May 7, 2006
For the second day in a row, Craig and I rode on a bus all day. We stopped at the immigration center at someplace seemingly in the middle of nowhere at 3:00 AM. Once again, I was harassed because my visa was good for nine years. Everyone who has looked at my passport since entering Paraguay has questioned my visa's validity, but nobody has given me any real trouble about it so far.
We got near the border with Bolivia sometime this morning. At one point, we made a stop and about ten members of the Bolivian Army got on board. At first I thought they were going to search the whole bus, but they just needed a ride up the road. Upon entering Bolivia, I got my entrance stamp on my passport. For some reason, Bolivia only gives tourists thirty days to visit the country instead of the usual ninety that every other country gives. I planned on staying in Bolivia for more than a month, so I nicely asked for ninety days instead, but was told that I'd have to go to the immigration center in Santa Cruz to get the extension. It's crazy how much effort I have to exert just so I can spend my tourist dollars in certain countries. At least I didn't have to buy a visa for Bolivia.
Once we got into Bolivia, we crossed military checkpoints every hour or so. People constantly boarded the bus and looked for drugs. At times, the terrain resembled a war zone, which made sense because Bolivia has fought and lost two wars against Paraguay in recent history. They seem to be on pretty good terms now, but drug smuggling still appears to be an issue.
Today's bus ride seemed to drag on for three years. We were on gravel roads almost the entire way, and we had to crawl over several sections because they were so littered with potholes. Thirty-two straight hours on a bus took their toll on me. By the end of the trip, my legs felt so atrophied, I could barely walk. I didn't have the energy do do anything but sit and stare at the blank TV screen in front of me that never played any movies.
When we got to Santa Cruz, Craig and I checked into the first hotel we could find near the bus station. Our bus couldn't actually enter the bus station, though, because it was closed due to protests. Instead, we stopped in what appeared to be some random parking lot and were given instructions on how to walk to the bus station. We got some dinner and crashed almost immediately.