We travelled by three buses (one broke down in the middle of nowhere) to reach the town of Tupiza. After doing some research this was the spot recommended by so many other travellers from where to start the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour but the town itself had lots more to offer. It was clear that Bolivia is a very different country from Argentina from as soon as we stepped off the bus. The locals are extremely friendly and offered information and assistance about things to do etc. but not in a forceful way. But also the landscape here was rugged with the town being enveloped in red overhanging mountains. It was really picturesque. We walked around a few hostels before staying in a pricey enough spot because it had internet!
Our few days here were a mix of getting into the Bolivian way of life as much as planning our tour to the Salt Flats. For me it was also the time for some horse trekking. The surrounding countryside is like something out of a western film (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid met their demise just 40km from here in 1908) and although John couldn’t be persuaded, I set
off with two English girls and two Bolivian guides (or late teenager boys). The horses were a bit wild to say the least and if I hadn’t had a bit of experience I would have been fairly anxious the whole time. Coupled with the lack of English or any type of instruction on the guide’s part, the two English girls were fairly nervous. One ended up having one of the Bolivian young fellas hop onto the horse with her for the duration. I really enjoyed it though. My horse was easy to manage, we got a good bit of trotting in but it was the views that made it. Canyons, strange rock formations, multi-coloured mountains, watching locals heard goats and bulls and the melting sun all made for an enthralling 5 hour trek. I haven’t seen such different landscapes all within a few kilometres of each other before and I was impressed.
The pace in the town itself was certainly slow and laid back. One weird thing we noticed was that nearly all the restaurants had identical menus and prices, they all offered pizzas, pastas and traditional Bolivian food. They were all pushing the Italian theme though. The ATM
has only been installed since December but was out of action with no real sign of repair as the locals were waiting on a technician from elsewhere. So to get money we had to avail of a cash advance from the credit card at a local bank. When we arrived we met a queue of Gringos (us foreigners) waiting for the opportunity to top up the cash flow. Here we met Chris, a Kiwi who we agreed to jump on the Salt Flat Tour with. Easy! We were glad that we had met him because a few other Gringos approached us looking for others to join them and it was proving difficult for some. The day before we left we went to the local market which proved to be an excellent find. It offered everything we were looking for in terms of warmer clothes and blankets for next to nothing. So we did some final research and met Chris and his fiancé Tamsyn in the evening before heading off to finalise the tour company. The next adventure is the four day tour around the Bolivian countryside to reach the largest Salt Flats in the world!
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