“Are you ready?”, Boca asked. “Never readier”, I replied, feeling that indeed the time to finally get to know this country could be postponed no more. We took a day after Ciculo de Mujeres to pack and arrange our leaving, which proved to be an arrangement to return instead: Carlo was going back to the U.S. over Christmas and we agreed we’ll take care of the lodge for the time he’ll be away, from mid-December to mid-January. It was a very easy decision to make: …
With this in mind, we hit the road on November 14th. We were to take a night bus from Cusco to La Paz, so we went to Cusco in the morning to spend a day with Silviu – he was still with Howard and decided he wouldn’t be joining us in Bolivia this time either, because the time spent with his new master and the things he was learning every day were more important for him at this moment in time. That day we would meet Howard for the first time, and as soon as we arrived at his office we realized why Silviu found it so hard to leave. Boca and I both had the exact same reaction upon entering his office: “I want to stay here!”:). It was not an option at the time, but “mysterious are the ways of the Lord” – we had no idea how this wish would actually come true in the not too distant future.
A book, a wish, a reality
But for now the plan was clear: get on the bus to La Paz at 10pm, and arrive in the Bolivian capital around 10-11am the next day. We wanted to spend all day in Howards’ office because we felt so comfortable there, in peace and harmony. We inspected his library and each immediately found a book that spoke to us. Boca chose “Brida” by Paulo Coelho, a book that Natasha had recommended her almost two years before but she had not had a chance to read until then. I chose a book I had never heard of before, but which brought tears in my eyes before I got to page 2. It’s called “Cusco, the gate to inner wisdom” and is written by Diane Dunn. While reading the first 30 pages there in Howard’s office, tears did not stop flowing down my cheeks, and I did not understand at all the connection and why I resonated so much with the lines read. The book is actually an autobiography – Diane recounts her story of how, like so many others, woke up at some point in her life and realized there has got to be more to it; she was living the life of a successful theater director in America, but she was not happy because… that was not really her life. So she went in search of herself and the life she actually wanted to live. She ended up in South Africa, where she lived for 11 years and worked with homeless people, and then life brought her to Peru. When I shared with Howard my fascination with the book, his response was not one I was expecting: “Diane lives in Pisac [a small town an hour away from Cusco], she’s a good friend of mine. I see her every Tuesday for lunch, I’ll tell her tomorrow what you thought of her book”.
By the time Boca and I finished reading the book we already knew we had to meet Diane before leaving Peru … and, as usual, the universe would conspire to make this happen. But that would come later on 🙂
Cusco to La Paz. At the border, fine and visa
So back to Bolivia, at 10pm we got on the bus and after a very good night sleep we arrived at the border early in the morning. We knew we had overstayed our visa and will have to pay 1USD for each day we stayed extra (about 17), so we hurried to solve everything as quickly as possible. Unfortunately our haste was not reciprocated by the border officer, and we ended up spending more than half an hour for him to realize that we had to pay, then to calculate, then write papers, etc. Of course they had no photocopy machine, so we had to walk to a store across the street to make copies of the papers. When we returned, the man informed us that the fine had to be paid at the bank, and the bank was 10 minutes away. This was already after half an hour and the bus was waiting for us. Hardly able to believe this was not a joke, we asked if there was a way we could pay directly at the border instead. He then informed us on a very serious tone that yes, we can, but we must pay an additional USD 10. From the series’ incredible, but true “, we paid what had to be paid and finally crossed over to the Bolivian side.
On that side there was another surprise waiting for us, but this time an extremely pleasant one. As mentioned before, when I had read on the internet about the procedures for obtaining the visa for Bolivia it all seemed so complex and difficult, so many documents and papers … but from what we heard from Carmen, the visa could be bought at the border not only without documents, but most importantly without headaches either. And that turned out to be my case as well – I was directed towards the appropriate office, I held the USD 140 close to my chest (this was the sum I had been told by all those i had spoken to – most of them Americans, that’ true), as I prepared to separate (not without pain) from it very soon, when the great surprise showed itself in all its splendor! The officer opened his mouth and these words struggled to come out through his strong Bolivian teeth: “USD55”. Almost instantly my heart stopped, tears began swimming through my eyes, fairies came flying across the room, bunnies jumping around my feet, colorful butterflies expressing their happiness with their fluttering … In other words, boy was I crazy happy my visa cost me only a third of what I had anticipated! In other words, I found myself with almost 100 unexpected dollars in my pokeeeeet… It was like a Christmas gift a month too soon. But hey, who was I to complain? Jumping for joy we climbed back on the bus and continued smiling the remaining 4 hours to La Paz.
* Bus Cusco – La Paz – 70 Soles for Cama (Semi-Cama is about 50-55, but strongly recommend the cama because the great rest and comfort are totally worth the extra 7USD)