Santa Cruz - La Paz
15.01.2009 28 °C
As we passed the border from Brazil to Bolivia, the problems began to emerge. First of all, our train to Santa Cruz was canceled. We had to stay one night at Hotel Bibosi (in Quijarro) and take the next regional train the next day. The regional train, known as the "tren de la muerte" (the train of death). So we would have to take the train the day after. The "train of death" is described in the Lonely Planet guide as dangerous, with smuggling, animals in the cabin, frequent derailments, among others ... When you read this, we were quite worried, but as I said, it was the only way to reach Santa Cruz
The next day, when you check out the hotel to go take the train, the card system was not working. This caused major problem because we had no Bolivian money, just our debit cards. So Adriana had to go with the hotel choffer to a cashpoint at the border (there were no cashpoints in the town itself). Once at the cashpoint Adriana found that it was closed for maintenance and the other only accepts Visa cards. This was all taking place while I had taken both the bags and ran to the train to wait for Adriana to arrive. After finding that there were no cashpoints and with the train only 10 mins from departing, Adriana went back to the Hotel to tell them there was no way we could pay and that if she waited any langer we would miss the train and have to stay another night in Quijarro. After much discussion they gave her the address of the hotel in Santa Cruz where we could pay once we arrived there. Now with that sorted she asked the choffer to drop her at the station as there was only 5 mins till the train left. He simply replied that it was only four blocks and that she should just run there!! Meanwhile I had made it to the train and was waiting, and waiting. I was so worried as it was the first time we had been seperated since the start of the trip. My heart sank as I heard the train blow its horn to leave.... I thought we had missed it for sure. Suddenly I saw her running round the corner so we picked up the bags and ran for the train, we ran past the guards and threw ourselves onto the moving train just in time!!!
we stood there for a little while breathless and dazed, it was very hot as well so it took a while to take stock of what had just happened.
After all the excitement of getting the train it was nothing like the Lonely Planet had described. Yes, it was fairly basic, but had no chickens, or much less smuggling places. It was simply local people with bagsheading for Santa Cruz, nothing more nothing less.
When we sat down we met this man sitting opposite to us called 'Willy'. He was Bolivian born, but had studied in the United States and had already traveled everywhere you could think of as he had worked for the Hilton chain of hotels. After we talked for 2 hours, he already wanted to open a business with Adriana in tourism. His plan was: Adriana get tourists in Europe and persuade them to go with him on tours in Bolivia, as he was a guide. With the help of a tour operator from Santa Cruz they could corner the market in Bolivia. He began to give us all kinds of contacts and talk about what to do in Bolivia. We spoke also about the political situation in Bolivia. According to what he said, the Americans were ruining everything, because the new government does not want to know the interests of America. The U.S. is funding the right exteme due to oil and possession of land. This conversation lasted a long time!!
In the end, I was very pleased to have chosen the regional train because everything seems so authentic. Throughout the journey by train we had kids (from 6 to 16 + -) selling: water, coca cola, lemonade friaaaaaaaa, biscuits .. and when stopped at the various stations along the way there was ... Chicken with rice and chips, fillet, steak, french fries being cooked by the track. In the end decided to buy a strak Kebab for dinner. We even exchanged our real (Brazilian currency) to Bolivian.
During the night, the train bumped along slowly and gavew little rest (due to the poor seats). However after 22 hours we had survived the train of death! We arrived at Santa Cruz in the morning, found a taxi and went to our hostel. After a short rest we went to explore the city, change money and have lunch. After this we put our clothes to wash.
Santa Cruz is a very nice quiet and relaxed city with a beautiful main square with lots of little shops and bars orbiting it. However our one mistake in Santa Cruz was to book a room that had no real windows or Air conditioning!!!!!!... The room seemed a sauna all the time it was a nightmare.
During the night we decided to call Willy and let him show us around a little bit of the city. At night, the city awakens so the quiet city by day blooms with people by night with little shops and markets appearing, selling everything and anything. We went with Willy to an Irish Pub, Then on to a Cuban bar where we listened to live music. Here Willy continued to speak of the project that he wanted to make with Adriana and that the next day before we left for Patosi, he would take us to see a hostel and go and meet this tour operator. After the bar we went back to the Sauna we called our room for a little bit of rest.
The next day, when we reached the station he was already there to search for the bus to Patosi for us. Sadly Potosi was already full so we decided to go to La Paz right away then from La Paz we would go to Uyuni and then from there into the Salar. After we purchased the ticket, willy insisted we went for breakfast, then After breakfast, Willy wanted to take us to the tour operator to talk about our new business and wanted to show us a hostel for me to recommend to future travelers. To our luck, the tour operator had closed that day, and the hostel was being referbished! After this we said goodbye to Willy and headed to have lunch, and then back to the hostel to prepare for our trip to La Paz!!!