October 18, San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina
We head north along the high Andean plateau, or puna,
And pass through Abra Pampa, at nearly 3500 metres, our highest altitude so far. Abra Pampa was originally called Siberia Argentina because of the intense cold of the winters.
We arrive at La Quiaca, with the intention of crossing into Bolivia. At the gas station we hear that the border is closed. Bolivians have organized a protest against their government, and have closed the highway at the border. So we take up residence at the gas station and wait and see if things can be resolved.
We entertain ourselves taking pictures of the locale.
And making friends with some. The shoeshine boy proudly displays the Canada pin we gave him and brings his brother along for one.
We get advice from a local on how to sneak across the border on a back road. “No problem, I do it all the time.” (We decide to pass on an illegal border crossing.)
And chat to an Argentinean national policeman, who didn’t seem to have a very high opinion of Bolivians in general.
The Bolivians are blocking the road at the other end of the bridge.
Afraid of violence, the Argentinean border guards instructed us not to approach the Bolivians. However, we eventually decided to go over and talk to them anyway. They told us they were protesting the fact that the road north from this point to Potosi was not paved. All they got from the government was promises. We’d have been happy to support that protest.
Bolivia has a long history of civilian protests again the right-wing elitist government, which has done little in the past to improve the lot of the majority of Bolivians who live in poverty. This was just two months before the presidential elections, in which the left-wing labour leader Evo Morales was running, and feelings were running high.
The Bolivians were very pleasant and earnest, but the Argentinean border guards were getting antsy, so we said goodbye.
And went back to the gas station while Mauricio went to talk to the Bolivian consulate in La Quiaca.
The consulate advised us to wait an hour or so.
So we waited.
And waited—several hours in all.
Eventually the consulate suggested we retrace our steps back to San Salvador de Jujuy, stay the night, and enter Bolivia via another route. They told us that the road was all paved. So that is what we did.