The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

The Whiskey Chronicles (in Buenos Aires)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Crossing the Frontier

Santa Cruz is usually thought of as the eastern capital of Bolivia, but look on a map and you´ll see it´s more central than oriental. I figured that out after suffering through a 15-hour ride east on the "Death Train" from Santa Cruz to Quijarro, a dilapidated town on the border with Brazil. A couple hours into the trip I was talking with my seatmate, Hector, a Brazilian who has spent the last decade working in Venezuela and Bolivia. He was headed to Sao Paulo and I asked why he was going through Quijarro. "I usually fly, but I wanted to know the countryside."

There was a full moon out, but all we could see of the countryside was a thin strip of shrubbery near the side of our carriage. The railcar in front of us looked like it was bouncing on a trampoline, the temperature was dropping, and we were being forced to watch a Hilary Duff movie in Spanish. "I´m definitely taking the plane back," Hector said.

The next morning I said farewell to Hector in Quijarro, pushed past the crowd of taxi drivers waiting to take travelers over the border, and wound my way down the town´s muddy streets to the Hotel Oasis, which my guidebook describes as "three stars" with "pleasant rooms."

The manager of the Oasis looked surprised to see someone coming in, but he took me upstairs and showed me a room that was modeled on Leonardo DiCaprio´s hostel in "The Beach." With stained sheets, stained walls, and a broken window, it didn´t take much to imagine the flock of mosquitos and cockroaches that would arrive at sundown. He then took me to a slightly more expensive room - let´s call it the penthouse - with similar decor, but a bathroom as well. I dropped my bags and promised to sign in later. I then went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet, and watched a puddle of water spread across the floor. It was time to come up with Plan B...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Back from Madidi

My first story after arriving in Bolivia was about the discovery of a new species of monkey in Madidi National Park. Dana and I finally got our chance to look for the new monkey last weekend.

Getting to Madidi involves your choice of a 20+ hour bus ride or a bumpy one-hour flight between a couple Andean peaks to Rurrenabaque, in the heart of the Bolivian Amazon. In that time you descend 12,000 feet and gain about 30 degrees Celcius.

From Rurre we boarded a longboat for the five-hour trip up the Beni and Tuichi Rivers. We didn't end up seeing the new monkeys, but we did see three of the continent's most dangerous snakes within about 20 feet of each other on a night hike, huge groups of howler monkeys, caimans ("alligators" for the Americans out there) and plenty of macaws. I've posted a link to some photos on the right. You shouldn't need a password to view them.

Monday, July 04, 2005

I Stand Corrected

A friend of mine in DC reminded me that no one actually gets treated worse than Congressional staff, so Rudy's comments below should probably be revised. But what Hill staffers miss out on in terms of job security, livable salaries, predictable work hours, and healthy office environments, they makes up for by having educational "seminars" like "The Chemistry of Beer" and free happy hours/dinners at places like Signatures, owned by Tom Delay's favorite lobbyist.

And if you work for a Republican, you actually get to pass legislation.