Thursday 21st February 2002

Santa Cruz (km. 540) to Abapo (km. 405.42)

I opened my door next morning and walked into a downpour!  The roof didn't leak - it didn't exist, as the main circulating area in the hotel is open to the elements.  They managed to provide dry locations for breakfast but walking around may be restricted depending on the weather.

The line to Yacuiba, on the border with Argentina, has a completely different character to the main line to Puerto Quijarro.  It is primarily a passenger line although there is some freight interchange with Argentina.  With only one day to spare we could only go as far as Abapo where there is a wye to turn the track car.

As we were leaving Santa Cruz, the ferrobus from Puerto Quijarro had just arrived.

The car we used to go to Roboré needed work on it to repair the lost window and so we were given another car which seemed to be in somewhat poorer condition particularly in regards to the gearbox and brakes.  We set off southwards running through yard limits to Palmasola where we met a freight train from Argentina hauled by locomotive 2003.

The country is quite open with mixed farming, cattle and corn.  There are several large bridges over rivers which were running pretty high and bringing down a lot of red silt.  Abapo is the location of a bridge across a large river.  We went on the bridge for a short distance but this is a road rail bridge and there was a large truck advancing slowly at us.  The truck was bigger than we were and so we decided to back up.  This was easier said than done because the location of reverse gear eluded the driver for several minutes.

The truck was bigger than we were ...

.. so we skulked back to get out of the way.

We had lunch at Abapo.  Although the restaurante advertised a wide selection there was only lomo (beef) and sausages available.  They both came with rice, potatoes, salad, a fried egg on top and served by a rather surly waitress.  Abapo is a police check point for trucks going to and from Argentina.  There is a great deal of activity and it has a number of “restaurantes”.

Abapo is the only place to eat in the area.

On the return I had the opportunity to look at the small villages through which we passed.  None of them had a paved road and with the recent rains there was mud everywhere.  It is hard to imagine living in such conditions.  The farm animals were allowed to roam over the railway right of way and we frequently had to slow down to encourage the sheep, goats and pigs to get out of the way.  One little puppy ran for some way in front of the car and was clearly terrified.  Two small children ran out from their house to rescue their pet.

Living in a sea of mud.

As we set out this morning I remember thinking I wonder what is going to happen today.  One thing is certain, something unexpected will happen that will make one either wish to laugh or cry.  Today’s incident happened while we were about half way back to Santa Cruz.  We had just come off a bridge over a river when there was a terrifying bang and the right side of the car lurched up.  It took some time to get the car stopped and backed up to the location where we found that someone had placed a spike in a rail joint and we had run over it.  Luckily we stayed on the rails but the trip could have ended disastrously.  That was quite a wake up call!

We returned to La Paz and were driving through El Alto on the last leg home.  I was surprised to see a large bus firmly wedged under a bridge.  The suitcases had been loaded up too high on top and the bus was stuck.  I have learnt to expect the unexpected when travelling in Bolivia.

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