The International Journal of Sport and Leisure
(Some sport. Some leisure. Also, schistosomiasis.)
Galapagos Islands (5)
About Me (1)
Ecuador: Quito (5)
Honduras: Utila (4)
Rio de Janeiro (2)
South Africa (13)
Temporary Update (1)
* South of Durban
* Escape from the Cape
* Skydiving for Bacon
* Rage Against the Machine
* Bite Me
* Africa Cold
* Scum-Dodging on Long Street
* Cable Cars, Lentil Soup and Bart Simpson
* Cape Town
* Cape Drear
* Lows of Travel ("Welcome to Africa")
* High Entertainment
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 2 of 2)
* Paradise or Miami Vice? (Part 1 of 2)
* Don't Make Me Cry, Argentina
* Hago el Vago en Buenos Aires (Part III: Final Week)
* Gloom at the Top
* Its The End Of The World As I Know It
* Perito Moreno Glacier
January 14, 2005
Riding the Expreso del Sur (Nostalgia on the Altiplano)
Friday, January 14, 2005:
It was raining and I mucked around all morning before heading to lunch at a Chinese restaurant named "Jackie Chanīs." If Germans love David Hasslehoff, I am convinced that Bolivians love Jackie Chan. I had notice another Jackie Chanīs Chinese restaurant in La Paz with a picture of movie star Jackie Chan on the sign (just to make clear its not some other random Jackie Chan). Also, Carlos, the "Bolivian Rambo Pampas Guide," seemed to be a big fan of Jackie Chanīs ("he small but have big chest"). I suspect that Jackie is not making any money off of these uses of his likeness but I also suspect that he is not going to bother flying all the way to Bolivia to inflict corporeal punishment upon those who inanely exploit his name in the name of lo mein. Anyway, I had the curry beef for anyone who actually cares (and if you do, whatīs wrong with you?).
I made it to the train station at 2:30 and was allowed to board my "executive" car in the front at 2:45, a full 45 minutes ahead of departure time. The car wasnīt bad --- it was nothing fancy, but the seats were wide and there was a ton of leg space, enough for me to place my carry-on in front of me and still be more than comfortable. There was also a TV at the head of the aisle. For all of this, I was paying $10 for a 7 hour ride. I could have paid $5.50 for regular seats, but I was under the impression that I would get dinner thrown in if I rode in the executive car (I got this extremely incorrect impression from Lonely Planetīs South America on a Shoestring book; I should have confirmed this when I bought the train ticket and will henceforth take very little the book says for granted as I have come to suspect it was written by graduates of the Jason Blair School of Travel Journalism).
The TV came on before the train ever got rolling. What came first? Was it a Spanish-language soap? A bad, dubbed American film? Japanese Street Urchins of Death? No, no and no. It was a music video. Of all of the possible things in the world, I found myself sitting there on a train on the Bolivian Altiplano watching Jon Bon Jovi sing "Blaze of Glory." But, as the train chugged out of the station, I found that I was in for a treat. It was 1980s music video after cheesy 1980s video for the first couple of hours. I am not ashamed to say that I took notes on what I saw. The contrast between the music and the landscape, chugging through oblivion, was just too bizarre. Here is what I saw as an endless series of bleak mountains and desolate plains flew by my window (along with herds of alpaca, llama, vicuna, sheep, and cattle):
Madonna --- "Material Girl"
Out of all of the material conveniences I miss from the U.S., access to a Borderīs bookstore comes first and access to the music I want to listen to comes a close second. Even though I had to pay for my dinner in the dining car, the videos made the ride more than worth it. I would have paid more to have heard Beckīs "Golden Age," but its about 20 years too late to fit into the mix ("It’s a treacherous road/With a desolated view/There’s distant lights/But here they’re far and few/And the sun don’t shine/Even when it’s day/You gotta drive all night/Just to feel like youīre ok").
After the videos, they played the stupid but entertaining movie "A Knightīs Tale," as well as a Spanish film, "Zapata." I spent most of the time watching the light outside fade from purple to black and reading V.S. Naipulīs The Mystic Masseur.
We reached Uyuni at 10:20 PM, right on time. I checked into a basic but clean room ($2.50) and walked around for a few minutes, but couldnīt see much in the darkness. One thing was immediately clear, however: I had finally succeeded in reaching the Absolute Middle of Nowhere.
Posted by Joshua on January 14, 2005 11:12 AM
Email this page