Easter Island (Rapa Nui) – Chile
This Marine Corps mantra is well adapted to international travel. Americans have a predilection for planning; we typically want EVERYTHING pre-planned down to the minutest detail. Travel, especially international travel, requires flexibility and patience. Shit happens, things change. Flights get cancelled, buses get delayed, policies & procedures change.
During our travels we’ve made the conscious decision NOT to visit certain countries for different reasons. In Central America it was El Salvador (no compelling attractions presented themselves, a crumbling infrastructure, and an extremely high violent-crime rate all dissuaded us from visiting); in South America we elected to bypass Venezuela for the same reasons (a good decision as it turned out).
Now we’ve made the same decision about Bolivia, but for different reasons. We definitely wanted to visit, especially after seeing photos from our new friends Yuko and Lisa, but the obstacles kept mounting—and that “small inner voice” keeps saying: rethink your plans. Unlike other countries in Latin America, Bolivia requires U.S. citizens to purchase a 30-day travel visa ($135 to $160 usd per person).
To be fair this is a reciprocal arrangement (or retaliation) against the United States for charging Bolivian visitors when they visit the States. I don’t begrudge the money so much, but 30-days just wouldn’t give us enough time to do the things we wanted to do (another trip into the Amazon for instance). We’ve adopted a philosophy of independent slo-travel, and rushing just isn’t part of the game plan.
Bolivia appears to be a hub & spoke kind of country, with everything passing to & from La Paz. I haven’t heard one person praise La Paz (there seems to be general agreement among travellers that La Paz sucks). Bolivia is also the poorest country in South America, although Venezuela may claim that title soon, with poor transportation choices. In other words it’s hard to get around.
Bottom-line we just wouldn’t get a big enough bang-for-our-buck (and we’re on a budget and need to spend our money wisely). I’m sorry we’re going to miss it, I was looking forward to penetrating the Amazon again, and Copacabana (on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca) looked interesting, and visiting the primitive outback with its deserts, salt flats, and hot springs looked pretty amazing.
We have 10-days left on our Peru visit, so it looks like we’ll slowly backtrack through Cusco, Arequipa, and then head to Chile. Chile has the reputation of being the longest country in the world, and there should be plenty to see. We’re going to try to visit Easter Island (Rapa Nui), but it might prove to be beyond our budget—again, we’ll just have to improvise, adapt, and overcome as the situation presents itself.
Chile and Argentina don’t present the same border challenges as Bolivia, so our task should be much simpler and far less frustrating. 90-day visits (with no visa requirement) are the norm, no proof of solvency is required, and no proof of Yellow Fever inoculation is asked for. Infrastructure & transportation are both first class, and there will be plenty to see and experience. On the upside, knocking an anticipated 3-months off our travels will put us back in the USA sooner (for a long overdue visit with family & friends) before we head to Asia.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller
Puno (Lake Titicaca) Peru