Departure at 8.30am for a longish drive, in time but not distance, to Tupiza, (Photos here.) I was back at 8.15am from my visit to the train cemetery but Karen wasn’t where we had agreed to meet – at the restaurant where we had our breakfast the day before. Turned out she had gone on a mission to find bread and tomatoes for lunch with Geoff we were just about to send out a search party when they appeared with said supplies.
We had a choice of routes – 400km of boring motorway or 200km of scenic dirt road – we opted for the dirt road for the truly spectacular scenery but talk about shake rattle and roll, no dozing on the truck today! After 4 ½ hours we had only gone 100km so slow going but worth it for the views. With about an hour to go and the light fading we came across a Bolivian bus that had broken down – multiple punctures. Stuck ! Two hours later having not just changed the wheels but the tyres as well due to the odd assortment of rims on the bus (and borrowing Ithaca’s tools to do it) they were eventually able to move the bus enough for us to get past. Now pitch black, the already challenging drive was now serious, with headlights on plus the roof mounted rally lights Rogan did a sterling job of getting us down the winding mountain route and together with Kirsten navigating the incomprehensible route into town. We grabbed a quick bite of chicken & chips at a tiny cafe that was closing around us for the princely sum of 80p each and headed to bed after a long and tiring day.
There are lots of tours and activities in and around Tupiza but most opted to chill after our fairly hectic program of the previous week. Some were going walking but we opted for a more sedate Jeep tour, joined at the last minute by Sue, and once I solved the issue of cash. The ATM wouldn’t play ball the previous night (the only other ATM in town being out of order) and then inspiration struck and I used the Spanish rather than English menus and money popped out. Confirmation it wasn’t a fluke when Sue tried the same thing – no cash when using the English menu no problem in Spanish.
We had a great day – firstly seeing some of the valley we had missed in the dark the previous night – absolutely stunning and then visiting some of the other gems including “Valley Los Machos” where the rock formations look like a certain part of male anatomy and where we met Francois, Heather, Lisa and Jean walking, also “Canon del Duende” a hidden valley that you enter literally via a hole in the wall. It was very Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid.
Incidentally Tupiza is where the famous robbers made their last robbery – the payroll of the Aramayo Mining Company on Nov 3rd 1908. This resulted in the standoff with their pursuers about 120km from Tupiza, not as romantic as the film supposedly Sundance was fatally injured and realising there was no escape Butch shot Sundance and then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. However there are endless conspiracy theories that they did actually escape and the bodies never found……………
Sure it’s all good for the tourist industry J Lunch was a hit with Karen as we had explained the gluten free issue and the tour company had gone overboard to compensate, fruit, yogurt and Tameles – corn dough stuffed with Llama meat – proved much more popular than the stand ham and cheese sandwiches for the rest of us. On the way back we passed a local lady carrying a heavy load in the middle of nowhere and Sue suggested we offer her a lift which she gratefully accepted for the 5 or so miles to town and the market, where we think she was headed. to sell whatever it was she was carrying.
Back about 4pm and did some blog preparation before heading out to El Alamo for a drink with about half the group. El Alamo is a strange place with multiple rooms – one a disco and the decor a sort of 50’s diner meets soft porn set with some fairly suggestive posters of Marilyn Monroe, Wonder Woman and bikini clad girls with cars.
We went for dinner with Geoff, Tony and Vanessa for more chicken. After a couple of us ordered a ½ chicken and chips plus rice they wouldn’t let us order any more as said it was too much as they expected us to share and indeed the portions were huge. Tony and I went back to El Alamo for a night cap and spent a pleasant hour putting the world to rights. Early start next morning with a 6am departure as although only 3 hours to the border but with a total drive to next stop of about 8 hours and because you simply never know how long a border crossing will take. As it happened it was probably our fastest crossing of the trip with all of us plus truck and formalities completed in an hour!
One odd thing about the border was the sheer number of porters ferrying goods across to Bolivia. It’s obviously cheaper / faster to employ the porters than take the trucks across. Slight
chaos ensued when one of the porters spilled her load of apples, Bolivia imports apples from Chile as they don’t grow well in Bolivia and hence they are by far the most expensive fruit, causing a traffic jam on the narrow, fenced path reserved for the porters to the displeasure of those behind. Time is clearly money as the porters push the heavy loads one way and then run back the other for the next pick up.
We were heading for a campsite that was also a rafting and zip lining centre, it was a bit of a detour but it had been arranged for them to provide a “surprise bbq” this plus the location next to the river justifying the detour. The surprise turned out to be no bbq as despite Kirsten having a confirmation email from their office the people on site had no knowledge of our booking and certainly no food for 25.
Plan B was a quick emergency pasta dinner off the truck however as it was basically pasta with tomato sauce I made do with a chocolate bar and to bed in our tent as no upgrade available, still an excellent location and good facilities including a nice hot shower.
Next day no one went zip lining which was just as well as drive was longer than expected due to slow roads, en route we stopped at Calyate a pleasant place but we only had 30 mins and Karen and I needed to get drinks for the bar – we were slightly late back but to loud cheers when they realised we had some drinks.
We ended up 80km short of our intended camp-site but found a reasonable alternative in Rio Horno. A beef stir fry for dinner which was our last cook group – a bit of a result as we only did breakfast and a relatively simple dinner. We stayed up late with most of the group which decimated the bar supplies meaning we will have to do another stop for our last night camping in order to avoid a riot ! Tupiza Photos Here
Onward next day towards Cordoba and a 3 night stop at a working Estancia (farm).
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