Man vs Nature: Nature 1 Man 0


Southern Blackbirds create a big, liquid sound. They also like to tap at reflections in mirrors and window panes, and sing to them, which is how we ended up with a blackbird sitting on our window sill, singing its loudest, starting at 5:30 am. It would not be shooed away. After all, we already covered the external mirror on the car with a plastic bag so that the bird(s) would not perch there to admire themselves and leave drips. Jonathan created a mobile of old cds that seems to have worked in keeping the bird away. The blackbirds still sing, but not quite so nearby.


Packing–Day 1


What do you take when you have an entire car full of space? Start with safety, blankets in case we get stranded, follow with comfort, our pillows, and toilet paper. Who knows what toilet paper lurks in other countries?!

This trip requires clothing for warm weather (coast of Peru, coast of Chile, Argentina) where daily highs are in the 80s and lows in the 60s (F); clothes for cold weather (Bolivia, Ushuaia) where daily highs are in the 50s and lows around 35 at night. Jackets, vests, shoes, socks, gloves, hats as well as shorts, sandals, short sleeved shirts. There are subtle considerations, too. Will we cross the borders faster with less luggage or will we inspire suspicion?


SO, you want to visit Bolivia? Argentina? Chile? AND, you have an auto?


We’ll see about that! With this friendly attitude, warning you that without every possible paper in order you will undoubtedly be delayed, fined (legally or illegally) or turned back from the border, we embark on finding out what it takes to go from country to country.

We now have an expanding file full of potential necessary documents. Copies of each passport photo page and the page with the entry stamp. Copies of our car insurance, ownership document and “revision tecnica”. Very little for Chile thus far, as it’s the last stop on the trip.

BOLIVIA: We were hoping to get our visas for Bolivia in advance, but the consulate in Lima doesn’t answer either its phone or its email. There’s always next week before we leave. Here’s what the Bolivian embassy in Lima has to say. The English is not bad and you can fill in the bumps in the translation pretty easily.

Tourism Visa for American citizens

The American citizens, who wish a tourism visa to visit Bolivia, will be able to appear personally to the Consulates of the State Plurinacional in Peru accompanying the following documents:

  1. Passport with minimal force of six months.
  2. Sworn statement of request of visa, due filled.
  3. Current Photography updated in colors 5×4 without lenses.
  4. Hotel Reservation or invitation letter to Bolivia .
  5. Exhibit round trip ticket to Bolivia, or return ticket to the native land.
  6. Trip itinerary.
  7. Economic Solvency (card of credit or bank updated extract).
  8. Certificate of vaccine against the yellow fever. (Only and when the person who requests the visa is going to visit the Bolivian jungle).

Checked the documentation and being in the same conformity, previous payment of the consular corresponding rate will issue the visa.


What they don’t mention until the end is that the reciprocity fee for Bolivia is $135 per person. It has to be paid into an account at a particular bank, but the web page does not tell you either the bank or the account number.

Yes, you can get a Bolivian visa at the border in Desaguadero, described as “unsavory” in the kindest reviews, with lots of ways people try to extract money from you as you cross the border. Knowing what is required and having it in hand would be the best way, but may not be possible. For example, the web site clearly says that the yellow fever shot is only required for people planning to visit the jungle. Apparently, the border folks have not gotten that memo and it is a popular way to extract money, by insisting that without a yellow fever shot a visitor must turn back or pay…

ARGENTINA: Compared to Bolivia, this one is easy. You need all the car information, and a receipt for the reciprocity fee $160 that can be paid on line.

CHILE: Two or three years ago, we arrived in Santiago for a brief visit and were bowled over by the $150 per person reciprocity fee. Fortunately for Jonathan, it lasts as long as your passport, but I just got a new one. Fortunately for me, Chile just dropped the reciprocity fee entirely! Yay, Chile!




There’s Diamox to help with the altitude going into Bolivia, over 3500m. We have Pepto-bismol, anti-diarrhea pills and two courses of Cipro in case of bad stomach trouble, plus the usual vitamins and tylenol. To get into Bolivia, you need proof of a yellow fever vaccination. I had one over 40 years ago, but my proof of vaccination is in a file box in the US, so we went to the Barranca Hospital at 11:45 am to see whether they had any doses left after treating children, who are the first priority. Usually, children are only vaccinated for yellow fever if they are going to the Amazon and Barranca gets 10 doses on Fridays. In fact, it took longer to get the certificate than the shot, and it was a remarkably short wait considering the bustling corridors of the hospital.


Planning a two-month circuit of central South America takes a lot of planning and the closer we get to leaving, the more we find to do. Part of the reason we decided to visit some of the places we haven’t been is because we own a 4 x 4 vehicle–why not take advantage of it to travel?

Great idea, but now the list of things to check:

Tires, 2 new. Belts replaced, fluids replaced, spare fluids (oil, radiator, brakes)
Jack, safety triangles (required in Peru and possibly countries), special nut lock needed to remove tires; we also have a bumper jack that we hope never to use.
Wiper blades, new windshield squirters (the others squirted all over but not on the windows).
Get the rear window fixed so it will go up and down. Get the running board fixed from being badly bent during a blowout on the highway (Scary).
Car insurance for the countries to be visited. Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Peru require proof of ownership, insurance and inspection to cross borders. A copy of the Peruvian “revision tecnica” from the annual required inspection, should do it. At the border you stand in line and get a paper stamped five times and you’re good to go. DSCN2517ver1

There are some humorous and sometimes not so humorous stories of crossing the various borders.

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