As previously discussed, crossing borders is always a tricky event, especially when you have 670 km to drive afterwards to the destination. Liz Wenman (David’s wife) greeted us with an empty parking lot about 7:30, 30 minutes before the border was scheduled to open. All was organized, there was a plan in place and things were looking good. The first five cars (by number) were sent ahead and the rest of us thought we would proceed shortly. WRONG!
Additional cars arrived but no one move forward. Then we learned that our passports were being processed in bulk to exit Brazil. Still nothing happened, passports were returned but no one moved. The next story was that the Brazilian customs officials were trying to decide if they were going to search everyone’s luggage. Exiting a country? Perhaps they thought we were stealing national treasures. In any event, it took about three hours to exit Brazil – something that should have taken about 45 minutes for everyone.
Next stop and log jam – the entry into Bolivia. The building looked attractive and very busy with people coming and going to and from Brazil / Bolivia. The selection process of who was next to be processed was very interesting – 3 locals, 5 locals, 4 special people, 2 of us. Repeat until frustration levels began to escalate which then became compounded by some of our own people believing they should be processed first.
Our group was on the right and I can assure you there were not a lot of happy faces in that line. I was fortunate to make it through passport control just before the lunch break – from 12:00 till 2:00 (they work so hard they need their rest). This picture was taken after the return at 2:00 so these guys were really happy – the line was much longer (and had several entry points) earlier. The line on the left of the door in the middle was for other people entering the country – I can assure you they had priority.
After we got the people processed, the cars were next. This broken down shack was the central processing facility for all vehicles. Counting organization vehicles, we must have had close to 50 vehicles which had to be input to some remote system. Unfortunately, the internet would go down, then the computers would crash, then it was time for lunch, then locals would go right to the front of the line. Sounds like fun, a real test of one’s patience.
Not to be denied, we finally obtained all the correct stamps, forms, and other paperwork by 4:30pm. A late start, reminiscent of our crossing from Mongolia into Russia. But who cared, we were at last on our way. It did not take long for us to realize we would be traveling at night and that we would be sharing the roadway with these rather large ladies. Sorry about the quality of the picture – it was taken through a dirty windshield. After our sheep incident on P to P, we were not keen to have any replays with these even larger adversaries.
As beautiful as Brazil’s countryside was, Bolivia was a great disappointment, perhaps because nightfall came so quickly. The road, very fortunately, was just great so we could make excellent time. We did stop along the way to help one of the other competitors change a flat tire, their second of the day. While we started out believing that we could reach our destination on the fuel we were carrying (40 US galleons), our consumption seemed to indicate otherwise. We arrived at the only fuel stop between Corumba and Santa Cruz just after they had closed (of course they did tell us they had run out of fuel and to come back at 8:00 am when they would have more fuel – amazing, overnight refueling). As Lloyd put it, we now went into “Mobile Economy Run” mode, slowed way down to stretch our fuel and proceeded with crossed fingers. We did get stopped by a police check along the way and “fined” 100 BOB (about $14) for nothing that we could tell, gave them some pictures of the car and went on our way. Oh, I almost forgot, the sunset was just beautiful – almost blinded us for about a kilometer.
We did arrive at our beautiful hotel in Santa Cruz safe and sound about 1:00 am. At arrival, we probably had less than 1 gallon of gas left in the tank. But we were lucky, some didn’t make it which left the sweeping crews with big problems. The major delays at the border took a toll on the later cars to leave (us included) as the fuel stations (not all gas stations can sell to foreigners, they need a special license to do so) were hundreds of kilometers apart and by the time we reached them, they were closed.
I’m sure this will cause some rescheduling issues in the morning. As a side note, I had no cell service from the border to Santa Cruz some 660 km and still have none – it makes calling for help a difficult proposition. Fortunately, we do have a satellite phone with us. Very late and I must quit.