Our last full day in Bolivia

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Bolivia  , Potosí,
Sunday, March 10, 2013

Although we had to carry our bikes and bags out through the cactus fields we still managed to be on the road fairly early.  The sun was high and beaming down once we were on our way to the town of Tupiza.  We covered the 50km to the town fairly quickly, only stopping a couple of times for snacks by the side of the road.  Thankfully we still had some cheesy bread with us and some tomatoes, from our stop in Potosi, because we have hardly seen any facilities since then. 

We went through a couple of Police check-point and toll booths.  Each time we approach them we wonder if we are going to be asked to pay or to produce bicycle licenses as we have heard other cyclists have had to.  Before coming to Bolivia, we had been warned that the Police are more corrupt here than in other countries and more likely to ask for bribes.  We approached each station with trepidation but were always either ignored or waved through with smiles and warm greetings.  We were never asked to pay anything or treated unkindly, and now that we are at the end of our Bolivian adventure, i'm pleased that I didn't worry about the warnings too much.  Similarly we were warned about the weather and the roads, but have encountered some of the best conditions on our trip so far.  We also think the dogs were amongst the tamest we have cycled passed and that although lots of people were shy, they were rarely rude.  We had such low expectations for our time in Bolivia, because so many people had warned us of the difficulties but it will probably be a highlight of the trip.  Some things were difficult such as getting water each day and trying to acquire fuel for our camp stove but it was far outweighed by the stark environment and landscapes.  Also we had lots of positive encounters with the locals and were left with an overall good impression of the Bolivian people.

We whizzed down a long down hill into the town of Tupiza, which was sitting at 3000m above sea level.  The landscape was already changing, which it always seems to do when we approach the border of the country.  I'm not sure if this is because it seems like the logical territorial end point or if we just notice it more when we know we are just about to change country.  Either way we were surrounded by high, dark red imposing cliff structures, which pushed up out of the ground in a variety of interesting shapes.

We arrived in to the small town of Tupiza, which our Bolivia map noted was a "pleasant town", which seemed very biased and not particularly helpful.  We cycled around the main square and found that it was a quiet town, with a few restaurants that were mostly closed for the afternoon.  We found one place that had huge steaks cooking on a BBQ grill at the front of the restaurant for all to see.  They looked amazing, and we excitedly ordered two.  After our first course of soup, and a second course of salad, we were presented with tiny pieces of low-quality beef.  We were gutted and decided that we must put more time into learning the types of steak before entering Argentina.  We thought our Spanish was improving slowly but clearly we need to improve our steak vocabulary. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent making our way between the tall red cliffs, next to the dirty brown rushing river.  We covered 50km or so through the valley and then ascended up 500m towards the border of Argentina.  I would say that my legs were heavy with sadness that our fifth and final country brought us closer to the end of our trip and having to say goodbye to Kory, but in truth, my legs were just heavy and tired with the long hill climb at the end of the day. 

We found a small campsite that was hidden from the road and hopefully free of cactus prickles.  It had much easier access than the previous night, which felt like an upper body workout to get the bags and the bikes to the flat, hidden area.  As we went to sleep we could see three lots of lightening strikes to the North, South and West and wondered if we should expect a cold, wet night.  Somehow though we were spared any rain and just got to enjoy the lightening show in the evening.

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