Tupiza is a nice little town in the South of Bolivia, in the middle of a fantastic landscape made of red or black hills and desert. It’s relatively warm the whole year, no freezing at night at 3000m altitude. I was very lucky to get a room quite cheap in probably one of the best hotels in town. 12€ for my own room, a good breakfast including fresh fruits, a swimming pool outside, everything very clean… I spoil myself to 3 relaxed nights here. During breakfast I meet a French couple and we agree to meet for dinner tonight. While they are going horseback riding, I really need to walk after sitting in jeeps and vans only the last 10 days. I start exploring the town a bit and am reliefed that it’s quite easy to walk around for me, no staring. There aren’t many tourists and it’s quite interesting to see how the locals hang around, go to the markets, have lunch at all those tiny almuerzo places or directly at the local market.
I am nevertheless heading out of town for a short hike. Up over a first hill I walk on the dirt road amidst a lot of trash until the trail gets more beautiful towards the red hills. I love the colours, red hills, green cactus, green trees and plants, blue sky, beige ground.
I run into the French and their horse tour before climbing up to see La Puerto del Diablo closer. When continuing further into the canyon I am just on my own, nobody else is around. I climb a bit when the canyon gets narrower until it’s too risky and I decide to turn around.
Back in town I enjoy having my own room to relax before meeting Sebastian and Margaux for dinner. We eat at a local place, very cheap but there is not much choice. Chicken, rice, fries for 2€. Since I started travelling I decided to be more flexible regarding food, becoming a Flexitarian as someone called it. I am still not a fan of meat but if I eat it if I feel my body needs it (while hiking), I am invited into a house for dinner or if it’s a country where it’s hard to eat anything else.
The next morning I enjoy another great breakfast with Sebastian and Margaux before we take the bus for 20cents to go to the start of another trail. From the bus station it’s just 3km to the Cañon del Duende, even more impressive as we can walk inside for quite a while.
It’s an easy walk back and another local bus takes us back into town. I follow Sebastian and Margaux to the market where you can have a cheap lunch upstairs. We opt for the same place they already were yesterday and have a very good soup (peanut soup with pasta and some fries, it was really delicious!) followed by a plate of lentils, rice, potatoes, onion, tomatoes. I am a bit worried about the uncooked food but as the others didn’t get sick yesterday, I am eating it anyway. It was so easy in Chile and Argentina, as I could drink the tap water and didn’t have to care about fresh food being washed in tap water, but that’s different in Bolivia! Apparently Tupiza is a rare place where it’s relatively safe to use tap water.
In the afternoon we relax at the swimming pool in the warm sun and I get to read the book Marching Powder. It was a great recommendation by fellow travellers, about a British drug dealer and his life in the incredible San Pedro prison in La Paz (where he provided tours for tourists, cocaïne is also produced in the prison – read it!).
Tonight we have dinner in a fancier place, a style mix of an American diner and traditional things. I have a very good home made plate with loads of vegetables, pasta and delicious tomato sauce. Together with a liter of fresh apple juice it’s 5,20€ each.
My plan was to leave Tupiza the next day, in a 5h bus trip to Potosi. But at the bus terminal I find out that there’s a social movement and the road to Potosi is blocked. (Thanks Margaux for translating!!!). The train doesn’t leave to Potosi so if the strike is still ongoing tomorrow, I will have to go via Uyuni. I am adviced to check again tomorrow.
So before breakfast I ask at the hotel but they say it’s blocked for an indefinite time. I just have to accept it so after breakfast I pack up m stuff, check out and walk to the bus terminal. I ask around, everyone is going to Potosi via Uyuni only and so I end up buying a ticket for a supposedly direct bus to Uyuni leaving at 10.30am and taking 6h to Uyuni (better than the usual 5h).
Boarding the bus is a mess, a handful of tourists and the locals, not everyone got a seat number and knows where to go. So we only leave at 11am, as I know how bad the road is, I fear the worst looking at the bus conditions. After just 40 minutes we already make a first stop for bathrooms, food, in the middle of nowhere. Great, I am not sure I will make it to Potosi today if we continue like this. The bus ticket was just 4€ (30 Bolivianos, strangely the Bolivian people had to pay 40) but it also is not the standard I was used to from Chile! Plus I need to be more careful, checking at every stop if no one takes the backpacks (I am the only foreigner sitting at the side where our backpacks are). At least at this stage of my journey I don’t mind all of this, I learned to accept things as they are and try to make the best out of every situation. If I arrive too late in Uyuni, I will just stay there and go have the nice pizza at a place I was recommended. Let’s see.