Sunday, July 27, 2008

Never Take A Bolivian Train

This is my advice to all of you. Bolivian trains suck.

We were trying to leave Santa Cruz for one last big adventure before we come back to the US on Thursday. We wanted to see the old Jesuit missions in eastern Bolivia, like the movie The Mission. We were told that the train was the best way to get to the coolest town, San Jose de Chiquitos.

I'd always wanted to take the train on one of my trips to the developing world, but I never had. So I was kind of excited about it.

That was a mistake.

The train was supposed to leave at 12. It was delayed first for 30 minutes. Then until 3. The train showed up and then we sat on it for an hour. It finally took off. 2 hours later we had gone about 35 miles, to the first town on the line. Then the track broke. We sat there until about 9 when I was finished. We decided to bail on the entire trip. I think the train finally took off an hour later or so. It was supposed to be a 6 1/2 hour trip. By the time we left, we were already at over 9 hours and we were, at most, 20% of the way there.

I was inspired to end the experience when we were waiting and suddenly my mind came to the great American philosopher/entertainer/chicken magnate Kenny Rogers. In perhaps his most famous dialectical opus, "The Gambler," Rogers opined

"You've got to know when to hold them
Know when to fold them
Know when to walk away
And know when to run."

I am not quite on the same level as Kenny, so I can't quite grasp the relevance of holding and folding to our situation. And I don't know if this was quite the running situation. But it sure as hell was time to walk away. And we did, returning this morning after a night in one of the worst rooms I have ever stayed in. And that's saying something given the time I was on the Thai-Burmese border and I walked into the bathroom and came face to face with a giant spider the size of my head. I'm not sure how we'll spend the last few days in Bolivia now, but I can guarantee you, it will not be on the train.