06.25.2012 - 07.27.2012 70 °F
Tupiza June 25 – 27
We arrived earlier than necessary to the bus station, with plenty of time to purchase snacks before paying our 6 bvs tax to board the bus, the cry of the barkers calling you to board their bus but a minor din so early in the morning. Only about 8 people boarded the bus, leaving us thinking it would be a quiet ride to Tupiza. The bus wheeled out of the station right on time only to stop just outside the bus station to load the remaining passengers. It was then we learned that most bus tickets are sold outside the station, thereby enabling passengers to avoid the 1.5 bvs passenger tax levied inside the station proper. Pulling out of Potosi the bus was filled to capacity.
Negotiating our way out of Potosi in a large bus on streets designed for donkey carts took every bit of an hour and finally we made the open road. With a paved road all the way to Tupiza it was a relatively smooth ride, highlighted only by the video entertainment of the movie “Final Destination” a Bolivian B rated movie complete with green slime that attacked and killed its victims punctuated by a series ofgruesome and bloody accidents. Despite the Spanish dialogue Aidan was rapt the entire way.
Dropping out of the high Altiplano, we soon entered a long river valley and with red rock canyons that might just as well have been southern Utah. Tupiza is a nice little Bolivian city of around 20,000 people, bisected by a wide river plain reduced to a small creek in the dry season. The pigs and garbage scavenging the river plain were just a few of the reminders that despite the red rock it is still Bolivia tierra firma.
A ten minute walk across the river and out of town brought us to Hostal Solares, a small hostal neglected by the guide books that is impeccably clean, with really hot showers and laundry service. Being the ignorant gringos that we are, we realized only later that the laundry service was actually the grandma washing our clothes by hand for 10 bvs or about $1.50 per kilo.
That evening we took in the character of the town and I spent a couple of hours street shooting in the warm afternoon light. The next day, our host arranged a five hour horseback ride to some of the larger canyons in the area. Anne and the kids exhibited their suburban roots with a high degree of trepidation at the equine activities ahead. The horses were the mishmash of nags that you might expect, which still left Anne and the kids on pins and needles. Our guide Simone seemed more interested in his cell phone than us but fortunately we soon got out of cell range and then he engaged. The canyons in the area really spectacular, with large hoodoos and steep ravines formed in the highly erosive soils. My horse, “Speedy Gonzalez” was an ill-mannered 5 year old that shaped up substantially once I cut thin branch for a quirt. It was a hot, dusty, memorable day with spectacular countryside that evoked fond memories of the many miles I logged on the trusty steed of my youth.
The next day, Wednesday, we slept in, made a short hike up to a viewpoint above the town and made preparations for our 5 day tour to the Lagunas, a series of high mountain lakes, and the Salar the world’s largest salt flat.