Panamericana roadtrip memories

| Johan van Rijswijck

The Paso Chungará border crossing between Chile and Bolivia

In 2011 - 2012 I drove the Panamericana Roadtrip together with 83 classic Volvo cars. During this trip we kept track of our experiences, which we later compiled in the book 'Panamericana Roadtrip'. One of my most memorable travel days ever is the border crossing between Chile and Bolivia and that is why I like to share it again on our blog.

D-day, going up in altitude and more than fifty years back in time

On Wednesday, 28 December 2011, we had to cross more than 4600 meters and the highest point was right on the border. A border crossing creates tension for many people. Moreover, it's usually synonymous with endless waiting in crowded rooms with annoyingly slow officials. And if you don't want something at a huge height with a chronic lack of oxygen, it's tension and waiting in crowded spaces, covered with a sauce of light to severe irritation.

In addition, crossing this border equalled a journey back in time. Imagine that somewhere in the Netherlands you draw a line across a street and the moment you step over it, you are in the middle of the poorest part of Romania. To make this party complete, the Chilean Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management had decided to start road works on the last 30 kilometres before the peak a few days before our arrival.

It promised to be an exciting day. Early in the morning we left for Bolivia under the approving eye of local dignitaries. The first kilometres went fine. The higher we got the heavier the cars got. 30 kilometres before the peak the work started. There was no asphalt anymore, only a narrow strip of unpaved road. In the meantime it started snowing softly. The older cars had a really hard time now. They hardly had an eye for the breath taking landscape.

Once at the border everything went far from smoothly. Paperwork, chaos, little oxygen, we had a hard time. Little by little everyone crossed the border and again the landscape was different. We were really back in time and the people looked very different. The road was miraculously good and ran through a spectacular and open, but green mountain landscape like a giant ribbon that had been carelessly thrown down into a more desolate landscape. Oh how beautiful Bolivia is!

By nightfall we reached El Alto, the huge and chaotic suburb of La Paz, not realizing that the devil of the day would be in our tail. The many police escorts couldn't prevent that many of us were stranded in the enormous hectic traffic. In the steep streets brakes overheated and clutch plates burned through. At one o'clock at night everyone was inside, tired empty, but with a suitcase full of stories.

LatinAmeriCar - Exclusive car trips

Based on experiences like this we have created a special series of car journeys, called LatinAmeriCar. During our exclusive car trips you will drive in your own or rental car, with the help of our experienced Dutch, German, English and Spanish speaking guides and an expert technical team. You will travel through the most beautiful continent in the world in a fully catered manner. Adventures you will cherish for the rest of your life!

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Would you like to join us on one of these exclusive car trips? Then take a look at our page of LatinAmeriCar. Do you have questions about a unique journey to Latin America, would you like a tailor made itinerary or would you like to make an appointment at our office? Feel free to contact us. Send an e-mail to or call us on +31 73 610 62 04. We are happy to help.

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