Arrival in Bolivia, Huge Success

When we last saw our intrepid explorers they were screaming through the skies at 450 knots in an attempt to make very tight connection thanks to the MIA pilot in Columbus.

Good news: we made it. The flight attendant was very nice and even announced prior to landing something to the effect of, "If Miami is your final destination or you have already missed your connecting flight (and there are 52 of you), please, please allow the 22 people who are trying to make connections with very little time get up and grab their luggage first. With any luck, they just might make it."

Very quickly that little group of 22 got off the plane and it was like the running of the bulls. We were all running up the jetway and into the terminal. Luckily, our connecting flight was just three gates down from where we were. But, when we got there, the boarding area was empty and the sign with the departure time still said the original time, not the delayed take-off we'd been watching on FlightAware! Oh, no!

I begged the AA agent to see if we can still get on and, lo and behold, we did! He didn't ask for our passports or anything. Didn't even scan our boarding passes. He just ripped off the part he needs and said, "Good luck!" 

At that point we sat on the plane for an hour while the short-staffed grounds crew loaded the bags. Talk about 'hurry up and wait.' We also didn't get our Economy Plus seats because people had already shifted around and the attendant said, "Just find some open spots." Hrmph.

The flight itself was unremarkable. We watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and then tried to sleep. That was nominally successful. Eventually, the sun came up and the Andes came into view and, there it was... we were in Bolivia. Well, over it.

 

This brings us to the Visa. You know, that document I have to get that proves I'm there legally and that I've been agonizing over for the past two months, making 110% sure that I've got everything I could possibly need. Plus some. In duplicate. 

We waited in line to turn in the customs forms so we could then get in another line to submit our visa applications (there were probably 20 of us that needed one, mostly sorority girls taking a trip). When I finally got to the counter the first thing the guy asked for was the money, which I happily produced for him. Then, he asked for the application, my passport, and one of the little photos I brought. At that point he printed my visa into my passport, handed it back to me, and said, "Thanks. All done."

So the full list of things I brought that I didn't need is:

  • Yellow fever vaccination
  • Letter of invitation and photos of the wedding invitation
  • Full itinerary showing flights and dates
  • Copy of my bank statement
  • Copy of my passport
  • Copy of the yellow fever vaccination
  • An extra passport photo

Turns out everything I read online about the process was true: it's really just about getting the money. Whatever, we were through and with our bags! Finally! Walked through the customs screening without even opening them. Guess we didn't look like much of a threat. Went and got new SIM cards for our phones, grabbed a taxi, and away we went to her brother's apartment. The true Bolivian trip starts here.

The airport in La Paz is actually really cool once you get out of the baggage claim area.

The airport in La Paz is actually really cool once you get out of the baggage claim area.

We got to the apartment, hung out with her sister, and had tea and bread with dulce de leche. After that, a nap. I have to say, though, that while the taxi drivers are absolutely insane here, it somehow didn't feel strange or even wrong to come within inches of constantly running people over and hitting other cars. I'll probably talk a bit about Bolivian traffic at some point, but not right now.

The view from the apartment.

The view from the apartment.

We drove up to a food court the size of a mall and I had my first taste of Bolivian fast food: Silpancho. It's a plate of buttery potatoes and rice covered by a thinly beaten disk of beef and topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, and a fried egg. It was absolutely delicious.

Silpancho.

Silpancho.

After eating we headed back to the apartment via what they call a cable car system, but that's not how I would describe it since when I think of "cable car" I think of San Francisco, not being suspended hundreds of feet above the city. Still, the view was gorgeous.

Then my phone bricked. Been in Bolivia for six hours and that's when my phone decides to give up the ghost and start a reboot loop. Yeah, that's buckets of fun, being in a foreign country and having the device you've come to consider a lifeline just go kablooey. 

If they're not breaking down or almost crashing, the buses are pretty neat.

If they're not breaking down or almost crashing, the buses are pretty neat.

Fast forward to a 3 hour bus ride that took 4 hours because, again, traffic in Bolivia is insane. Regardless, finally we got to Oruro and I got to meet the rest of the family. One bowl of chicken soup later and it was snoozeville.