Tupiza - cowboy country

Trip Start Aug 06, 2010
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The bus ride last night was a long one but we ultimately arrived safe so that is most important.  My seat was at the very front of the bus and the people either side of me were really nice.  Iīve come a long way from thinking that ever person in south america was out to steal my passport!  The lady across the aisle has a young girl of about 7 and she has to sleep in the aisle on some thin blankets - I doubt my neices or nephews would ever have to do that but this girl is ultra well behaved and doesnīt grumble the whole time.

The bus left at 9pm and didnīt get into Tupiza until 5am, again a long bus ride with no bathroom.  However at midnight I wake up to find the bus has stopped in the middle of nowhere.  We have broken down and the driver spends the next half an hour tinkering with the engine.  It does give me an opportunity to pop out of the bus and wander in the darkness.  The stars are brilliant tonight - I wish I could remember more from my night sky tour in Chile.

Eventually the driver gets us going and I watch the road in front of me.  We are on an unpaved road that is essentially a dirt road.  It looks like it is being prepared for paving but for us we survive on the mildy bumpy road.  At parts the road is as narrow as the bus.  To make matters worse the bus lights probably only light up 30 metres ahead and thereīs no catīs eyes to show the road ahead.  I am up high and have a better view than the driver but even I sometimes cannot see a bend coming until its right upon us - god knows how the driver does it.

The best option is just to sleep and eventually we arrive in Tupiza - safe.  We groggily get off and me & my new french pal Anne walk down the street 300 metres to our hostel.  A lady comes up to us halfway down the street trying to sell us a tour - i canīt believe she is up at 5am selling!

At 9.30 its up again for breakfast (black coffee and white bread with jam).  I have been wanting to do a horse trek here after a friend advised it and so me and Anne book a 3 hour trek.  We head off in a bus to meet our horses.  I did a horse ride once in NZ but that was 15 years ago so suffice to say I am a novice.  Still Iīm pretty confident that the horses would just follow the one ahead and be fairly much automatic.

I meet my horse, I was told the name but its some spanish one I canīt remember.  Heīs a decent size but easy enough to jump on top off.  Thereīs no instruction apart from a 30 second demostration of left, right and stop but I am given a cowboy hat and cowboy looking shin guards so at least I look the part.  As suspected my horse just follows only the path behind our guide - a teenager wearing a Slipknot t-shirt.  He asks if we want to go faster and we get into a trot.  The trot is really uncomfortable, I bounce up and down and my bag on my back loosely bounces around too with a 2 litre bottle of water in it.

Iīm happy once we slow down to a walk again and admire the scenery.  It is like out of a country western here, barren with cacti all around.  It feels in parts like a western movie and other parts like we are in the Grand Canyon.  We break into another run but this time a bit faster, suddenly instead of bouncing up and down the horse is in stride so you rock back and forth and its 10 times more comfortable.

At one point we get off the horses and do some rock climbing.  Thereīs an australian couple there who are really nice, I come across a bit as a south american expert as theyīve only just begun their travels.  Back on the horses we continue our journey and get in some more cantering (not sure if thatīs the right term for faster than trotting).  We come to a river area and let the horses have a drink.  The other horses then cross the stream at a certain point but mine goes in another way.  Suddenly my horses is waist deep in water meaning that it comes up to my shoes.  Thankfully I manage to turn him into the shallow without getting drenched.

We end our ride without too much incident, it was great scenery and nice to be lazily riding a horse in the hot sun.  I can envisage that the cowboy life must have been great times.  Back in civilisation with a slightly sore bum we book our 4-day saltflats tour.  The salt flats are supposed to be spectaculat and many peopleīs highlight of Bolivia.  Its also supposed to be -20 degrees at points and only one shower over 4 days.  Still its exciting to be booked onto a tour after bypassing this whole area 4 weeks ago because of the miners strike.

I go to an internet place to catchup on emails and walk into a room of about 25 computers, all of which have teenage boys playing various computer games.  There is probably about 50 kids in the room.  I wander around town a bit and canīt find anywhere that is free, in fact some of the cyber cafes donīt have internet they are only for playing games.  Thankfully when I go back to the internet place I am luckily enough to get a machine - Iīm warned that the internet is slow.  Iīm donīt really mind so much as when Iīm waiting for a page to load I just watch the intriguing game of Barcelona vs Manchester United some lad is playing beside me.

Me and Anne grab dinner at a Pizzeria, it seems every restaurant here is a pizzeria so thats pretty much our only option.  Then its more internet before an early night in readiness for the 4 day tour starting tomorrow morning.
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Dad on

I have always wondered what it is like to ride a horse - lucky you! When you described going into the deep water I had visions of you losing the horse! Continue to enjoy everything.

Damian on

Can't go wrong with pizzerias!! yum yum

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