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Full Circle

Day 179: Arica to La Paz

The Lluta Valley, Chile 
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The Lluta Valley, the last strip of green before Bolivia.
Michael Palin - Full CircleIt seems wholly predictable when, shortly after our twelfth hour on the train and within an ace of La Paz, there is a jarring whine, a lurch and silence. We are derailed. The driver reaches for a torch and climbs down. Voices are raised, a small crowd of people emerge from the darkness. The front wheels are off, and the baggage mountain on top of the train is tilted at a dangerously jaunty angle. Opinions are passed round. The driver disappears into the darkness with a shovel. He comes back with a pile of earth and stones which he tips into the space between the line and the unclosed point. Others dig around for stones and throw them on as well.

There are two small children among the crowd of locals which has gathered. I ask them if they have ever seen anyone try to put a train back on the line like this before. They nod gravely. This is the way they always do it. I shouldn't worry, they say, it only takes half an hour. Sure enough, half an hour later, after some frenzied throttling, the whirring wheels catch the rubble and climb back on the line.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 179
  • Country/sea: Bolivia
  • Place: La Paz
  • Book page no: 238

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