Trying the Bolivian trains
The good side of the usual night buses in South America is that you save a hotel night by sleeping in the bus. The negative side is that you sometimes arrive at very early hours with nothing open and in the freezing cold.
This is what happened to us when we arrived to Oruro at 6 am. Nothing was open, not even a cafe. We waited until 7 so the sun would be out and then took a taxi to a cafe in the city center that, according to google maps, should be opened. Of course it wasn’t, so we just went to the hotel where our bikes were stored and waited in the sun until 8 so we could enter and have breakfast.
Today was Monday, the day the weekly train to Uyuni departs. Since everybody except for me wanted to take the train, and considering we had already done half of it by bus on the way to Potosi so we knew the landscape, I finally agreed not to cycle this bit.
As I already mentioned, it is clear that Ferroviaria Andina, the company running it, has no interest in this line working. The departure is at 21:30, so there is no landscape to enjoy, and one of the main stations, Uyuni, is reached at 4 in the morning, when the weather is freezing most of the year.
Right now only the “ferrobus” does the service, which is a single locomotive and wagon all in one, with about 30 seats. Luckily for us they carry bikes, and in our case for free.
We were there early, as well as a family from Cochabamba traveling to visit their daughter in Tupiza, so we got talking to make the wait shorter.
In the end we were a total of 9 passengers, and 4 staff. We packed Susanne’s bike in the wagon’s unused kitchen. The tag-along went behind the last row of seats, and my bike was allocated to the roof of the train, which is fine since we don’t cross any tunnel on the way.
Staff was helpful and friendly all the time. I can only recommend other travelers to use this service and hopefully keeping it alive. The road journey from Oruro is a long and boring one so you can easily skip it with the train.
The departure is quite spectacular, and despite of the darkness we could see all the birds flying away as we crossed the Uru Uru lake with the light of the full moon. Pity the camera could not capture any decent picture. After a while everyone felt sleep except for me, so I just listened to podcasts most of the way.
In Uyuni, where we arrived with amazing punctuality, we took a picture with the Cochabamba family, since they now had a 1.5h waiting time until the train would resume journey towards Atocha and Tupiza. We then cycled in a very cold night to our hotel, luckily opened with a nice and warm room waiting for us.
Our plan now is to do an organized trip to the Salar and the mountain lagoons in the next days before we visit the Salar again with our own bikes.
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