A not-so-disused station, but we didn't get much closer than this!
Where have the last three months gone? It seems that only yesterday we were up in Bermejo renewing our visa. This time we headed up to La Quiaca and crossed into Villazon, Bolivia. It was a terrible journey as the bus wasn't overly comfortable and all the people around us snored loudly all the time (except two people who chatted on their phones with brightly illuminated screens!). That's what MP3 players were invented for eh!! What did we do before they came along?!
We arrived at the border at 7.30am Argentine time, and hour ahead of Bolivian time. Just as we got to the Argentine police window, the cleaner arrived, and the window was closed in our faces! We had to wait about half an hour for the border guard to have his mate and for the cleaner to finish. It was far too cold for hanging around like that!! Eventually we had our exit stamp for Argentina and walked over the International bridge to the Bolivian immigration office.
We didn't want to stay overnight but Bolivian immigration insist on a 24 hour stay before they will stamp your exit visa. I guess it's so that you spend at
The line used to go into Argentina by the looks of it.
least some money over there. Oh well, at least it was cheap!
Villazon isn't a pretty town, but then again, nowhere along the Argentina/Bolivia border is! Knowing it was going to be a cold night we tried to find a hotel or hostel with heating. That is NOT possible in Villazon! We ended up in the hostel overlooking the plaza. It was comfortable enough and for 80 Bolivianos (about 10 US dollars) we had a bed at 7.30 am so we could sleep off the overnight bus journey. First though was a quest to find breakfast as we were starving. Near the bus station we found a cafe who eventually served us coffee and a sandwich as they had nothing else available. The price was 10 Bs and I could only offer a 50B note. Small change is a particular problem in Bolivia and the young girl serving us went out several times to try and find change. I would have thought that two 20B notes would have been easy change. The exchange rate she was offering for Argentine Pesos was about 25% out in her favour! A war of attrition ensued and twenty minutes later she reluctantly took
But not for swimming!
our 4 pesos, despite wanting 5. It simply wasn't good enough food to give in over that one peso!!!!
We called in at the market on our way back for a snooze. There we found some lovely salteñas to supplement our breakfast. We took them back to our room and devoured them before getting some sleep.
Next came the purpose of our trip to Villazon (ok, the real purpose was the visa) - shopping! Most people buy cheap blankets or electrical goods in Bolivia. Here's what we got!
- individual sachets of Nescafe - great for travelling with
- Windsor Trimate Tea at a fraction of the price it is available in Salta
- Oreo Biscuits in small packs of 4. Bigger packs and we eat the lot, but we have only found these packs in Bolivia.
Is that a sad shopping list? We couldn't find the Tequila Russ was looking for though!
Lunch was at the market and the pollo picante
was lovely. There was lots of chicken on it and it was perfectly spiced without blowing your head off. Eating in the markets is a cheap but good way of satisfying your hunger in Bolivia.
After that it was time for another snooze! Then
We thought this must be a terrifying sight for the kids, but they were not afraid!
we went out to explore the sights (!) of Villazon. Our friend Natalie hadn't thought much of it here either! (Flexibility is a Plus
) We got told off for walking up the railway tracks towards the station. It may look disused but there are departures to Tupiza a few times a week. Still, the guy asked us very politely to leave, so we decided not to play the gringo card (que? I don't speak Spanish!) and left quietly.
We did some great sights though. The outdoor pool had nothing to do with swimming. There were loads of people playing on pool tables outside. We also saw the dinosaur park which is surely designed to terrify the kids who visit to slide down the dinosaurs back. it seemed very high to us!! The sun came out and we sat people-watching for the rest of the afternoon. The women in traditional dress are great to observe but I abided by their requests not to be photographed, unlike many tourists.
After another snooze (the journey and the altitude really did take it out of us!) we had a pizza for dinner and heard the cumbia music thumping through the walls from next door. We
Men wait for the buses to arrive then transport the baggage 1km to the border with these trollies.
decided not to go into that nightclub and had an early night instead!
The following morning it was bitter cold outside but we made for the border as quickly as possible. Even so, we had an hours wait to reach the Argentine immigration window. We got chatting to the German and Dutch guys in front of us which passed the time. Finally, we were back in La Quiaca!
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