From Santa Cruz, the railway line runs some 680km east to the Brazilian border across a seemingly endless expanse of forest and tangled scrub, gradually giving way to the vast swamplands of the Pantanal as the border draws near. Settlements along the line remain few and far between, and the region’s main towns are both close to the Brazilian border: Puerto Suárez, a half-forgotten lakeside outpost that was once the focus of Bolivian dreams of access to the Atlantic via the Río Paraguay, and the dismal border trading settlement of Quijarro, the train’s last stop before the frontier.

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