We arrived into Tupiza at around 1.30pm and headed to the hostel we booked (La Torre) and checked in one of the two rooms we were offered. We chose the ground floor, a) because it wasn't as far to carry the bags and b) it had more natural light. As soon as we'd dropped our bags off in the room the heavens opened with hail, thunder and lightning. Once it had eased off and my first cup of tea of the day was consumed, we got a map from our hostess and made our way down to the train station to book our tickets for Wednesday. You have to book these early here or you won't get a seat. Train tickets purchased we headed into the centre (which isn't far as it's not very big) to find some supplies and headed back for a rest. We had dinner at the hostel, chicken nuggets and chips then watched some TV before getting some well needed sleep as it had been a long day.
Got woken at 5am by some noisy people coming in from either the late train or a night on the town and after a quick word they finally settled down. At 8.30am we got up for breakfast then went round the agencies to book some tours. We settled on the two day Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid tour for Monday and Tuesday, and a 3hr horse ride on Sunday with another couple from Alaska and Poland, Paul and Anna. We had eggy fried bread for lunch using a round loaf as we couldn't find a square one any where and had a rest from the midday sun. Later we went to the tour agents to meet the other couple we'd be spending the next few days with and then after a shower we headed into town to find something to eat. It's just as bad as Uyuni here, solo pizza and spagetti, but we did manage to find lasagne in one of the many Italian restaurants and only had to wait 45mins for them to make it from scratch. Very tomatoey but not bad for Bolivain lasagne. We finished the evening off watching a movie with a slighly over weight Val Kilmer with mad hair and a man running around with a computer chip in his brain. Wierd action movie.
They were at it again last night, this time middnight till 2-3am, so they must be party animals and not train arrivals with no consideration for anyone else
. Rant over! We got up at 8am for breakfast and then went over the road to Tupiza tours for our horse riding trip. There were lots of jeeps outside the office and people getting ready for their 3 day tour to Uyuni, so we waited in the office with Anna and Paul for our guide to arrive. He turned up about 9.30 and we walked 10mins to where the horses were waiting. We were kitted out with calf protectors and were soon mounting our horses in a very random fashion and ready to hit the trail. The ride started on the road side along some old rail tracks and then we turned off to the canyons. Like most tourist horse rides, we all followed one after the other but soon found out who was the leader of the pack, Anna's and she wasn't too comfortable with him. I offered to swap horses and could tell straight away he wanted to be up front, (a little clue told me that he was going to be a fiesty judging by the bridal he had on) and a few gallops here and there calmed him down a bit. Anna still wasn't getting on with the swap so she decided to have a walk instead and meet us back at the start. We rode to the Puerta del Diablo (devils door) and then onto the Canyon del Inca where we had a 20min break and a chance to look around. Heading back we saw a few more horse rides coming the opposite way and we noticed that most of the guides were kids, one of which had a horse that kept rearing up. We had a nice slow walk back to the start, thanked our guide and then walked back into town. Tired we went back to the hostel for a rest and some lunch
. Later in the afternoon we walked up to the mirador, Corazon de Jesus where we had a beautiful 360 degree view of the town and surrounding mountains. We had scrambled egg and fried bread for dinner and then watched a movie before getting to bed around 11pm.
Got up at 7.30am from a much better nights sleep as the noisy niebours had moved on, had breakfast and checked out. We then walked across the road to the tour office to store our bags and wait for our tour guide to arrive. Gerardo and his wife Christina arrived in their Jeep, then we loaded our stuff and headed off on the trail of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We first stopped at Huaca Huanusca (dead cow canyon) where they robbed the payrole and we had a look at a moss looking plant that is combustable. Next stop was at a phalic symbol called La Poronga which as you can guess was long and tall, and we also had a look at the cactus with lovely buds and flowers on them. At lunch time we stopped at a zinc mine that was being worked by 3 men, we went over to say hello and have a look at how they mine and we also gave them some water and fruit, it is a hard life for them. All the time we were eating lunch there was a cute kitten and a skinny dog hanging around for some scraps of food (they weren't a patch on Ruby)
. From there we drove to a bigger, mostly disused mining town to look around the ruins and the local cemetery. There were a few men working away sifting though the remnants trying to find small pieces of silver. They also had repaired and were living in some of the ruins. Also there were two pyramid shaped buildings and a very deep hole, they're not sure what purpose they served but we decided that they were a shrine to Toblerone as that's what they looked like to us. We then drove to Tatasi to find some rooms for the night, but what was available wasn't very good so we turned around and headed to Atocha along a partly dry river bed. We arrived at around 5pm and Gerardo found us a couple of twin rooms. The Hilton it certainly was not, but that's all he could find and he and Christina would be sleeping in the Jeep to keep it safe. We had a wander round town (we've been before but got a bit more adventurous with more time and someone else with us) whilst Christina prepared dinner. Dinner was ready at 7pm and we had veg soup and meat and mashed potato. After dinner we bought some chocolate for dessert and then had a drink with Paul and Anna before heading to bed at 10pm in our prison cell room.
Woke up at 7am (Cat didn't get much sleep because the bed creaked every time she moved) and Gerardo and Christina had breakfast ready for us which was cereal with yogurt and a sweet bread
. After breakfast we headed out of Atocha back along the dry river bed and off to San Vincent crossing the railway line here and there. San Vincent is a big mining town and security is very high, we had to wait at a control border and an official to let us in with plenty of paperwork filling and physical checking that we were tourists and not terrorists. Once in we went straight to the souvenier shop to pay our entrance fee for the Museum (the tour company had to arrange for the museum to be open before we left) and then we had a guided tour of this tiny museum of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was in Spanish but Cathy and Anna got the gist of it and translated what they thought she said to Paul and I, which was quite interesting. We had some fun with Paul's props and had photos with replicas of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids' hats. After that we headed to the cemetary where they are 90% sure that they are both buried in, in a single grave with a cord around it. The cord is said to keep their spirits confined in their grave so as not to take the local women away. From there we got back in the Jeep and drove up to the exit control barrier where more paperwork was completed and we headed out to find a nice place for lunch. It had started to rain, and we tried to get ahead of it but it kept following us. Eventually we got ahead long enough to get lunch out and eat it quickly. It's a shame as it was delicious minced meat with vegetables. After lunch we headed to Camino al Sillar where we saw some beautifull shapes that look like hundreds of candles
. From there Paul and Anna had hired pushbikes to ride the 17kms back downhill to the town. Anna wasn't up for it as much as Paul was and after a few sharp corners she gave up and asked if i'd like a go. Ever ready for a challenge I accepted and rode down with Paul the bumpy but fast way down. Back in town we said our goodbyes to our fantastic hosts Gerardo and Christina and booked in to the Mitru Hotel for a bit of luxury for our last night in town. We quickly grabed a nice hot shower in the room and a pizza in town and then went straight back to watch a rubbish movie and bed.
Got up at 8am after a nice peaceful nights sleep and went down for breakfast. Here we get scrambled eggs and cereal with hot milk or yogurt and cheesie crackers. After breakfast we had a walk to the Cerro Elephante, which as you'd guess looks a lot like an elephant on top of a mountain. We then headed back to make use of the hotels pool before checking out at 12 midday. Our bags stowed in the hotels cupboard we did some internet surfing and then went to a restaurant for a sandwich, (everything else was closed) and then chilled back at the hotel until it was time to head to the train station for our train to Oruro.
14th Jan cont.