It took us almost eight hours to reach the Argentinian border in Quiaca to cross to Bolivia. We hadn’t had neither a meal nor a good sleep the night before so the long bus ride felt even longer. the city of Salta was pretty terrible, but the other small ones were really nice, Bajo Pampa, Humauaca, and Quiaca. they all had this cute small friendly town atmosphere. we walked towards the bridge that connects the two countries, happy that it would all be finally over.
We had been caught up by a strike in Buenos Aires that delayed us a few days, that means by the time I arrived at the border the papers I had spent so much time and money to make so that we can cross borders with a dog were already expired. but it was kind of worth it, I hadn’t been to buenons aires in a good 12 years and I was happy to walk on the streets I had walked years before, remembering the things that happened there and imagining things that didn’t happen but it would have been cool if they had.
It was kind of shocking to see the contrast between the rich and the poor, I dont think I had ever seen so many homeless people sleeping in the street in any other Argentinian city. it felt a bit like being in India, with all the rubbish on the streets and the dogs eating from it, nevertheless the city was bright, baffling, bursting and beaming with beautiful buildings and begging bums, or maybe it wasn’t maybe I just wanted to use some words that start with a B, either way, I’m glad I went there and took bong gu on a walk around the Palermo park. while we were enjoying the sun and the lake I thought I could probably see myself living here in the future, for like a year top.
We always hear that Buenos Aires is the most dangerous place in Argentina and we have to be careful. not once did I feel in danger though, but it may have helped that I know martial arts, I speak the language, can talk my way out of virtually any situation and I have a kick-ass dog dressed as a police dog always by my side. it also helped to see all these tall blonde tourists looking lost with their cameras and lonely planet books in hand. if somebody were to get robbed it would for sure be them before me.
Back to Bolivia now. to our surprise we found the border was not a real border, people were crossing the footbridge back and forth and there was no one to check on any kind of paperwork for anyone. some were crossing with animals as well. either way, I had already spent more than a hundred dollars on this papers so I looked for some office to show them to someone.
The government officials couldn’t have cared less whether I walked into Bolivia with a dog or an elephant. it was all the same for them. they pointed me to an office called SENASAQ that’s supposed to be like the SENASA in Argentina where they check this kind of papers.
The office looked like it had been closed for years, there was a lock pad securing it from the outside and even spider webs clinging to the window. I ask around to see if someone knows when it would open but people didn’t even know there was an office there. finally, after asking about 10 people someone tells me they will open again Monday. it was Saturday afternoon.
From my first interactions with Bolivian people, I found what other travelers told me about them to be true. they are apathetic and don’t care about you at all. that all sounded great to me, as I really didn’t want to talk to them anyway. I had come here to write a book not to make friends.
Their avoidance of eye contact and monosyllabic answers felt like a breeze of fresh air coming from a place where everyone needs to share and socialize like all the time. it was awesome, people ignored me completely, I might as well have been in laos.
I had also heard a lot about how Bolivia is the cheapest and safest country in South America, so I figured it would be a perfect place for a writer to focus on his work without having to worry about money or people or getting robbed.
When you go to a country for the first time it’s always nice to take a few days to relax in the border town to learn a bit about the local language and how to use their money. So after exchanging money, I walked straight on the main street all the while thinking I would check into the first hotel I find and spend at least half an hour in the toilet.
The name was the ‘center hotel’ because it was located in the city center I assume, so bonus points for creativity. as I walk in, there was a young girl sitting at the front desk, she was staring at the computer screen and didn’t even acknowledged I was there. I greet her and ask her if I can stay here with a little dog. she says yes and hands me a key. just yes, nothing else. it was that easy. in Argentina if I ever wanted to go somewhere with a dog it would have involved at least 10 minutes of negotiations and getting shouted at, after drowning them in paperwork and explaining that there are rules they should follow or I could call the police on them, they would sometimes let me in. here it was just a yes, saving myself a ton worth of stress. and again I would have probably gotten away with bringing an elephant into the room, ok maybe not an elephant but a monkey for sure. Or a decently sized alpaca.
For the looks of it, I’m guessing this was the best hotel in the city, the price 90 bolivianos or about 13 dollars. people told me a hotel would usually cost about 20, so for this price I was expecting the Bolivian equivalent of the Hilton Hotel.
I was wrong, it had running water for only a few hours a day, it had no electricity, not because it was a bad hotel there just wasn’t electricity anywhere in the city, and that was fine, I still have a power bank I can use for the time being. I didn’t really have high expectations in Bolivia anyway but I was somehow expecting electricity.
I had been warned that Bolivian food was the worst food in the region, but I didn’t care either as long as it was cheap. I had plenty of good food in Argentina, so a few months on fresh fruits mainly, would probably not be so bad for me.
Bong Gu is alright, she doesn’t care if it’s Bolivia, or Argentina or China, as long as we are together everything will be fine. or maybe she’s fed up and will run away to become a Bolivian mountain dog or something.
Uyuni, it seems to be the place where everyone wants to go in Bolivia. Do I really want to go there? not really. but I might as well as its very near and we have to be somewhere anyway, so we might as well be in Uyuni. Nothing bad could come out of it. Probably.