupiza. We bumped and swayed through the breezy altiplano night, myself with a couple cans of tasteless Schneider beer to relieve the tension of the chaotic and shifty border town.
We are currently trying to sort through fact and fiction as it relates to Bolivia. I haven’t taken many pictures since we’ve been advised that unlike in Argentina and Chile, in a third world nation it may not be so wise to flash a camera that could fetch more on the streets than some people earn in several months. At the same time, we’ve noticed a gentleness and general sense of congeniality and politeness that many of the Bolivians bring to the smallest public interactions with each other. We’ll need a few days to earn a better sense of where we are and what things are like, but, suffice to say, there is a very different feeling in the air.
Tupiza isn’t the best represenation of this nation, as it is small town very far in the south and overly oriented to the pleasuring of snarky lil’ british lads running the streets. Yes, it’s pretty much a tourist trap, but we are here waiting for our friends that we met in El Bolson, Jorge and Iratxe, with whom we hope to convene later today. Forging a rendezvous on the road sans telephones and with limited internet access isn’t the easiest of efforts.
Speaking of which, the internet is very, very, very slow in Bolivia. As a result, we’re going to have to compress the bajingles out of our photos and may not be able to tell if things load properly. If you see something wrong with the blog, let us know via e mail since google loads a bit better than our website. Oh, and if you know what happened with the Mets game, you can let me know about that as well!
Mark: that is exactly how I would describe my co-worker,
congeniel and polite.
What would a visa cost had you
not been American???
Lex — smart lady — planned ahead !!
Enjoy your new friends –should be an interesting experience.
love – mom w.
Amazing such a difference between adjacent countries! Beisbal: Mets won last night 7-1, great pitching by Young. Mets have won 3 in row, 2 vs Phillies. They look good! Unlike Bosox who have lost 4 in a row!
Hey guys… Just tuning in now… Sounds like you are having a good to time. I think I am subscribed now to updates… Just a little slow here. Miss you!!!
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