This blog includes the border crossing in Corumba as well as our time in Santa Cruz.
The first leg of our journey to the Bolivian/Brazil border involved a 3 hour mini van journey to a bus stop where we caught a 2 hour bus to the Brazilian side of Corumba. We had concerns about crossing the border after reading online that you can queue for hours, they can insist on payment (basically a bribe) and they sometimes randomly close the immigration office. When we arrived at the border we got our Brazilian exit stamp with no problems and walked 50metres to the Bolivian gateway. I'm happy to report that we were practically the only people there, we filled in a form, received our stamps and immediately made our way out of the office and into the Bolivian side of Corumba. Blissfully easy!!
The next step was to find a cash point. The first one we found was broken... The second one was broken ... After trudging around in 30 degree heat with far too many clothes on and our big backpacks we finally found a working ATM and withdrew some bobs. Next was the decision on whether we try and make the afternoon train to Santa Cruz, stay one night in Corumba and catch the train on Friday or take the night bus at 7.30pm. We decided we wouldn't make the train and didn't want to hang around in Corumba so voted for the night bus option and made our way to the bus station to buy or tickets.
Everything was instantly cheaper this side of the boarder (much to Esben's delight ;-p) including taxis, food and bus tickets. We got a taxi for £1 and 11 hour night bus tickets were £10 each. A world away from Brazil.
The first game of the World Cup was starting while we were at the bus station so we watched some of the match in a tiny cafe (if you can call it that, see pictures) before going and getting some dinner. We found a place just down the road that did rotisserie chicken, rice, spaghetti and chips (yes Bolivians are fat and it appears carbohydrate may be the cause) for about £1 a plate!!
At 7.30 it was time to get our bus and unfortunately we had a bad experience. We showed our tickets to get on the bus then there was a man inside standing on the stairs of the bus asking again to see our tickets, I thought this was a bit strange as he seemed manic and grabbed them out of our hands. He then sort of showed us to our seats and as we were settling down he started ranting about having to have or bags above us because the narcotics police we're coming to check the bus. I was trying to take some things out of the bag but he grabbed them and started shoving them above is. Stupidly I believed his frantic ranting and thought okay well he said we can take them down in 5 minutes so we'll wait. Because we were sitting at the front of the top of he bus the overhead shelf was a bit back from where we were sitting. When Esben got up to get the bags (including the camera bag) they were all gone. My reaction was to panic and I started asking people in the bus had they seen anything and they all looked concerned. Esben ran down to look outside and ask the bus company. By some kind of miracle someone had seen the man who stole them, stopped him and taken them back so they were behind the counter in the bus station. The woman behind the counter was rightly angry with us for not looking after them. Thankfully Esben was wearing the passports and money. All in all not a great experience but safe to say we slept hugging all our belongings on the bus. Lesson learnt.
The night bus journey was fairly smooth and I managed to sleep quite a lot, Esben less so. We arrived in Santa Cruz at 6am and due to the low prices we had decided to check into one of the more fancy hotels out of town for a night to relax. We headed straight there and we're able to check in straight away which was great as neither of us had showered for a while and had sweated a lot looking for an ATM!!
It rained constantly the day we arrived in Santa Cruz so we could t have chosen a better day to do not a lot. We had breakfast and in the afternoon headed to the mall across the road to go to the cinema and have some lunch. The weekend we had chosen to stay at Santa Cruz was G77 and the Chinese prime minister came to our hotel for a conference. The Iranian president also arrived while we were there! You could say I was celeb spotting but I didn't have a clue what these people looked like...
We are dinner at the hotel that night and had a good nights sleep in a giant bed!!
On Saturday morning we took a cab from our luxury hotel to the backpackers hostel in town :-)! This was a friendly place with lots of backpackers and the room we had was fine except for the damp walls and rock hard bed. As it was G77 all the shops in Santa Cruz were shut but there people from regions all over Bolivia in the town for a big market and an event in the stadium. It was brilliant to see then in their traditional dress and hear some of their music.
We spent the afternoon at the market and I bought my first Alpaca jumper. We also sampled the chorizo sausage for lunch which was quite tasty. After browsing the stalls we headed back to the hostel for a few games of cards and some reading. For dinner we went to the only Indian restaurant in Santa Cruz and had a yummy meal and some wine.
This morning we got up at 6am for our flight to Sucre and we are here now. It is absolutely lovely!!! I love it already and will blog as soon as we leave.