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Published: March 6th 2013
Tupiza was a small village of no onsequence. Now mainly due to back pacKers things are improving, the roads are getting better, there are good places to eat and a few ATMs and reasonable places to stay. The costs are half of what is in Argentina across the boarder. The town is surrounded by hills of a particular nature. They are almost bare and compltely made of red stone (something like the laterite stone, but dry). It is something unique to this area. The hills are with sharp sides. Erosion has made interesting statuets and figures on these rocky formations. There are 4 wheel drive conducted excursions to the hills.
After our pleasant "Ride with the Gouchos" experience in Salta myself and Laticia opted for a horse riding trip to the hills rather than a jeep excursion. Again the horses were gentle and well trained and never gave us any cause for concern. Half way trough the trail we stopped near a small stream with picturesque surroundings for the horses to drink and for us to have a rest. The whole ride took almost 3-4 hours. It was pleasant activity which would have been more enjoyable but for the long walk in
the searing sun to get to the horses in the first place. It would have enhanced the experience if they kept the horses out of town and collected us at the hostel. But the rates were low for me to complain or suggest something.
In the evening we went to a local restaurant and had a sumptuous dinner with salad steak and a 750ml bottle of Bolivian lager ( which also was very good) all for about 7 Euro. We also bought tickets for the bus trip next day to Uyuni. I had read horror reports on the this trip. Most back packers will take a 3 day tour of Uyuni salt flats starting in Tupiza. But that was on a different easier route. The bus turned up nearly half an hour late and the condition of the bus also did not instil any confidence in us.
It soon stopped and was invaded by venders trying to sell mainly food items. However we were on the main road to La Paz, the Bolivian capital, and the road condition was OK. However in less than half an hour the bus turned off the main La Paz road into a narrow dirt track and
started climbing and climbing through narrow tracks cut on the side of the hills. There was no tarmacadam or concrete on the road. As for width there was just enough room for one vehicle. This went on until we reached about 3000m in height. Then it was moving from hill to hill 200m down 300m up. At this stage there were peculiar rock formations all around but the scenery soon became dominated by a single mountain, Cerro Chlorolque, which was of black rock (unusual in the area) capped with snow running down its sides. At every turn we were looking at drops of 500 m or so with barely a foot seperating the back wheel from the precipice.
Half way through, we came to another small town, Attocha, where we could use the bathrooms after more than 4 hours. All off the passengers got down at least to stretch themselves and I hoped that the rest of the journey would be less hazardous. I can understand why there are so many accidents in this area most of the time the whole vehicle missing or fallen more than a 1,000m.
Soon we left Attocha and the bus started climbing again and soon reached
a plateau. It was a blessing that it had not rained the last couple of weeks. We had to drive through a lot of dried river beds. However after Attthat there were no chasms or hairpin bends but the " road" condition if anything only deteriorated. We all heaved a sigh of relief as we finally reached Uyuni by 1800hrs (7.5hrs) to end the bone shattering drive. By this time we were all covered in dust and the condition of bags were even worse. We were glad to get into our respective hostels. There again, there was no Wi-Fi in either hostel so I am posting a few pages from La Paz. We confirmed our Salt Flats Tour for the next morning, had a fabulous meal with beer for 8 Euro before retiring to bed.
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