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South America 2015

Change of Plans, Big Change of Plans

PERU | Friday, 28 August 2015 | Views [441]

Change of Plans, Big Change of Plans

The plan from Arequipa was to head up to Puno, travel across Lake Titicaca to La Paz in Bolivia, where we would cycle the 'death road' and do a tour of the famous salt lakes in Uyni. Sadly we hadn't done much research and the salt lake timing was looking all wrong. Bad weather, wrong time of year and dodgy tour operators who wouldn't leave until they had 8 people in jeep was not sounding inviting to us. It was also proving very costly to get out of Bolivia due to the high altitude of the airport, at least $500 each to our next stop of Brazil, plus a transfer to Iguazu was looking like another $250. After hours scouring the internet, studying flight paths, reading blogs and earnest discussion we stumbled across cheap direct flights from Arequipa to Iguazu Falls via Lima for a grand total of $300 and it was decided. No Bolivia on this trip anymore. We're off to Brazil instead. Iguazu Falls here we come !
Well, we thought ! Flew from Arequipa no problems, lay over in Lima, no problems, fly to Iguazu, no problems, get to Immigration ....Problems.
All of our travel research prior to the start of the big trip had indicated that we did need a visa for Brazil, it would cost $35 US and we paid at the border, we even got the money changed in advance to have the US dollars ready. So long story short, that has changed, apparently for the last year or so that only applied to borders if you crossed overland and, and even then, it has also changed. The Immigration officials and federal police were all very nice about it, we kept asking where to pay, they kept saying its okay we can get you on the next flight back to Lima. We had already been travelling for 12 hours at this point, not happy. So that was that, they took our bags, left us standing there with no idea what was happening for half an hour, then, two minutes before the last plane out of Iguazu was due to leave, we were shuffled onto the Lima flight straight back to where we came from. Another 4 hours in the air. Gutted.
The biggest downside is that we were landing back in Lima at 1am with no accommodation booked for a bed to sleep in. Lima airport wasn't really helpful either, the smallest of tasks like getting change for a payphone was made so hard, people just refused to help us out in any way (unless they're making money from it themselves, they're not interested). Luckily we had fired off a quick email at the Brazil airport to our previous residence in Lima saying we might be coming back. We eventually got Wifi and found a response saying that the place was full, gutted again, but Marco our host, bless him, had arranged some other accommodation for us with a phone number. It took a few attempts to work the phone and some vague spanglish conversation but eventually we got through and found a room for the night, arriving at about 2:30 in the morning after leaving Arequipa at 7am the previous morning, pretty fair to say we were a bit broken.
So, what next ? Well of course it was Friday night, so the Brazilian Embassy won't open until Monday. Weekend in Lima.... Again. We had already 'done' Lima, twice already, but headed into town for food and a wander around. Did a whole lot of research as to what we would need for this visa. Turns out there is little to no information from either the Brazilian or Australian governments about it. On top of which, the info we did find again turned out to be wrong. The Brazilian authorities in Brazil had told us you just need a stamp, see you tomorrow, it's no problem. Not that easy. We read some blogs that suggested we needed online forms which we found and filled out, then varying reports of bank statements, 3 or 6 months worth, photocopies of credit cards, photos required, signature scans, proof of accommodation, proof of return ticket and general talk of 'it depends what day you go and who you speak to'.
We decided to go all in and spent several hours at an internet cafe, scanning and printing everything mentioned in any blog or website. Got photos taken and we were fully armed for Monday morning, visa by Monday afternoon and back to Brazil on Tuesday, was the new plan.
We had our appointment time and turned up brimming with confidence and armfuls of paperwork, great, except as of today, yes today, a new system is in place and we have to lodge all the paperwork electronically through another website. Back to the internet cafe. They needed photos upload in a certain size and only in Jpeg, a signature uploaded in a different size, only in Jpeg, your application form ( with photo and signature on it ) in PDF, other forms in PDF, passport scans in GIF, aaaaarrrggghhhh. 
Only PDF actually worked on this brand new system, so we changed everything into PDF and hoped for the best. It literally took about 2 hours, it was nearly 1 o'clock, the embassy shuts at 1:30, high tail it in a cab to make it before it shuts. Of course it actually shuts at 12:00 for lunch and doesn't re-open until 3 when you can only pick up documents, not drop them off. Aaaaaarrrgggghhh and expletives.....Try again tomorrow.
We went early as soon as the doors opened at 8am, as our appointment time didn't seem to matter the day before, it didn't matter now either as we went straight in. Today we had a much more helpful assistant in a younger lady. We explained we had lodged everything and that their system didn't work. It was checked and they agreed. We had ticked all the boxes we just had to pay, which you can't do at the embassy, rather at the bank up the road with a payment slip, so off we went to the bank, which didn't open till 9am. Coffee and then pay the bank, back to the Embassy and we got the grumpy old assistant from yesterday. Eventually everything was sorted, he smiled and handed us a piece of paper saying we could check the progress online. Wait I thought we picked these up this afternoon between 3-4 o'clock as the sign states. Nope, the new streamlined computerised system means it now takes up to 5 working days instead of 3 hours ! But it will be ready by the 2nd of September for sure. Today was the 25th of August, our flight out of Brazil is on the 5th of September. More and more Aaaaaarrrggghhhhh and expletives. The young lady assured us they would try and make it quicker, but no guarantees, sorry.
So now... We wait... In Lima..... Again....  Expletive


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