Goodbye Cold and Rain: Crossing into Argentina
I had one of my earliest ever starts the day I left Bolivia. I woke up at 6am and was on the bike and out the door by 7am. A stop for gas and to post some postcards, then I was on my way back towards Potosi.
I didn’t even stop in Potosi, just turned South and sped towards Argentina.
The boys had put Jordon and Frank on a bus the previous evening.
They were also heading towards Argentina, so I knew I was likely to see the gang at the border. In fact I caught up with them sooner than that. Just after Tupiza I saw Josh, Alan, Arun and a stranger on a BMW pulled up at a gas station. The stranger turned out to be Andre, a Dutch guy that had also been in Cusco.
Apparently moments earlier 64 year old Alan had lay down in front of the gas pump in protest to them not wanting to sell him gas. Arun had then sweet talked the lady into giving them gas at the local rate! I didn’t need to fill up, but not one to pass up a bargain, I took as much as I could after they had all filled their tanks.
We were soon at the Villazon border crossing into Argentina. We parked behind two familiar BMWs. It was the Dutchbags. They had been there for five hours, and were just finishing the crossing process.
We took a deep breath, and headed towards the long queues of people.
First was the window on the left. This is where you need to get your bike stamped out of Bolivia. You need a photocopy of your import document. While I stood in this line with Andre and Arun, the others went across the road to the Bolivian immigration line, where they managed to get all of our passports stamped out of Bolivia without any trouble.
The longest line was to enter Argentina. Josh and Alan joined this line with our passports while we were still waiting to get our bikes out of Bolivia. Once we actually got to the window, the man stamped our papers out very quickly. Josh and Alan hadn’t moved much, so after speaking to a few official looking people and figuring out our next step, I went over to the right hand side of the customs building to get everyone numbers. You see one needs a number, to join the queue to get vehicles imported into Argentina. I got five numbers and returned to the Argentinian immigration queue, where it seemed like Josh and Alan hadn’t even moved!
We all took turns standing in that queue, I’m sure in total we were in it for over an hour. When we finally made it to the window, the ladies inside took their sweet time typing all our information into their computers, and were particularly interested in the fact that we were all on motorcycles. As they finished each person’s passport, I handed them a number, and told them to head over to the door with the Christmas tree on the other building.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the correct door, that was the place where I had been given the numbers, the correct door was the door to the left in the middle.
By sending them to the wrong door, somehow Arun managed to get himself stamped OUT of Argentina. This after we had just spent so long in line waiting to get stamped in! As soon as he realised, Arun went back to the guy and got another stamp in.
I was worried that we had missed our spot in the customs line by being at immigration for so long, but I needn’t have worried, we had numbers 50-54 and they were only on number 46 when I got over there.
Josh headed over to a money changer to get some Argentinian Pesos. The word on the biker circuit was that we needed to bring lots of American Dollars with us to Argentina, because you could get 50% more pesos than the official rate on the black market. This turns out to be absolutely true, and Josh came back with a fist full of Pesos.
More waiting, and then eventually we each got our turn to have import documents issued for our bikes. We got through the border relatively quickly, because we had people standing in all the queues at once. If you did it on your own, standing in each line in order, it would have taken twice as long.
Three hours after arriving, we were finally able to leave Bolivia behind, and enter Argentina.
We found a hotel with a room for the five of us in the border town of La Quiaca. It turned out the Dutchbags had found the same hotel, so there were a lot of bikes in the parking lot!
We had a very disappointing dinner that evening. Plain chicken with fries, when we thought we were getting something much nicer, so much for delicious Argentinian food!
The guys found a bakery with nice coffee for breakfast and then we were off, on a mission to get to Salta!