Monday, 7 September 2009

Getting to Bolivia, 31 August to 2 September

When I was in Salta in Argentina a guy scoffed in my face when I told him I was planning on going from Brazil into Bolivia. ´You´ve got a helluva lot of jungle to get through on that journey!´ He made it sound like a journey impossible, but I looked it up in the LP and it seemed to be possible, not the easiest with the LP´s vague notes on the journey but possible.

When i was in Rio i had begun to think about my passage from Brazil to Bolivia. The LP wrote of a Death Train that could be taken from the border to the city of Santa Cruz. It was all a bit vague about when the train left, how to cross the border and get visa stamps etc. Blogs online couldn´t shed much light on the journey either. I looked up flights to Bolivia on the internet but they seemed really expensive. Oh stuff it I decided. I was going to find my own way into Bolivia and on to the death train, it wasn´t going to be easy, but it was going to be an adventure that would put my Portugenese and my travellers´ patience to the test.

My bus was due to leave Sao Paulo at 17.00 for the town of Corumba in the heart of the Brazilian Pantanal and right next to the Bolivian border. At 18.30 the bus which had started from Rio finally arrived at Sao Paulo. From Sao Paulo the bus was a direct 22 hours to Corumba.

Time actually went past very quickly, very quickly indeed and before I knew it was 2pm on the first day of September and I was driving through the Pantanal! It was a very cool journey. I only saw a stork, but the landsacpe all around was beautifully stunning.

For the whole journey I was weighing up in my mind what i should do. I knew that tickets for the death train went on sale at 8am the morning of travel, and that tickets were frequently booked up. I also knew from the LP that the town of Quijarro in Bolivia was little more than a few shacks and a train station. I couldn´t decide whether to stay the night in Corumba and then go the next day over to Bolivia.

I got off the bus still unsure of my next plan. I was ushered by a Peruvian guy I made friends with on the bus to the immigration office. I got my passport stamped and the exit stamp was valid for 5 days. Perfect I though, i can now go over to Bolivia and see if I can get on the train, if i can´t then i can return back to Brazil and stay the night in Corumba (i figured that I wouldn´t be able to find accomodation on the Bolivian side if it was little more than a few shacks.)

As I waited in the queue a tour operator collared me and tried to sell me an overpriced ticket for the train that evening. I declined. I had my 5 day grace with my exit stamp and I jumped on a mototaxi to the border. I went thru bolivian immigration and i was in bolivia. I then had to get a taxi to the train station in Quijarro. Driving through Quijarr I was shocked. There weren´t any shacks. Ther were loads of hostels and internet cafes. SO even if i couldn´t get on the train I wouyldnt need to go back to Brazil. Awesome!

I reached the ticket office and there were still several tickets left for that evning´s death train. I quickly bough a ticket and was ecstatic. I had come from Brazil and was now in Bolivia. In actualy fact it had been pretty easy and not quite the challenge I anticipated, but I didn´t care, I was in Bolivia and about to board the Death Train.

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