"Train of Death"

Sat, 22 Mar 2008 12:30:52 +0000

And now the story really starts... Index Santa Cruz de la Sierra

...at least, that's what wikitravel calls it. You should expect spelling mistakes in this one, baby.

So now things are finally looking a lot more like what I expected, and why I came on this trip in the first place. It's about having problems, and suffering difficulty, and figuring it all out like a giant logistical jigsaw puzzle.

Luckily, at no point today was I ever short of time. The day's agenda consisted entirely of: breakfast, a spell on the Internet, get to the border, figure out how to get a Bolivian visa, get to Puerto Quijarro, and catch the train at 16:30. There really wasn't anything else to do with the entire day, so I could safely take my time.

Breakfast was the first issue. There wasn't any. This would be the opposite end of the hostel breakfast spectrum from Sao Paulo, and therefore karmically speaking is fair enough. So I went and bought a selection of the meaty-wrapped-up things that are available in town. This one appeared to be egg-based, for a change.

And then Internet. The Internet at the hostel also is AWOL, so I went to an Internet cafe. 3 Reals per hour is not unreasonable. I managed to unblock the queue of blog entries that hadn't been processed (note to self: don't use the Euro sign), but failed to upload the latest ones. I'm going to have to figure out a solution to that. I also fought with T-mobile a bit, since yesterday's fun apparently already used up the EUR20-something I had available. That's about three phone calls of a total of less than five minutes. Worse, T-Mobile is congenitally unable to provide a way to top up a phone from overseas: they have about six different ways to do it, but none of them work. I hate T-Mobile, so it:s probably just as well I can't use them. I did try an ueberweisung from my bank account, which will take a couple of days to go through and may even work. If not, I'm phoneless. Just like the old days.

So then I washed off the sweat in a cold shower (they have electric showers, which I hate, but especially when they only have three settings, two of which are scaldingly hot, and the other is cold), smeared myself with sunscreen and DEET, and headed off to navigate the border.

My main concern was actually finding the immigration office, since I hadn't seen it when I crossed yesterday. But it turned out to be fairly clearly labelled "migracion". The difference is that yesterday I was consciously trying to avoid being stopped, whereas this time I consciously wanted to be. Inside the guy was fairly professional. Unfortunately, I had to have an exit stamp from Brazil before he would let me cross. And that's back in Corumba. Yep, I thought to myself, now it starts.

In retrospect, I should have simply caught the bus back, since there's one an hour and I had plenty of time But then, I didn't know how many rounds of this game were ahead of me, and I had a train to catch. So I stumped up the R$20 for the taxi. He wanted R$30, so at least I retained some dignity there. But taxis are expensive, all the same. I later discovered that you can get a motorbike taxi for just R$9, which also has the advantage of being way exciting, especially wihile wearing a heavy backpack. Next time.

To get the exit stamp, I therefore had to go all the way back to the bus station where I arrived in the first place. Pretty much just a question of handing my passport and entry card to an official looking guy in a little office. Makes me wonder if I could have exited at the same time as arriving.

That left me at the bus station, right on the other end of town from where the buses leave. But what the hell, I was already dirty, so I just walked it through the heat of the day. I should point out that I'm wearing jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, because both lonely planet and wikiitravel told me that otherwise I'd get malaria. There are other tourists here, and to a man they are wearing shorts and light t-shirts. I really have to bear in mind that travel guides are written by lawyers, not people who actually travel to places. Right now, I smell pretty bad, and it ain't going to get better from here.

Anyway, I decided that my strategy of carrying as little cash as possible was stupid, so I took the opportunity to withdraw the generous sum of R$140 for the journey, some of which was for changing to Bolivianos. I'll be back to Brazil to spend the excess. A spot of lunch, and back on the bus to Fronteira.

This time, things went smoothly. I didn't even have to fill in any forms or pay a fee, both of which I was ready for. A 30 day visa just for the asking. You better believe that feels good. An Austrian girl and Swiss guy came in after me, so I chatted a bit in German. Probably would have been better off in English, but I had a need to show I wasn't a complete linguistic dead loss.

So then my friend the taxi driver from yesterday ferried me to the station for R$10, and I discovered that there was a timezone difference I hadn't accounted for, and I had an hour more to wait than I thought. As promised: exotic train station waiting rooms of the world, #1:

And then the train, which at B$115, turned out to be the most luxurious they have. They have three types of trains, and they run on different days, so I was just lucky. It's air-conditioned and the seats recline, and althought it's certainly bumpy, I don't have to change in the middle of the night, so I expect more sleep than I had on the bus. I think wikitravel have a damned cheek.

Mind you, the lady trying to sell me a drink did have to point out this guy trying to crawl onto my shoulder:

And while the TV is of remarkably good quality, and they have DVDs to play, there:s no way to shut it off. I've just sat through the collected works of some latin crooner called Marco Antonio Solis, and then "If Only", oddly enough with an English soundtrack. But there's nothing wrong with the view:

And now the story really starts... Index Santa Cruz de la Sierra