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BOLIVIA | Wednesday, 4 March 2009 | Views [4209] | Comments [2]

We left Uyuni at 12:30 on our 6 hour bus ride to Tupiza. Tupiza is actually quite close to Uyuni, somewhere around 200 km, however, the roads are all narrow dirt roads with rivers running through them in places. The bus alone had more clearance than any bus I`ve ever seen. The seats were easily 5 feet off the ground, and the tires looked like they belonged on land rover.

The bus needed to be sturdy, if it wasn`t it wouldn`t have made it out of Uyuni. Although the roads started out very flat and level, we quickly entered the foothills and then the mountians that stand inbetween the 2 towns. The scenery slowely turned more and more spectacular. The foothills gave way to mountains riddled with river cut canyons while towering red rock formations dominated the landscape. In many places the road was cut into the side of a mountain, and in others it descended down these cliffs in a series of switchbacks that would take the bus up to 5 turns to complete. The road eventually climbed up onto a mountain ridge overlooking a river valley. Red cliffs rising over 300 meters from the valley completed the scenery. It was easily the most beautiful bus ride of the trip.

We entered Tupiza and immediatly found the cheapest hostel in town. We even scored out and got a double room for the 3 of us. The hostel had a fairly large courtyard with fig and pomegranite trees beariung unripe fruit. From our hostel we set about exploring the town and recovering from our salar trip. Tupiza is a comfortable 10000 ft ablove sea level, and provided a nice transition area where we weren`t constantly gasping for breath yet still producing lactic acid because we couldn`t get enough oxygen to fuel our whole body.

We rested for the first few days and explored the town. Tupiza cannot be larger than a few thousand people yet has a large market and black market. Our first taste of Bolivian cuisine... and it would appear that most dishes seem to be made of hot dogs, french fries, and eggs, well, at least the dishes you can buy at a local resturaunt. Street food is another matter. They sell hamburguesas (a wafer thin strip of meat with mayo,ketchup, vegetables, and frenchfries inside) nearly everyshere, and chorizo sandwiches, and lama meat with corn and fried bread, and tamales. All in all, the most abundant and cheap street food i have ever seen. And lets not forget the empanadas. although small, they are filled with a tasty mixture of onions, potatoes, and meat; and at $0.15 US they are a tough deal to beat.

Tupiza is set at the base of the mountains, and it is an easy walk to several very beautiful hikes.There is one right outside of town that leads you to a waterfall, and strange vertical slabs of rock that seemto defy gravity. These plates may rise 50 or so feet in the air, yet some are only inches thick. If you`re willing to walk a bit further out of town you arrive at the adaquately named "Valle de los Machos". The canyon begins with greatvertical slabs or rock whose pointed shapes resemble the pback plates of some giant burried Stegosaurus. Further up the canyon and you arrive to the structures for which the place gets its name...a grove of giant rock phalli. The semblance is uncanny.

Tupiza also happens to be a great place to take horseback riding excursions for anywhere fromseveral hours to 2 days. As Nick and Laina are not real familiar with horses we opted for a 7 hour tour.  We arrived at our tour company at 10:00 in the morning, loaded our saddlebags, and walked to the horse staging area.   We received our mounts, and Nicks horse decided it was time to go.  My horse had already decided that it was going to do the tour with or without me, but was forced to change its mind within 10 minutes or so.  Unaccostomed to a rider who did not let him do what he liked, he became a bit tempramental.  His heat cooled and he resigned himself to my control. 

