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Full Circle

Day 179: Arica to La Paz

Railbus to La Paz 
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Refuelling the railbus between Arica and La Paz.
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe only sign of any investment in Charana is a gleaming new set of Banos Publicos, certainly the finest public conveniences I've seen since Santiago. I find them firmly locked. I suppose it makes sense; the public would only make a mess of them.

Linda, the American, is taking the altitude badly. She says she had been told there was oxygen on the train and there wasn't and she had mimed to the steward that she badly needed to sniff something and he had said rather huffily, 'No, that is Colombia, we do not have that here.' In the end they sorted it out and he gave her a large mug of coca leaf tea, which he was not allowed to serve in Chile. Coca leaves contain cocaine and are chewed by the people of the Andes as commonly as we smoke tobacco.

We are now over the watershed and rattling downhill. The driver bounces up and down on his seat like a man on a pogo stick, and the coca tea is flying everywhere. This does wonders for comradeship and soon the two New Zealand girls who are travelling with their mother, 'to all try and get to know each other', are talking to the German with the Peruvian wife and nineteen month-old baby, Linda and the Dutch backpackers are comparing altitude sickness and the two Norwegians who were robbed in Ecuador are chatting up two heavily tanned girls from Brisbane. Outside it grows dark and very cold. The cold stops everyone talking and after we've eaten our chicken and chips we try to sleep as the little railcar bumps and grinds precariously towards La Paz.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 179
  • Country/sea: Bolivia
  • Place: La Paz
  • Book page no: 237

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