Thursday, December 17, 2009

Border Crossings: Peru - Bolivia

A friend and avid traveller once told me one of his favourite things about travelling is walking across borders. With just a few steps you enter a whole different world. At the time though I didn’t quite understand him, I had worked for an airline and flew everywhere.

Since my first border walk across at the Taba Ilat border to enter Israel I have collected many stamps and fought my way through the hectic furry that comes with crossing a border, the guys on bikes trying to rip you off, people trying to sell you a tourist form that is actually free, money exchangers following you. Although it can be frustrating and sometimes stressful I have come to appreciate what my friend was talking about. Past all the nonsense and with a few steps is a different country, an unknown place yet to be discovered, sometimes a different language, different landscape or the differences could be subtle, the vendors on the buses are yelling out gaseosas instead of refrescos.

Then there was the Peru – Bolivia border crossing. I decided to leave with the English girls for Bolivia. Another traveller in the hostel asked when our bus was leaving and what company we were going with, a traveller with a plan. Our idea was just to show up and hop on the next bus. Everything seemed to go smoothly in the beginning; we got onto a bus to Puno right away. Once in Puno everyone told us we didn’t have enough time to get to the border. It was 3:00pm and the border closed at 6:00pm. I figured they were lying; we could easily get the local transport and get there. The girls were too worried because they figured I was older and more travelled therefore knew what I was doing, little did they know even though I have been doing this for years I still fumbled my way through. We found a collective bus that was supposed to take us to the border. I was starting to worry when I looked down at my IPod and saw that it was 5:20pm. We got dropped at road crossing and as soon as we got off we were being harassed by a taxi driver. He was trying to promise to take us to the border direct on his bus for 5 soles each, which is ridiculous. I was trying to talk to another bus driver and the girls with him yelling in my ear. I turned around and Shushed him while Sasha yelled, “No es un bus es un taxi!!” I made an executive decision to take the collective bus for 1 sole. As soon as I got on the bus I felt 4 more soles might have been worth it to guarantee our arrival at the border on time. We were in a panic realizing the bus drivers here are not at all like the crazy ones in Lima. A bus with the name Kevin over took us. Why weren’t we on Kevin?! Time was running out and we made it to the dodgy border town by 6:00pm but the actual border was still a taxi ride away. I was determined to make it across no matter what. I mean there isn’t a wall separating the two countries, we could just made a run for it and be illegal in Bolivia. We had to run from one plaza to another to actually get a taxi. Katie suggested just staying in the border town but I was determined to get across. We got mixed messages about when the border closes and our new taxi driver told us it was still open. A little light of hope but Sasha wasn’t convinced. I think our hearts stopped pounding when we saw it open and a tourist bus pulling through. We just slipped by as we got our exit stamps leaving a giant statue of Cusquena beer and Peru behind. As we entered Bolivia the gates closed behind us.

1 comment:

  1. sounds exciting to me....have a safe....adventurous is the time while you are young and free to do it.....enjoy


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