The border at Desaguadero, between Peru and Bolivia, was the definition of insanity. At 7am, I was woken up by the driver of my overnight bus shouting “Caminar! Caminar a la aduana!”
I grabbed my passport and immigration documents, shoved my feet into my boots, and stumbled out into the middle of a marketplace. It wasn’t one of those clean(ish) tourist markets. It was a genuine chaotic cesspool of strange food, cheap plastic crap, and tiny cholitas with giant loads on their backs pushing you out of their ways. People were shouting at me to buy all sorts of things that I’m not sure why I should ever want, and my sense of smell boarded a tilt-a-whirl, suddenly taking up way more of my consciousness than I’m used to. This classic South American phenomenon is a sensory overload even if you’ve had time to chill and have a cup of coffee before actively deciding to put yourself in the situation.
There were a few people on my bus who didn’t seem to be weirded out by this, so I tried to follow them, but almost straight away, they disappeared into the sea of people. Plan B was to just walk, because it wasn’t like I was just going to miss customs. I walked and walked, right over a bridge with a man hocking jeggings in between Peruvian and Bolivian flags. I wandered into Bolivia with my passport in my hand, dodging the people driving bicycle carts who whistled and yelled “Move Gringo!” at me. Eventually the road turned from rough pavement with piles of empanadas everywhere to dirt with piles of more dirt everywhere. At that point, I figured that I had definitely missed customs, so I went back. Read More »