Horses, hiking and a bit more biking.....Tupiza!

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South America » Bolivia » Potosí Department » Tupiza
January 26th 2012
Published: March 23rd 2012
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After hearing about the bad road conditions from Uyuni to Tupiza, we all decided that since the train was so good last time, it would be the perfect way to travel once more. Our Salt Flat tour had finished in the evening and the train would depart the station at 10:40pm that evening. This was pretty much perfect as it meant we could sleep on the train and would save money on accommodation. The only potential downside of this wily plan was the fact that the train would get into Tupiza at 4.30am and therefore meant sleeping in the station until a hotel or café opened. We decided it was worth the minor inconvenience.

Once aboard the train, it wasn’t long before we realised this wasn’t quite going to be the smooth and perfect ride that we had on the way to Uyuni. The TV that was on the train was all but on the highest volume setting with probably the strangest Bolivian sitcom ever devised by man, adding to the misery, the seats had no leg room, Dave was getting hit in the head by the door every time someone wanted to walk through the carriage and Helen was getting evil stares and shoulder barges from the not so sweet lady next to her. It was quite the entertaining ride.

So, after a not so great sleep, we were very rudely awoken to what has to be the most infuriating song in the world at FULL volume played not once, but three times in a row!! The song in question for anyone who is interested is ‘Pa panamericano ‘, if you happen to be aware of this song, you will no doubt already know how annoying it is at the best of times, let alone at 5am!!

Quote of the day here from Troy when Dave got extremely annoyed with the loud music:

'Dont let this stuff get to you mate. If you do, this country will eat you up'..... Soooo true!!

Now, you may have noticed that I mentioned the song was on at 5am, and those of you who have been following will realise that we should by now have been fast asleep on the station platform and not still on the train. Well, as with anything in Bolivia, things change constantly, and due to some reason or other we were delayed. Whether sleeping on a station platform floor is worse than having to listen to that sorry excuse for a song is debatable, but either way come 7am, we had finally arrived in Tupiza!

The main reason we were all in Tupiza was down to the fact that this place had a reputation of being a bit of a Wild West town…at least that was the impression we got. Once there however, the town, although pretty nice, wasn’t quite the John Wayne territory we were expecting. There were no saloon pubs serving gulping whiskey, neither were there gunslingers on horseback calling everyone ‘Varmits’. This was a shame, however as I say, the place did have a nice feel about it all the same, and we were all fairly happy as the sun was out and the temperature warm.

The hostel that we were staying at was opposite one of the only tour agencies and therefore we quickly went over to ask what kind of activities there were to do in town. The answer that we liked the sound of the most was the Jeep, Mountain biking and Horse riding day tour that took place just outside the town, all for a very agreeable price. So, without further ado, we booked ourselves on the tour for the next day and celebrated by walking round the town trying to find somewhere that had the Premiership on the TV and probably more importantly, for somewhere with WiFi as I had recently discovered someone had been helping themselves to my Bank account in Colombia by having cloned my card…. Thieving Gits!

The next morning, we woke early and jumped on the bus that was promised for only ourselves and one other British girl. Of course, as we were in Bolivia, this wasn’t the case, and therefore we hopped on the bus with another 7 people (not including ourselves) and none of whom were British!!?? The tour started off in the Jeep (it was actually a minibus van, but like I say, this is Bolivia!) where we drove to the surrounding areas of Tupiza in order to take in and enjoy the scenery that was around us. This is when I think we all realised why we had come here. It wasn’t the town that was supposed to be the Wild West, but the landscape, and it really was stunning. The Red mountains and the cacti with the river running through the valley almost gave it a feel of the Grand Canyon and the Arizona desert and we were all happy snapping away at the views. Of course we still had a few ‘amusing’ pictures that ‘needed’ taking but that was always a given with Troy and Dave around anyway!

So, after a few hours of driving round, and getting to walk though valleys and canyons we drove to the place where we would be learning to Horse ride. Saying that, not all of us needed lessons as it was only Dave and myself that had never ridden a horse before. Donna on the other hand had ridden a horse before when she was 9, however since falling off one, she had never since even touched an animal, let alone ride one, so this was also going to prove an interesting development..!

Once at the ‘stables’ we were all given essential equipment such as stirrups, a cowboy hat and of course a horse. The lessons that both Dave and I had been waiting for were then administered. By this, I mean they told you how to get on the horse and that was it! Once on this huge animal we then had to pretty much figure out the controls for ourselves….this wasn’t easy! Luckily, Helen and another girl who was with us on this trip were hardened riders and they were the ones to give us tips on how to ride the horse. So, after no more than 10 minutes, we were off onto the road before heading into the canyons unassisted with our new best friends. Linda (my horse) decided after about 10 minutes that she was bored and wanted to go a little faster, so, without so much as a kick or a ‘Yeeha’ she sped off into what I now know is a trot which surprised both me as well as my unsuspecting testicles….WOW, that hurt!

After 30 minutes with Linda though, we had a bit of a bond going and in my head I was a natural at this, and so I decided to give her a gentle kick and see what happened…..

I soon found out that the next speed on the horse was called a cantor and this frankly scared the hell out of me as well as satisfying my need for speed, so it was quite a surreal experience, but one that I enjoyed very much indeed. I have since been told that a cantor isn’t usually included in lesson 1 of horse riding, however I imagine lesson 2 over here would probably involve jumps and an official racetrack!!

Meanwhile, Donna had jumped up on her horse, STROKED IT…. and was off like she did this for a living. Anyone who knows Donna will be shocked by this, however I can assure you it happened, and I have several photos to prove it!! Since falling off all those years ago, Donna decided to take it slowly at the start but by the end was keeping up with those of us at the front, this development was huge and she even said that she enjoyed herself and after stroking Rosilio goodbye, told me that she would like to do it again someday…. Maybe we might be able to get a pet other than a fish one day after all!! Well done my dear!

After saying our emotional farewells to the horses it was then time for the mountain biking. Since doing the World’s most dangerous road in Bolivia, the Nut ring crew had been eager to do a downhill ride again and with Dave being a motorbike man too, this was right up our street. The minivan took us to the top of a huge mountain, unloaded the bikes and told us to go for it, and just return the bikes back to the travel agency…. No instructions, no information about the road bends or conditions, just to be careful as this was a fully functional road!

So, after a couple of ‘roadkill’ photos and a quick ride to get used to the bikes we were off. The road was awesome to ride down and luckily for us there was very little traffic , so we could really open it up. The bikes were a little less sturdy than the bikes we had used before, however it was a fantastic experience again and one that we all loved!

The rest of the time we spent in Tupiza was fairly standard, eating, drinking and having a laugh. Plus before leaving I even managed to get my refund for the crazy amount of cash that was stolen from my account. All in all we had a fantastic time and now it was time to leave. Unfortunately, we were not only leaving Tupiza, but also Helen as she decided that the horse riding was so awesome, that she fancied some more action. So, Donna, Troy, Dave and I headed for the highest town in the world….Potosi.

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