Friday, February 17, 2012

A Few More Bumps in the Road

After so much sight-seeing around Bolivia, Cochabamba was a welcomed break.  We literally did not see a single museum, but we did take the tram up to the Jesus statue.  It is the exact same one as the famous Jesus statue in Rio de Janiero, but this one is actually a tad taller.  Also, similar to the Rio one, it sits at the top of the hill, giving you great view of the city, which is surprisingly huge.  On top of taking Spanish classes, hanging out with my high school classmate Doug and his wife (and two adorable children), experiencing Cochabamba nightlife and cafes, we basically just chilled and figured out our plans for the next couple months and gear ourselves up for Carnival.

This includes WWOFing in Argentina, which we have finalized, yay!  We will be on a small farm/restaurant outside of Buenos Aires starting on Wednesday, February 22.  Now we just had to get down there.  No biggie, we´ll just fly down to Buenos Aireas.   There´s a Bolivian national airline, BOA, with direct flights from Cochabamba to Buenos Aires.  We make our way to the travel agency, and first we find out we can´t book one-way flights to Argentina since we´re not Argentine.  Ok, so we´ll book a filght out and return it.  But then we find out there is not a available single flight to Buenos Aires until February 27.  ANOTHER week in Cochabamba?  And what about WWOOFing?
Slightly disheartened, Sam and I start to figure out the alternatives.  We could take the 15 1/2 train from Oruro (where we will be for Carnival) to Villazon, on the boarder with Argentina, then take a 7 hour bus ride to Salta, and another 17-20 hour bus ride to Buenos Aireas.  Cheaper than flying, but also a loooooong time traveling, so not ideal.  We could just stay in Cochabamba for another week and take more Spanish classes, but we´re itching to move on to the next country.  Finally we figured out we could fly from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz (where we started our time in Bolivia), and from there can fly down to Buenos Aires.  Another bump in the road, but we are going to be in Buenos Aireas on Tuesday!

Got that figured out, now we can focus on Carnival!  Of course we realize Wednesday night (the night before we leave for Oruro) that our receipt says we have 2 nights there, even though we paid for 3.  A very confusing phone call in Spanish via skype on Thursday morning to the travel agency confirms that we do indeed have a room booked for Thursday night.  That´s settled, time to make our way to Oruro.  There are a plethora of bus companies making trips to Oruro, just of course not the ones that Sam´s teacher recommended (at least not for several hours).  So we book the first one we find, which is leave 20 minutes at 1:00 ¨on the dot¨ according to the guy at the desk.  Ha ha, anything leaving on time in Bolivia?  We sat on the stuffy bus for a good 40 minutes before it actually left at 1:30.  We then got some in-bus entertainment, some guy selling some product that translates from Spanish to English as ¨cat claw,¨ which from what I understood is good for arthritis, but smelled pretty funky.

Thankfully another uneventful bus ride and we arrive in Oruro for the second time.  We catch a cab to our lovely accomodations, Residencial Emporador, only to find out that, of course, the man working there has no idea we are coming and there is no reservation for us.  Another phone call to the travel agency to settle the matter again and the confusion is cleared up and we do indeed have a room.  As we wait for them to get it ready for us, the man asks to see our passports, which is standard for checking in.  However, from our experiences, it is also standard to show photocopies.  Knowing this, Sam and I being the nervous types we are and also knowing how many pickpockets there would be, had decided to leave our passports safely in the nice hotel in Cochabamba.  However, the man at Residencial Emporador, would not accept our photocopies.  ¨Where are the originals?¨ ¨In Cochabamba.¨ ¨Well I need to see them, so you need to go to the tourist office in the bus station and have them fill out a form giving you permission to stay here.¨ (Of course, this conversation is all happening in Spanish.)

Begrudingly we return to the bus station and find the tourist office.  Now, it´s not just filling out a form, it´s filling out a form with the tourist police.  Of course he asks to see our original passports, which we have to explain again are in Cochabamba, but thankfully he can fill out this form for us.  He is very nice, but it´s a bit nerve-racking to tell a police officer your passport is in a city 4 1/2 hours away.  As fills out the information, he basically told us not to get in trouble because then he would be responsible for us.  We assured him that we are boring and will not cause any problems.  After that we grabbed dinner as we calmed our nerves, successfully checked into our accomodations, and went to bed at the late hour of 8:30.

And hopefully the next time we write we will have something more exciting to report on, i.e. Carnival!

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