Our next stop was supposed to be Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
We already had our flights purchased: Salvador to Rio, a four-day layover; Rio to São Paulo, a 12-hour layover; and finally São Paulo to Santa Cruz.
This was the cheapest way to continue our South America route after spending the holidays in Brazil with family.
Little did we know I needed the yellow fever vaccine before entering Bolivia.
When I went to get vaccines in the U.S. before leaving on our trip, the doctor told me I wouldn’t need the yellow fever shot for any of the countries I was visiting. There was also a countrywide shortage of the vaccine so even if I wanted one, I wouldn’t find it in Miami.
However, the yellow fever disease is considered endemic in many states of Brazil. Because of this, we found out I would indeed need the vaccine to enter Bolivia.
So I got the vaccine two days before our flight. It was painless and free at a healthcare center in Rio.
The problem was the vaccine takes 10 days to take effect, meaning you’re not supposed to travel until then.
I received an international vaccination certificate that stated, Valid: Jan. 18, 2018.
But I was due to arrive in Bolivia on Jan. 12.
Nevertheless we packed our bags and headed to the airport on the day of our departure. It’s technically the airline’s responsibility to bar a person from getting on a flight if their documentation is not valid, so we prayed for negligence on their part and a little bit of luck.
The Gol Airlines check-in agent let us through easily without asking for a vaccination certificate. She didn’t even mention yellow fever.
So we successfully passed the first round!
Next, we’d have to face another check-in agent in São Paulo, and then make it past an immigration officer in Bolivia.
I was incredibly nervous! Could I be deported if they caught me?
Flight Canceled: We’re Going To Chile
We’re waiting to board our flight in Rio when we’re told it’s canceled!
Guil and I run over to Gol’s counter to try and get on a new flight, hoping to make our connection in São Paulo the following morning.
Every available option, however, wouldn’t get us there in time to catch our morning flight to Santa Cruz.
Look, I’m not that superstitious… but I took this as a sign. Life was literally telling us not to go straight to Bolivia.
We decided to listen to the universe and avoid any trouble at the Bolivian border.
We went for Plan B.
We asked if Gol could take us to Santiago, Chile, instead. From there we could take a bus up to San Pedro de Atacama, where there are tours available to the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. (The salt flats are the main reason we were traveling to Bolivia.)
The airline agreed! Gol put us on a new flight to a new destination free of charge. The flight to Santiago departed on Jan. 12, so we’d even get an extra day in Rio.
Luckily, Guil and I have the luxury of time. We budgeted for 6 to 8 months of travel, so if something doesn’t go our way, we can always opt for Plan B.
Some would go bonkers with this style of traveling — no concrete plans and a fluid route. I’m not going to lie; it does take some time to adapt to that “go with the flow” kind of lifestyle. But it sure does make for some exciting moments on the road.
So here come, Santiago. Looks like we’ll meet again!