Leaving Bolivia Via Tarija.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Where I stayed
Hostal Carmen

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, January 2, 2011

"Breakfast is at 7.30 if you please" read the note handed to us by a very harried and stressed looking Bolivian young lad. The funny thing was that it had taken him ten minutes to, firstly, try to tell us in Spanish, then, when that did not work, turn his computer on, go into “google translate” and write out the message and give it to us. He could have been getting the breakfast ready instead of stressing about how to tell us we were slightly early at 7.15 am!

We are in Tareja (pronounced Tariqa), a southern city on the Bolivian map that does not really rate as a place for foreigners to visit. This is surprising as it is where Bolivian wines, which are quite good, are made. The area is picturesque, with vineyards, stone fruits and a backdrop of mountains. It could be quite a tourist attraction -  if they wanted it to be, and they do not.

We had bought our flight ticket from La Paz to Tareja at the height of the political troubles regarding the new gasoline tax on New Year’s Eve. With massive transport strikes looming, we would not be able to get around or out of Bolivia in the time frame we needed. A travel agent suggested flying to Tareja, then busing it in to Argentina. To our dismay, though, the president backed down on New Year’s Day, putting an end to the riots, but our tickets were bought so our plan was now set to travel to Tareja.

Our plane was full of noisy happy Bolivians (except some who had excess luggage issues having a barney with check in staff!) going home after New Year, loaded up with presents and shopping and happy that the gasolina crisis was over. Not a foreigner is in sight. We only had the name and address of a Hostel to give to a cab driver, but he seemed to understand and we headed off. We noted as we drove along where the bus station was, but as we continued on realized, unfortunately it was going to be quite a way from where we would be staying. 

Notebook in hand, with Spanish for “Please a room with a matrimonial bed and bathroom” we went into the hostel the taxi dropped us off at, only to be met with head shakes and pointing across the street to a Hotel. We approached the flustered male receptionist, who could not believe his bad luck, having to deal with some foreigners! He showed us a room four flights of stairs up and wrote the price of 280 bols (around $40) and we said OK, but then he seemed to have a long conversation on the phone (maybe with the owner) and indicated that it would be a different room on the ground floor. It did not have an external window and while it would be fine for the night, I asked by writing down, if we could have it for 250 bols – after all it was a lesser quality room! This caused another phone call and at this point a lady and man came in and asked in broken English if we needed help. It turns out they were some type of relatives of the owner, visiting for Christmas, and spoke some English.  They translated to make sure the receptionist understood and told us that, yes we could have a room for 250 bols but it would be a different one again.

As we climbed four flights of stairs to our newly allocated room we had to laugh, I had saved the princely sum of $4.50 and given us more stair climbing!

We went straight out again, for a walk, to see what sort of a place Tarija is. It appears quite affluent by Bolivian standards, with lots of Christmas decorations in the streets and parks and late model cars cruising the streets (think Frankie Holdens, Newcastle song). We worked out the general direction we had come in from the airport and started walking to see if we could get to the bus station, so we could buy a ticket for the next day’s travel. After about an hour and no bus station in sight we hailed a passing cab. He seemed a bit incredulous and we could see why when only about another 400 metres further there was the bus station!

Bus stations are quite horrible places as a rule and this was no different. Spruikers yelling out destinations, beggars lying next to doorways, engine noises, fumes and lots of harried people of all shapes and sizes toting plastic stripey bags, to make it the standard bus station. We went from sales booth to sales booth trying to work out if we could get a bus direct into Salta, Argentina our next destination. Many booths were shut being Sunday and the end of the New Year, so we decided to get to the station early the next morning and hence our early start that prompted the breakfast time stress in our hotel.

Once again at the bus station, we found a company advertising Flechta Bus, a well known Argentine bus line and a service to get us to Salta, that would involve a shared taxi for the three hour trip to the border and then a bus. Tickets bought, we settled in to wait until departure time of 12 noon.
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