Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Death Train" to Bolivia / Brazil border. And a long wait with Brazil crossing

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We are about to embark on an overnight journey on "The Death Train".

Now before you freak out, times have changed.
It first earned its name many years ago.

There are a few rumours as to why.
1.  Folks rode on the roof to avoid paying a fare, fell asleep and they often fell to their death.
2. It was used to carry dead passengers to the border when the yellow fever plaque was at its peak.
3. The mosquitoes are so bad during the rainy season, you’ll get “eaten alive” throughout the entire 
4.  Because many workers died while building this railroad.
5.  Your kidneys shake out - the railway line is not laid straight or evenly, 
and you shake side to side the whole trip.  
We found 5 to be the most likely.
Although the line is not bumpy, it is like being on an amusement ride and not being able to get off.
It made me quite nauseous.

We had booked tickets the day we arrived in Santa Cruz.
We were told this is impossible, and you need to get there at 8 or 9 a.m. on the morning of departure.
This is completely inaccurate.
We took a while, but we eventually communicated our desire for "cama" (bed) seats on the Ferrobus as the deluxe train is called.
Well he assures us there are blankets and pillows. Wrong!
They are semi-camas, not camas.
There are no blankets and pillows.
The air conditioning is maxed out and quite cold - in fact the coldest we have yet found on travel.
But you do get an evening meal and a tiny breakfast.

So we arrive and are told to pay a luggage fee.
There is no receipt - I kind of felt it went in some-ones pocket.
Next came a terminal tax.
Then we had a few left over Bolivianos, so we bought water and chocolate.
My big mistake.

The local ladies set up to sell crafts.
Fabulous pots and bags made of string are sold for $1 - $5.
You can see her working on a pot using her toes below.
The lady behind her was selling a bag I wanted.
It was all of $5 USD but I had the equivalent of $4.50.
I tried to sweeten her and get a price eduction by adding in a bar of chocolate.
She refused.
I tried everything as I was out of small money - no way.

What surprised us about the Ferrobus was it was a tiny train.
2 Carriages - and they were not full.

 The seats were super comfortable, but a solid arm rest was quite a pain.
If it had lifted we would have really had a great rest.

Dinner was served.
It was quite an OK meal - no choices but a good serve with a cool drink.

But they then put a violent M or R rated movie on.
It was not suitable for children.
Blood and guts were all over the place.
So we moved out to the rest area near the restroom (banos).
We brought the laptop out and had a movie ourselves.
Unfortunately this area is very noisy.

The seat is super skinny.
So rest did not come easy.
But I did nod off for a few minutes.

The train did have quite a few stops - not that you can exit.

My son really enjoyed putting his head out the window.
This was all good until we discovered it was letting the mosquitoes in.

 I found a spare double seat behind my son.
So I moved there and gave him our seats.
I found by putting up the table trays, these acted to level out the seat a bit.
So with the seats semi reclined, I was able to get some sleep.

 One thing I was really upset about was that the train departed late.
This meant we left in the dark.
I love to see the sights, so was up early with my head out the common area to get photos.

 We found many times the train stopped.
A guy jumped out and would move the track handle.
We would then back up to let another train or worker vehicle go by.

 We finally arrive at the border town.
There is no announcement at any stations.
But at this one everyone gets off.
We ask the lady in front.
She speaks a little English.
She tells us to get a taxi to the border.
When we get there he tries to charge us $20 US.
I get my son to run to her in line, and ask her how much it should be.
$3 US is the correct answer!
We wait in line.
The sun is bearing down on us and we still have warm clothes for the train on.
I get my son to go relieve himself behind a car.
I then get him changed.
I go ask a lady if I can use her bathroom to change.
I am 'over' paying for bathrooms, especially when I just have to change.
She agrees but as I enter, I have no idea the wooden room door is resting, not attached.
It completely falls out with a thud.
I am changing!
I already have the lady from the train watching my son.  I am trying to be fast!
No I AM fast!
We wait over 1 hour.
The the "train lady" moves and goes and talks to someone.
Next her and her husband are at the front of the line.
So I go talk to her.
She instructs me on how to basically bribe the guy to get us to the front.
It is 50 Bolivianos - about $7 USD.
So I go pay him - he puts my bags in the shade and we are moved to the front.
A couple of people are upset about this.
We wait about another 10 minutes and are through.

We then have to walk about 300 metres with all our stuff to the Brazil border.
Now let me tell you, this is a border you can just walk into the country and no-one would care.
Complete honesty on your part is required.

We are met by a guide from a tour agency for the Pantanal I had enquired with.
He expects us to do the tour.
But I tell him I have read bad reviews.
After a while the price comes down.
After the 3rd price drop, I agree.
He puts our bags in his car - and we wait.
We wait, and wait, and wait.
There is no toilet, water, food or any place to sit.
We wait 3 hours!

Finally we are brought in.
Their Internet is super slow.
They have 2 border staff and about 200 people waiting.
Each person is manually entered into the computer.
Documents are scanned.
Missing person lists are checked.

We get through.
Welcome to Brazil !
Exciting times ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome thanks for the post, I have been wondering what the Death in Death train related to!

    Also how much did it cost? Would you say it is a better option than the bus?


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