A Stone's Throw

practice your aim. you never know when you'll spy 2 birds at once.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How To Bribe Your Way Across A Border

If the goats on top of the collectivo bus don't eat your luggage, it may be tossed down to you on the dirt streets of Yungori, like it happened to me. After that, if you weren't before, you're on your own. When I thought it'd be a good idea to take the local bus to the border of Bolivia, I hadn't been completely informed that the bus doesn't quite go all the way to the border. It convientantly stops a few miles before.

This is not what you want to hear when you have a 50IBs pack to lug around, lots of documentation, and to the bored locals look like a great place to shop for cheap American products. Hanging out for awhile was not an option.

So I did what I had to in leu of hiking it to the border, I hired a rickshaw. For anyone unfamiliar with this, it's a device that resembles a cart, connected to a bicycle, that is peddled by someone while you sit in front. A grand primitive thing for the rider, an instrument of torture for the peddler. After negotiating a price, I got in with my traveling partner, Karla, and off we went.

It's a great way to travel, if you have the luxery of a rickshaw, but take note not to go anywhere with hills. The first mile was fine. The next found my peddler on foot, pushing us and our bags up a hill. I felt guilty and eventually got out and walked as he pushed. Then we both pushed. Then at the 70 year old man's beckoning, I mounted the bicycle and peddled the rickshaw myself. Until we came to the border.

The border is guarded by two things: 1 - a heavy metal chain with peeling yellow paint and 2 - men with guns. The latter got my attention quickly by pointing at a dodgy building with a dark entry. With two armed men as my escort, I was taken inside. All would have been fine, since Karla spoke spanish, but she was barred from coming with me and the armed men, and soon I found myself in a small cement room as they tore my bags apart. Then they demanded my money. I balked and feigned a lack of comprehension, but they werent buying it and soon my pocket of identification papers and cash was in a pile in front of them. Then with a greasy grin, the head officer plucked a $50 from the pile and told me it was false and they had to confiscate it.

I, naturally, argued the point, but they very calmly (and quite happily) said I couldn't leave the country with fake money. The way they held their hand ontop of their handguns impressed the severity of their words on me and I relinquished the cash.

Then we were let go, to make our way to get exit stamps from the country. At another small blue cement building, we entered and I went first, got my stamp and waited for Karla. Who was denied. The official, a fat lecherous sort-of fellow, said she couldn't leave the country. There was a string of gibberish words that came from him, explaining the impossibility of exiting the country without paying the fees (which there aren't any, legally). He then said it might be possible, but we had to decide.

We walked outside to talk and I was informed that he wanted a bribe, but wouldn't say how much to give him. He said that if we paid him and the soldiers, we could maybe cross. Maybe. If it was enough. Well that was fantastic in a part of the world with no ATMs, banks, and my best bet for bribing, already stolen in the hands of the other soliders. So, have to go to plan B - my backup cash. In hopes no one is watching, I make a quick dash for a small shack selling snacks and pay a sole to use their jon. And there, once relatively safe, I dipped into my portable bank - my shoe. You see, they can steal your bags, your wallet, cameras, passport and papers, but rarely will they steal your shoes. It's simply not polite. So, I'd gotten into the habit of storing reserve cash for exactly this sort of occasion.

With a couple warm bills in hand, I then found my next hurdle. Making change. We had to get change enough for each solider. Approaching the snack shack, I prayed they had enough in the register (or empty cigar box more often than not) for it to work, and bought a couple random items to not look suspicious and made change. Then it was back to give the bribe.

The soldiers were bought off first with a few bills stuck in a passport, and they said to forget the first official and just go quickly, before more soliders showed up. So, shouldering our packs, we high-tailed it up the hill, through the arch that defined the border, and under the stern gaze of the armed guards, we passed through.

And into Bolivia...


  • At 10:26 AM , Anonymous Dad said...

    Reading your adventure of getting out of Peru and into Bolivia, I am reminded once again of why I love the USA!


  • At 7:08 AM , Blogger Patchalito said...

    Wow. It reminds me of life in public high school.

  • At 12:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Wonderful show of human character of all involved.

    Living vicariously through you... Please don't kill me.


  • At 5:57 AM , Blogger Shara said...

    Great Work!!!
    this is a good link you can refer Art Collection

  • At 4:15 PM , Anonymous Jamie said...

    Goog God... when will this stop? Do you have the worst luck or is this simply the norm? I feel like your mom when I say 'be careful'. What an adventure!


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