The ride was gorgeous.  We followed the main road (keep in mind that most all roads in Bolivia - main or not - are dirt)and eventually turned off on a dry stream bed.  The streambed led us to an interesting rivercut rock formation; however, the grandure of Valle de los Machos had jaded us a bit and we instead used the break to eat a bit of food and keep hydrated.  Although  Tupiza is a mere  2900 meters (9500 ft), our bodies still go through quite a bit of water and the intense sun of the area further frustrated our efforts.  We remounted and followed the riverbed until it met with another road with wound up through canyons, and eventually dropped us in a river valley surrounded by giant cliffs and a spread of green grass.  This is where we sould lunch.  Our guide furnished us with homemade tamales stuffed with goat meat, with a side of bread, apples, and a desert of chololate.  It was delicious and we spent the better part of 45 minutes lounging in the shade of a tree and enjoying our lunch accompanied by the reprieve from the sun.  

After we had lunched we moved on across the valley and across the river.  We followed the river for several miles making numerous crossings.  I was thankful it was the end of the wet season and the river rarely reached to my shoes.  I imagine that this section of the tour would have to be completed on a road.  the river offered much more majestic and secluded views of the canyon, and the farms nestled in the river valley.  All in all it was a scene of beauty and tranquility that could not have been enjoyed from a finer perspective. 

We eventually had to leave that eden and move back onto the road.  Luckily we didn`t stay long and moved instead to the traintracks.  The trains only operate several times a day and we encountered no troubles although we followed them for several hours.  At this point Nick was becoming more adventerous and tried to motivate his mount into a gallop or at least a canter.  The grey mare still knew who was in control and Nick only managed a trot; but trot he did.  We still fell about a quarter mile behind and I spurred my old gelding into a trot and then into a canter.  I passed our guide and Laina and then heard Laina trotting after me.  I thought she had become adventurous but her horse soon passed very close to me and a quick look at her told me exactly who was in control of her horse and I moved my leg just before her horse chomped down on my knee.  Without her being able to control her mount I tried instead manuverinbg away, but every time her mount either intercepted me or cut me off or tried to bite.  Naturally frustrated and slightly afradi of getting kicked I resigned myself to the back of the line and remained at a walk behind her horse the rest of the time.  Apparently my mount wasn`t very well liked.  Lainas horse later bit Nick as he passed near home... he was uninjured but I wish Laina would have had the gaul to keep her horses mouth away from us fellow riders.

We soon came to a canyon scene that looked like something out of The Lord of the Rings: a brioad river valley entrance that was flanked on either side by large red stone monoliths jutting out of the mountains at either side.  The scene was spectacular and it was with some sorrow that we rode through the tunnel that the train tracks followed to the other side. 

We took the following day off and spent some time working on the computer and planning the next leg of our trip.  Carnaval started in several days and we wanted to be sure to be somewhere fun.  Although we had originally decided on Oruro - according to all travelers it was THE place to be next to Rio - we opted for the cheaper town of Sucre.  at 6:30 in the morning 2 days later we found ourselves in the White City itslef preparing for Carnaval. 

Tags: horse riding, ill tempered mounts, tupiza




What an adventure! What happens when you can't control what the horse does.
Was Laina scared of her horse?
What exactly is the Carnaval? Is it a special holy day or what?
Tell us what you did at it.
Thanks for writing so well. It was just great!!
Laina's dad got back from Mesquite Nv. from the golf tournament and now he is getting ready to go to Maui. He said he remembers one time going to Maui with Laina when she was a wee baby and she cried and cried...and now look at this adventursome young lady. Uncle Jim is going to take Suzi Perry out to dinner next Sat. in Maui. She is going there for a wedding. Uncle Richard is flying over to Seattle on Sat. morning and getting Connor and bringing him back to Boise for the week while his mom is in Maui. This will be fun but hard for both of them, I bet.Then we will drive Connor back to Seattle.
Keep on writing...it is the best to travel Bolivia with you!!
Love, Aunt Pat xx oo

  Aunt Pat Mar 8, 2009 1:15 AM


Cory, Love this one. The horse back ride was fun to go along w/ you. Yes, trail horses always have their pecking order!! Now I wish I could hear about Carnival, but it seems you are back at the beach!!

I'd like a coule of yummy empanadas RIGHT NOW!!!

  teresa Mar 30, 2009 9:36 AM

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