After a great time in the Pantanal, we took a bus to Corumba for a couple of days so that we could regroup and get ready for Bolivia and organise our transport to Santa Cruz . Also, immigration was closed for 2 days which made crossing into Bolivia impossible. While we were in the Pantanal lots of people who had been going in the other direction had told us about the Death Train between the Bolivian Border and Santa Cruz.
We spent 4 days in Corumba relaxing and planning what we were going to do next in Bolivia. We stayed in a small hostel which was the home of a local, and it only cost 20 Real’s. Its very hard to find but you could be lucky if you ask at the information desk at the bus station.
The day before we planned to get the death train we wanted to go and buy our tickets from the train station in Quijjarro. This meant we had to take the bus from the local bus station to the border where you have to walk across the border and get a visa. Unfortunately, we had planned to get our visas so that it saved doing it the next day, but when we arrived we found out that for the last 2 days the visa office had been closed because the computer was down so we couldn’t get visas and also the train station office had shut. Wasted trip!
We had better fortune the next day after spending 2 hours waiting for a visa and rushing to get a train ticket, we finally had to wait about 5 hours for the train. There are three different types of train that you can get, the original death train which is very cheap but is slow (taking 20 hours), full of mosquitoes and we heard that you get hassled by locals at the station trying to sell you food etc. The mid level, which we took, costing 127 bolivianos which is a lot more comfortable and much quicker, almost like a fairly good semi cama bus. If you want to go in luxury take the Ferro Bus which includes food and has a much more comfy seat. The Death Train name comes from when the train was used to transport the dead from the Yellow fever epidemic, although there are a lot of other myths as well.
The journey itself took us 14 hours and was relatively comfortable and you had the option to pay for a reasonably priced, but basic dinner. Overall it was a great way to travel and probably a much nicer option than getting a bus the same distance!
We arrived at Santa Cruz and got to our hostel which was part of the Hostelling International franchise which we found were all over Bolivia and are a great, affordable and useful to find information. Santa Cruz itself is probably the most expensive place to live in Bolivia mainly because of it access to natural gas supplies.
It was our first real taste of Bolivia after the very noticeable changes from Corumba to Quijjaro. Most strikingly we found that there is no such thing as pedestrian right of way in Bolivia, even when the light clears people to walk across the road. Road crossings took a while of our time in Santa Cruz. The main plaza was nice but overall we found that there was not much to do. Though we did manage to go Go-Karting for very cheap which was arranged by the hostel. We met some Norwegian guys who were our age through the karting that we have seen a couple of times along the way. There is a huge cinema complex which we went to once we recommend the ice cream outlet “Bits & Cream” where we accidentally bought ridiculous amounts of ice cream fro about the equivalent of £2. You can watch a film here for about 25 Bolivianos with the films usually being in English with Spanish subtitles.
Sorry about the lack of photos, this was our first taste of Bolivia so we were a bit weary of getting out cameras out etc. but never the less the photos we did take ca be found on our Flickr: Santa Cruz, Bolivia Photos.
After our time in Santa Cruz we took the bus to Sucre along probably most dangerous road I’ve ever seen but that’s another post.