Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Danger! Peligro! Achung!

Bolivia has a lot of things that sound like they may be quite scary. Here are a few examples. You can decide whether or not YOU would be scared.

The Death Train: This is a train that goes from the border of Bolivia and Brazil to a town called Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I am not sure why it is called the Death train, because it was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was long, to be sure (21 hours, I think) but it was not scary. The hardest part was getting tickets. 

Death Train -- doesn't look so scary!
Coming from Brazil, we first had to cross the border, which is in a little dusty town which looked like an old California mining town. There you could change your money over into Bolivianos, which was also scarier than the train, as you never know if the money is going to be fake or not. Also, when we crossed the border, Bolivia had recently decided to start a reciprocation program with the USA, which basically means they charge you to get a “visa”. It is supposed to cost 100 dollars but it IS negotiable, and usually NOT in your favor. The border officials we met said that there was a “processing fee” and the amount of it was…well, how much money DO you have?

So we got across the border and then we had to walk to town to get tickets for the train. We bought the “first class” tickets, which means you don’t have to sit on a bench with a bunch of other people and their chickens. You get your own seat. However, the train did not have food or drinks, so the night before, we had to stock up!

The train ride was long, the first class seats were not that comfortable, but all in all, the Death Train was pretty tame.

The World’s Most Dangerous Road: This is near La Paz and it starts at about 4000 meters (13,000 feet) and goes down to about 1000 meters (3300 feet). We decided to mountain bike down it. This can be done in about 4 or 5 hours. Half of it was paved and half dirt, but the whole thing was a lot of fun!

Strikes and Protests: Pretty much every day I was in Bolivia there was some kind of strike or protest. The president at the time, Evo Morales, was prohibited from leaving one city by protestors; the protestors bombed a bridge to keep everyone in another city. A few days before I was scheduled to leave Cochabamba and go to La Paz, the roads were all closed and blockaded and people were protesting in the streets. I heard stories from the locals about how certain times the cities were closed in for days and people were going hungry.

However, I was there for a couple of months and I did see a lot of protests and strikes, but they were not usually violent. What they usually consist of is the everyday people rallying against the government, who, to be fair, are pretty much taking everything from them. By far, the biggest cash crop in Bolivia is Coca leaves, which are picked and then shipped to countries like Columbia, where they make cocaine out of it. However, the farmers and the little people don’t see any of that money. The government takes it. So people like Evo get rich while the little guys do all the (dangerous) work.

Altitude Sickness: Bolivia has some of the highest places that you can easily get to. However, this can pose a threat, since you really shouldn’t fly from sea level and land at 13,000 feet. This doesn’t stop people (my friend Heather) from doing it. We went to Lake Titicaca, which sits at about 13,000 feet, the day after she arrived and she was having a very hard time walking around! I suggest taking a few days at a lower altitude before jumping right to the high stuff! 


So, even though Bolivia doesn’t have (like Australia) the MOST deadly snake in the world… it has its share of danger, both real and imagined. However, even though they have scary names, I personally never felt like I was in danger there.

Have you ever been in a (real or imagined) scary situation? What did you do?

Also, this little blog was nominated for Best In Travel at For The Love of Blogs. Go HERE to vote for us (#48), or any blog you think is your favorite. Just click the “like” button below the one(s) you like!

1 comment:

  1. I have actually been lucky and haven't had any really scary experiences... We did have a deadly snake coil up next door to where I lived when I was in Australia - but it wasn't on MY doorstep, so it wasn't super scary... but definitely unnerving as they had to call animal control, etc. And I am frightened by non-deadly snakes, like garder snakes or whatever they are called... So yah. Not fun to see an actual deadly snake that close to my dwelling!