Crossing the Border Part 3: Bermejo to Tarija, Bolivia

This wraps up the story of our border crossing from Argentina to Bolivia. See here for Part 1 and Part 2.

There may not have been toilets, but there were taxis lined up in front of the immigration office. Jared and I jumped in the backseat of the first one in line. A woman got in the front. A man got in next to Jared.

Shared taxis are common in Bolivia, so it didn’t matter. We were only going to the bus station in Bermejo, the border town – about 10 minutes away.

Both of the other passengers got off at random street corners, where there appeared to be nothing but boarded up buildings and chickens. The taxi driver pulled up at the terminal and parked in front of La Veloz, a company that offers shared car services to Tarija.

Which, conveniently, was where we were going.

The men from La Veloz tried to take our bags, tried to usher us to the desk, tried to do everything but leave me alone and give me space.

“Baño,” I said.

They pointed across the parking lot to a public toilet at the terminal. I left my bag with Jared and raced awkwardly to the building, knees pinned together to prevent an accident.

When I left the toilets, which were filthy, the bathroom attendant called after me.

“Amiga.” I ignored her. “Amiga.”

Reluctantly, I turned. She tried to elicit money from me for the bathroom services, but I had nothing. I ran away in shame while she shouted angrily at my back.

We booked the car service and I was hustled in the taxi while Jared took his turn in the bathroom. The car had three rows of seating: one for the driver and a passenger, the middle seat, and the back seat. There was already someone in the front, someone in the middle, and someone in the back.

I got in the middle, hoping that the guy next to me would offer to move to the back when Jared appeared.

Taxi to Tarija
Our luxury ride.

He didn’t. We sat, three deep, in the middle, the whole way to Tarija.

I know this might not sound like a big deal, and it’s certainly a first-world problem. But it seemed so illogical to me. Three grown adults, pressed knee-to-knee in the middle seat, while one guy took up the whole back.

I had the privileged middle position, which was headrest-free and caused me to crush Jared on my left and the stranger on my right every time the car turned sharply. The three-hour drive up the mountain was mostly curves, so me and the stranger got pretty close.

So close, in fact, that when he fell asleep, he did so on my arm and shoulder. I careened sharply to the right in an effort to force him back to the window, but he was persistent. My shoulder it was. It was about then that I started wishing we were the kind of people who took luxury holidays.

I was so miserable, tired, and hungry, that I gave up. I sat, squished between them, waiting and hoping for it to be over.

When we got to Tarija, the guy in the front seat asked the driver to stop at the outskirts. When he did, both the front seat passenger and the kid next to me jumped out.

I was outraged. They were friends! They could have been sitting together in the back, me and Jared in the middle, and the solo passenger in the front.

But this is Bolivia, where I’m quickly learning things don’t always almost never work the way you think they should.

But we dance anyway.

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  1. I really don’t get your complaint about the guy in the middle. If you were concerned about being squished, one of YOU should have moved, not the guy who was there first.

    That aside, this has been a useful read. Thanks.

    1. Yeah that would have been a logical option – though by that stage of the border crossing my logic was in short supply. Hope you have a smooth crossing if you’re headed that way!

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