Looking over Corumbá and the Pantanal River

Corumbá

Close to the border with Bolivia in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Not exactly a tourist town, but I like it. I have passed through many times and lived there for short periods. Although while I was living there I spent a lot of time in the Pantanal and not so much in the city.

For most travelers Corumbá is either the arrival, if coming from Bolivia, or the departure if going there.

Tren de la muerte to Santa Cruz de la Sierra

Bolivia is just 8 kms (5 miles) away. Across the frontier you have Arroyo Concepción and immigration, then Puerto Quijarro and the Tren de la muerte (the Death Train) that will take you to Santa Cruz de la Sierra a supposed 19 hours away (I have been on that train the longest for 30 hours). Few people stay in Puerto Quijarro, last time I was there it only had a few modest hospedajes (cheap rooms), an albergue (hostal) and one decent hotel, the Colonial, which wouldn’t really qualify for a star rating, but is the classiest hotel around. Most travelers stay in Corumbá and only cross the frontier on the day of travel; arrival is the same, head straight to Brazil after the train.

A camp kitchen, to think now that I used to cook in this...

Corumbá is probably the best place to take a tour into the Pantanal. Agencies offering backpacker camps abound and offer trips to campsites in the Necholândia region. The camps are basic, but tolerable for the two or three days you are there and the guides all spoke adequate English, many spoke Hebrew as well.

But the camps and guides gave you a good chance to see the wide variety of flora and fauna of the region. The Pantanal has more species of birds than anywhere else on the planet.

As you can see the surrounding are less than salubrious, but we never had a case of food poisoning. This is called roughing it, and we never advertised otherwise.

From the river looking to the city

The water front of Corumbá was a nice place to sit and have a beer in the shade of the several kiosks there.

Boats lined up along the port

There were also many boats of varying size to take river cruises. I went on one once, but the chance of getting a good look at the wildlife was far more limited than the land-based camps.

Forte Coimbra

The city itself has little to offer the tourist, although there are some fine hotels and all manner of smaller cheaper ones as well a hostals. Apart from the Panatal, the only major tourist attraction is the Forte Coimbra, built at the end of the 17th century, which played a decisive part in major battles during the Paraguay War.

The other main attraction is for the sports fisherman.

Corumbá has changed a lot since I was last there. Bow there is a bridge over the Rio Paraguay; in my time we had to cross the river, buses and all, on a barge. Times change, don’t we all?

So there you have it, a little about a place that I once called home.

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