Road block in Bolivia

After our lovely trip on the train we had breakfast at a restaurant called El Fogón just beside the bus station before we headed in to buy some tickets. Expecting to reach La Paz at maybe three in the afternoon we were stumped when we found out that there is a strike, all the roads are blocked and it is impossible to get to La Paz at this moment.

Apparently the drivers of all the heavy transports were in some kind of disagreement with the government about how much tax they should pay and such. To get the government to listen to them they parked their heavy trucks, blocking all major roads in the country. We met some Argentinians in the bus station who had the same problem, they apparently got in to Oruro the day before with the train. After spending one extra night on board the train while the tracks were cleared of rocks put there by protesters. Apparently the strike had been going on since the last Sunday, and now it was Thursday.

The saying is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” which would have been a great solution to this lemon we got served. Had we not booked and paid for a hotel in La Paz. Hopeful we stayed in the bus station for a few hours before we concluded that it was of no use. We checked in to a hotel close to the bus station at a rate that wasnt good but didnt blow our budget. Enjoyed a walk around the town to find a restaurant that unfortunately was closed because we got there too late, and when we later returned for dinner it wasnt even that good.

After a good nights sleep we went into the bus station to ask what the status was, as different online sources gave different information. The lady in the information cubicle told us that it was not possible, the roads had been open briefly in the night but were now closed again. The police at the terminal told us that La Paz is closed, but El Alto which is right beside it should be reachable. Not wanting to stay in Oruro anymore we bought tickets with the company Naser that promised they would get us to La Paz, even though others said it would be impossible.

We felt rather stupid sitting in the bus more or less alone before others that also bought tickets started showing up, and as this was one of few buses heading to La Paz a lot of people joined in on the tour on the way out from the terminal. They actually sold tickets to people in the middle of traffic.

The bus was comfortable and the other travelers were nice and we tried to make some conversation about the situation in Spanish. Even though we were feeling a bit uneasy as to if we would actually arrive at our destination the trip was not too bad. The road was wide and straight and when we finally approached El Alto we could see rests of the protests but no blockade!

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We were very happy, and tired, when we finally reached La Paz, a fascinating new stop on our trip!

Expreso del Sur from Uyuni to Oruro

Our plan to avoid Bolivian roads of lacking quality began with taking the train from Uyuni to Oruro and then continue to La Paz by bus on the nice 4-lane highway that runs from Oruro to La Paz.

The execution of the plan began by buying tickets, the ticket office opened at 09:00 the day of our trip, why we arrived there at 09:14. The first challenge of the day was finding the man that handed out queue numbers, he most of the time hides in a back office, but sometimes comes forth and shows his face. Apparently we were not the first to think about going by train as the station was full of people and we got number 29 and the current number was three. We stood around for maybe 15 minutes and number three was still haggling prices or something similar. Yet again I found the man with the numbers and asked what he thought about my number, he said that maybe one and a half hour would be to expect. He also told me that yes, there will probably be tickets left when it is your turn.

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With this wisdom at our hands we went back to the hostel to pack up our things and check out. When we got back to the station some 40 minutes later the number 18 was shining bright on the screen that announced the numbers. Sometime one hour before noon it was finally our turn, and €30 later we had two tickets in our hands.

 

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We bought the expensive version of the tickets which meant that we were sitting in ejecutivo class with nice reclining seats, some snacks and a pillow and blanket. Linn made the notion that the blanket was as heavy and thick as a horse blanket, I am inclined to concur, but it kept us very warm!

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After 7 hours we arrived in Oruro station, the sun had been up a few hours and we got to see some nice views before rolling in to the station. Now we just had to get some breakfast and walk to the bus terminal to get the bus to La Paz where there is a hotel waiting since Linn chose to use some of her “Hotel Credit” she got for christmas and book us three nights in advance.

Traversing the Andes by bus, Mendoza – Santiago

After spending the night at the Diplomatic Hotel we were unsure about if we wanted to leave. Ever.

