First trip to Bolivia: a story of a bus/train ride

July 4, 2010
– A 25h bus ride (semi cama), uncomfortable, funny we made no oficial stops for food, just quick stops at bus terminals that were no officialy announced. I spent most of the time hungry.
– We got to the border, and I knew I was in Bolivia as soon as I stepped out of the bus, dirty, dusty roads, women in traditional wear, rundown buildings.
– Argentina immigration was fine, Bolivian wasn’t. They told me I need to buy a visa that cost $60, lasted 30 days and didn’t allow multiple entries. Bulgaria was in Group II you see. I didn’t have any cash on me, so I ran up the street to the bank. I was told it was the only one and I stood in a line for a while since it was the only one for all transactions. It was taking way too long, people were getting rowdy and I got tired. I asked the guard whether there was another bank with an ATM, he pointed me to one up the street and I ran up there. Got the money, walked back to the immigration office, stopping for a freshly squeezed orange juice on the way ($0.45).
– I payed the visa first making sure I was going to be able to come back on it. The official said I should be able to do so if I paid another Bs100 ($13). He said however that different official might not choose to charge me. I would wait and see.
– It was then time to organize my onward transport to Uyuni. I was told the best way was the train so I got a taxi up to the station but they had run out of tickets.
– I told the taxi to take me to the bus terminal but it wasn’t much better there. There wasn’t any direct buses and the one leaving to a nearby town was two hours away. No choice. I got it only after I got assured there was an onward connection from there.
– I had lunch from an street eatery (delicious and cheap), had another orange juice and went to the park to read and wait.
– I had a licuado before I got on the shaky bus. A two and a half hour trip through the dusty desert mountains. We spent more time on the desvio than on the actual road since it was being repaired every few hundred meters. We got to see lots of pretty scenery though and it got truly stunning the closer we got to Tupiza. Similar to the wild, wild west (Butch Cassidy).
– There was no onward connection until 10.30am the next morning but I was determined to get to Uyuni that same day. I thought I’d give the train another go and walked up to the station. Everybody told me there were no tickets but I stubbornly walked up. I got there and imagine that! There was a ticket. A 3rd class one.
– I had dinner at another street eatery right in front of the station, another great meal. Then I had a drink, something natural, like juice, no idea what it was. I left my luggage to be leaded and when the train came I made sure it was on the train.
– I sat in the packed coche, two drunken guys were trying to get me to help them, since they were poor and I was foreign and assumingly rich. They left and I was left to my misery. 7h on a 90º seat, no rest, no view (it was pitch black when we left at 7pm) to distract you, ass hurt, legs hurt (no leg room), neck hurt. It all lasted until 1am when we finally reached Uyuni absolutely knackered.
– A lady offering a hostal came up to me, I tried to bargain, she didn’t buy it and left. I went out, trying to hail a cab, and there wasn’t one when an old lady offering the same hostal approached me and I agreed. I went there, brushed my teeth and slept. Or at least tried coz I was so cold. My feet that is. They didn’t properly warm up until 6.30am.
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