Monday, March 23, 2009

My Piranha

Getting ready for a crazy week of Carnival!

The Deaf Train

Nobody actually knows why the notorious ´Death Train´ actually bears this name. Lonely Planet offers a couple of explanations, from people falling off the train to getting stuck for days... Anyhow, we expected an adventure! But... as I have discussed with many fellow backpackers, it seems that the golden days of travelling and braving adventures are over!

We arrived at the train station about one hour before departure - well prepared with 2 liters of water each, sandwiches, cookies, apples... We had even worked out a plan of who would watch the baggage so the other one could sleep - or go to the toilet ;-) Unfortunately - the Deaf Train no longer merits is name!

Before boarding the train you have to check-in your baggage, just like on an airport. Once on board a nice attendand helps you to find your seat (all numbered, mind you!) and turns on the video screen providing on-board entertainment.

And this is where I discovered why nobody actually knows why the Death Train is called like that! It´s a pure misunderstanding - it shouldn´t be Death Train but Deaf Train, as after 11 hours of blaring salsa music you won´t be death but deaf! So forget about taking bottles of water and survival kits (you will be served dinner and breakfast) but make sure to bring quality earplugs - you will need it!

From Sucre to Santa Cruz

Spoiled by the comfortable Peruvian overland busses (they even had a Bingo-game on board!) it was quite a shock to find out, that none of the busses going from Sucre to Santa Cruz had ´semi cama´ seats - and even worse, none of them had on-board toilets! 15 hours on unpaved country roads without a toilet! The no-toilet-but-trip to Colca had left me traumatized! I considered flying but as the ticket prices where very high, connections rare and I was running out of time and money I decided to take the bus. I stopped taking any liquids hours before departure and braved myself for the next 15 long hours in the rusty old bus. I just hoped that the seat next to me would be left free or at least not be occupied by a snoring, overweight or strangely smelling fellow passenger.

I was lucky. My seat neighbour was a short guy about my age who instantly fell asleep when we left Sucre. I put on my iPod and followed his example. When I woke up some hours later with the first signs of toilet deprivation he was already awake and as it turned out - he felt the same needs as I did! We bonded immediately and when we finally stopped and he let me go to the toilet first, our friendship was sealed! His name was Augustin, he was an chemical engineer from Santa Cruz and had visited his sister in Sucre. He turned out to be a really nice person and took good care of me - waking me up at toilet-stops or interesting sights on the way, giving me information on Santa Cruz and the train to Brazil... Thanks to him the 15 hours passed quickly and I arrived in Santa Cruz pretty relaxed and full of information. We exchanged numbers and mail addresses and he promised to take me to some sights and typical restaurants later on that day.

When I finally got my (very dusty and dirty!) backpack out of the baggage hold I spotted a fellow ´gringo´ looking up hostels in the Lonely Planet. I asked him which one he had picked and it seemed that we where heading to the same place. We shared a taxi to the hostel and later had breakfast together. He also didn´t know how the trains worked exactly - Lonely Planet says you can´t get the tickets in advance only the first class ones and via an agency - so we decided to look up the travel agency listed in the guide. When we finally found the listed address it seemed that the agency had moved. Nobody could tell us exactly where to... As it was raining pretty hard we decided to take a bus to the train station and try our luck there. We expected more confusion but apparently you can buy the ticket in advance for any given date and we got out tickets for the notourious ´Death Train´ on the other day.