Thinking  back to our planning attempts before the trip did remind of us a rather packed schedule after leaving Argentina:

We are going to make our way up from Mendoza through Chile, have time to visit Valparaiso, La Serena and Antofagasta. From there continue to see the salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia. After the salt flats we have to make our way to Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru. After these two adventures we are supposed to make our way back through Bolivia where we want to stay for a while in each city we pass. The final stop in Bolivia is the train of death before we see the Pantanal in Brazil. After this we have to put full speed ahead back to Rio if we are going to be able to spend at least a few days on Ipanema with Caipirinhas in our hands before returning to our cold home.

Alas, we have to separate ourselves from the bed and get going!

When we arrived to the bus station we had the impression that there would not be a bus for many hours and we would pass into Chile during the night. But to our great pleasure we found a bus that left no more than one hour later!

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This was very luckily as this was probably one of the most magnificent and enjoyable bus rides so far in the trip. Four hours of beautiful views of the Andes mountains, in the middle a stop to enter into Chile, and then three more hours of beautiful views. A post on the border formalities passing from Argentina to Chile can be found here.

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To all of you back home, we do have some snow here as well, not just as closely upon us.

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This bus ride was definitely worth the €50 it cost us in first class, it was both a necessary part of our trip and a joy for our eyes along the way! The view above is from when we waited our turn to clear customs.

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As a person scared of heights I was very thankful both for the quality of the roads and for the fact that our bus driver drove slowly and carefully in the hairpin corners of this amazing road! Can you see the remains of the rail track on the other side of the ravine in the picture above?

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There used to be a working rail service along the same route as the road, but the tensions between Argentina and Chile during the 70s caused service to stop, and was only resumed briefly before finally ending in 1984.

Detour to Santa Rosa

After celebrating new years eve in Mar del Plata we went to the bus station and sent my brother Tim on his way to Buenos Aires. When we went to buy our own bus tickets to Córdoba we were informed that they had sold out all for the day, but we could get the bus tomorrow. Not feeling like waiting another night in Mar del Plata we looked at the map and saw that Santa Rosa is close, and there was tickets to got there as well!

Our bus didnt leave until late in the evening, and got to Santa Rosa in the early morning. At first when we got there we bought tickets for the evening bus to Córdoba. Our second mission was to find storage for our bags in the small bus station that seemed to be the heart of this little city. After asking the lady who directed the traffic we were told that the toilet attendants were the ones offering this service here. The lady by the toilets followed us into a lockable room that already had another bag that wasnt ours, let us put our bags there and locked. She then went on to explain that she would get off her shift at 18:00, and then we would have to talk to the next person there who would be responsible for guarding the bags until our bus left. We understood the part that we had to be there for some reason at 18:00.

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As Santa Rosa is a small city there is not too many activities to do, and we also had the timing of being there on a Sunday. Sunday in South America means that everything is closed. We walked to the lake that is one of the attractions, went to the top floor of a play house and relaxed for a while, more or less sleeping as the bus ride didnt offer too much of that.

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After finding a place serving some croissants, bread and coke we decided to make this our breakfast. We then went on to see what was available to do, it turns out that Santa Rosa is a good base if you want to go out in the countryside of La Pampa, but otherwise the city is not that eventful. We found a great restaurant by the bus station called La Posta, for lunch I had their stone oven baked pizza, and for dinner both I and Linn had the Bife de Chorizo, which was rather great.

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The most time after realizing that there was not much to do was spent searching for a new charging cable for Linns phone, and watching Criminal Minds on the computer in the cafe at the bus stop.

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Then finally the time for the bus came, and all of a sudden the city that could have been named Sleepy Hollow was filled with life. It seems that a lot of bus changes take place here, and for this brief moment the city is probably upping its population with a good amount!

From Buenos Aires to Uruguay by SeaCat

After spending some lazy days in Buenos Aires we met up with my younger brother Tim who is joining us for almost one month. We had hamburgers at a really nice place in Palermo called simply “Burger Joint”, great and affordable burgers. After this we set out to get to Uruguay and Colonia.

We had booked one night in Colonia mostly because thats where the boat landed and we wanted to plan a few days to explore Uruguay before going to the apartment in Montevideo we had booked on Airbnb.

It was rather easy to find the Buquebus terminal where most boats seemed to depart from, including the SeaCat one we wanted to go with because of its low price.

