Border Crossing and three day journey
29.02.2012 - 05.03.2012 15 °C
We stayed at a hostel in Curumba, a Brazilian west boarder town for the night. Everything we'd read advised us to get to the immigration centre as early as possible, but we had to wait for our train tickets to be delivered. They were supposed to be deliver at 9am. But this is Brazil, so it took a couple of annoyed phone calls before they eventually showed up an hour late. We got a taxi to the border and sure enough the queue was huge. We'd also read that the office closes from midday until 2pm for lunch, so it was a relief when they were still open for us to be seen at 12:10. Obviously this was a stressful wait in the heat, as technically our passport exit stamp said we had left the country five days earlier. Apparently one can get the exit stamp and remain in the country for a grace period of 7 days, so it was all fine and we were given the ok to walk across to Bolivia. The walk accross was a five minute stroll up a dirt track. Although, when we got there the Bolivian's had decided that lunch was important and were closed to visitors until 14:30. There were two buildings, with various soldiers hanging around, that sided the road into Bolivia and one of these housed the immigration office. When we eventually got stamped into Bolivia, we'd been waiting for 5hrs in the dust, heat, rain, no toilets, no food or drink, just mosquitos.
We got a taxi to the train station about ten minutes away. Our train left at 17:30 and we were looking forward to the full cama service. The promise of cama tickets turned out to be bogus, so we only had semi cama. We were served some horrible chicken and rice, which was impossible to eat anyway with the amount the train was rocking. So Mel and I tucked into our emergency Pringles, sweets and chew bars. It was a slow and unsteady 15hr overnight journey. Isabella asked me what day of the week it was. We decided we were now officially 'travellers', as neither of us knew!
We arrived in Santa Cruz the following morning at 9am and spent an hour on the internet working out what to do next; we decided that we didn't really want to spend any time here, although we were tired, we'd push through to Sucre on another overnight bus. There must have been 30 different bus companies with guys surrounding and shouting at us for our business. It was easy to get caught up in it and look for the best deal, despite having read that you get what you pay for. We plumped for one company, but another chap continued to tout us saying that the guy had lied about the type of seat we had bought. They ended up having a bit of a barney about it between themselves, quite amusing. The chap eventually admitted that both tickets were rubbish seats. We gave up and decided to accept whatever we got.
After negotiating over 20p, we took a cab to the 25th De Septembre main square, a lovely little oasis with fine Colonial architecture. We found a great little cafe with wifi to pass a couple of hours in.
Our bus turned up 5mins before it was due to depart, presumably so that we didn't have time to change our minds, coz it was the oldest and most shabby looking pile of junk in the yard. I wasn't at all sure about this, what were the options...Ah well, we jumped in. Sat next to us was a lady with some sort of bird in a shoebox. In front of her another lady had a chicken in a bag, that got a whack each time it squawked. I guess that's how you keep tomorrows dinner fresh, keep it alive en route to the table. So much for catching up on the blog, I wasn't getting the iPad out on this bus. We stopped roughly every four hours, though the bano (bathroom) was just the side of the road, so we dehydrated our way to Sucre. A tyre change on the bus (the roads were potholed dust tracks) delayed us by an hour. 17 bumpy hours later, we got to Sucre.
Sucre is a beautiful colonial old city and our B&B was a haven, so we booked a second night to recover from our three day journey.
I was asked if travelling in a 34yr old body was harder than it used to be? Yes, recovery takes longer, but at least these days we can afford a B&B which is a nicer recovery spot than a dorm bed. It's not actually that travelling is much harder, it's just that we've become comfortable in our safe little worlds, so the prospect of an old bus, not knowing where you are going, somewhere in Bolivia, not knowing what the guy at the front is shouting etc makes one all the more nervous: we're not travelling with the same care free attitude as a 22 yr old lad on their own...but some level of hesitation is probably healthy. We spent a couple of days wandering around Surce, stopping at cafe's, markets, town plazas, watching the locals go about their business and generally chilling out.
It's a lovely city and we both wanted to spend a couple of weeks here and learn Spanish. Unfortunately time pressure dictated that we had to book a mine tour and we headed off in a shared cab towards Potosi.