This is one of those stories that are fun to tell but stressful to experience. It all happened at the 3-country border between Peru, Brazil and Colombia, in the Amazon rainforest.
In November 2017 I traveled from Bolivia to Benjamin Constant, a small town in N-W Brazil, for an indigenous conference, together with 3 Bolivian friends. We flew into Iquitos, Peru and then took a 36 hour boat ride on the Amazon river in order to get to the Brazilian border.
But the chaos unleashed on our way back.
Brazil – Peru
Just like chickens before slaughter, we were enjoying the beauty of the Amazon, unaware of what was about to happen.
We took a small boat and crossed the Amazon river from the Brazilian side to Peru, where we were supposed to take a boat back to Iquitos, and from there fly to Bolivia. We headed straight to the immigration office and SURPRISE! The officer told us we were not allowed into the country because we didn’t have the Brazilian entry and exit stamp.
Yes, we had entered Brazil illegally. Border control in that area is lax, so we were like “whatever!”.
Dumb thing to do!
Peru – Brazil
We didn’t have much extra time, so we desperately rushed back to Brazil and took a taxi to the immigration office. That whole time I was rehearsing conversations in my mind and trying to find the right words to explain the police how and why we spent 3 days as aliens in their country.
The immigration officer didn’t seem to care though. He gave us the in&out stamps and we were free to go.
What a release!
But no, the adventure was not over.
Brazil – Colombia
There was no ATM on the Peruvian side, so while still in Brazil I tried to withdraw money, since we didn’t have cash to pay for our boat tickets back to Iquitos.
SURPRISE, again! I found out my card was not accepted in Brazil, because… I don’t know why. So we went into “somebody-help-me” mode again.
At that point my Bolivian friends crossed back to Peru, while I had to take a boat to Leticia, the closest Colombian town and look for an ATM. It took me around 15 minutes to get there. I obviously didn’t go through immigration (again!) because I was running for dear life!
I have to say Leticia had a very distinct feel and the short, desperate minutes (about 30) I spent there were somehow pleasant. The music on the streets and the people’s accent confirmed that I was in Colombia. And I love Colombian accent.
Colombia – Peru
I withdrew money, felt rich for 5 minutes (Colombian pesos have lots of zeros), exchanged currency and rushed back to Peru.
But no, the torture was not over! The immigration office was closed! We knocked and knocked until the officer re-opened for us and we finally managed to get our entry stamps.
We quickly hopped on two rickshaws and raced to the port on a dark dirt road surrounded by huge grass.
We boarded less than 10 minutes before the set departure time.
Hallelu – yay!!! We could finally breath after 2 hours swimming in adrenaline.
If only we had known the boat was going to leave one hour late…