The price on the internet were something close to €14 when using the blue rate. After showing our passports and getting registered at the desk we were informed that since we are foreign we are not allowed to pay in pesos cash. We can pay either in pesos by card, getting a lousy rate, or we can pay in dollars, getting an even worse rate, resulting in paying more or less three times what we first anticipated. We paid in pesos, at the lousy rate, a grand total of about €25 each.

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While it was not a huge amount of money, it still made us feel sad that this was not mentioned on the website and felt a bit cheated. A later search on google confirmed what we were told at the desk, it is in fact the Argentine government that has decided this. The rule the decided on is that tourist services rendered outside of Argentina, wholly or in part, must not be paid with pesos in cash by a foreigner. The lesson here is that there are strange laws in place to protect the free fall currency and that you always should do the math when offered to pay in multiple currencies.

Bus from Paraty to Sao Paulo

After two bus trips we felt like we were starting to get the hang of travel by bus in Brazil. Sit in the middle of the bus, away from both the stench of the bathroom and the arctic chills of the air conditioning. Buy the bus tickets in the bus station, not online. Simple as that.

We went to the bus station one day before our departure, only to find out that the only free seats were in the back of the bus, right beside the lavatory. Ah well, at least we wont die from the freezing cold of the air condition.

The bus was listed as a “Conv” which is supposed to be a regular coach, but nothing real fancy. Turns out that it was what is called “Semi-Cama” almost a bed! The price was very competitive too, €12 for a 6 hour bus trip! The company was called Reunidas.

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The trip was on good roads, but I still had my fears seeing what was ahead of us on the GPS map. This was a climb from 0 to 750 meters above sea level in a matter of minutes. Circling mountains and climbing the sides of the, but as mentioned before, on good roads, which will calm everyone that is like me.

Bus from Angra dos Reis to Paraty

After taking the ferry from a rainy Ilha Grande to Angra dos Reis we were to take the bus to Paraty.

During our research before we found out the following: The nice, comfortable bus run by Costa Verde that stops in Angra and continues to Paraty does not sell tickets for this part of the journey. Instead we are to take the Colitur bus which leaves more or less 2 times an hour all day but is not very comfortable. It is actually a regular city bus that is used for a longer trip.

Our hostel manager let us know that this is the only option, and that it leaves from the last bus hut on the docks when walking away from where the ferry drops you off. At the price of €2.50 it might not be worth to complain about the comfort. The bus works as any other city bus, you get on, pay, pass the turnstile and sit down.

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This was our view for the 1 hour and 50 minutes that the journey took. Every speed bump meant that the seat first left you underneath and then came back and hit you real hard. But it was cheap.

The first bustrip of … how many?

Wednesday it was time for us to to leave Rio for Ilha Grande, but first a one night stop in Angra dos Reis. We asked in the hostel where we could find the bus to the big bus station of Rio. The first thing they wonder: “why are you staying there – what are you guys doing there?”. But they kindly helped us and told us there was a direct bus so there was no need for the local bus.

After a quick lunch at Domino’s we found the bus stop and then the long wait for the direct bus started. We are getting used wait for everything in Brazil so far but somewhere during our wait another bus showed up and the sign said “Rodoviario” – “Bus station”. This was the local bus.

This bus took an hour but we were arriving there in time for the bus leaving at 02.00 pm if we would be in Sweden, but we’re not. The man in the ticket booth walked away, said something in Portuguese and disappeared for a while and came back with more paper and coffee. We stood in line for 30 minutes and it was more or less four people in front of us. Able to enter the bus departing at 03.00 pm we started our bus life.

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The bus ride is supposed to take three hours. After one and a half we stopped for a food break somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Someone threw up and we took an extra trip to like four small villages to maybe pick up people (no one were there). After more like four hours we reached our destination. The first bus ride of who knows how many was done. We arrived to a rainy and quiet Angra dos Reis, very quiet compared to Rio.

The bus we took from the bus station in Rio was the one of Costa Verde, it is a Semi-cama which means that it has nice seats that recline a lot, not really a bed, but completely possible to sleep in. The bus cost us €11 each.

IMG_1939jonangraDowntown Angra dos Reis.