Bolivia > Tupiza
A new day, a new country.
The bus from Salta to the boarder of Bolivia; 7.30am and we were sat on the most uncomfortable bus of our journey so far, or so we thought... but as we were in the company of by Lady Gaga, Norah Jones and The Cribs, the 7hrs went by pretty quickly.
From La Quiaca bus station we grabbed our bags and another couple (safety in numbers), we walked 10minutes to the boarder crossing. A quick round of paperwork then we were free to enter Bolivia.
With accommodation booked in Tupiza we decided to jump on another bus straight away rather than hang around. 2hrs with no roads, no air and locals with no teeth. Welcome to Bolivia. Although we have been spoilt and have indulged in beautiful buzzing and high flying cities up until now, Bolivia wasn't surprising or shocking to us - this is what we envisaged more of South America to be before leaving the UK. These traditionally clothed women, the lack of roads, the quiet nightlight, an unfortunate lack of dentists/doctors, no sign of fast food and the local shops being small markets dotted around, could only make us smile. We have ventured the furthest from our own culture to date, yet Tupiza has some of the friendliest locals, most of whom don't even bat an eyelid at the colour of your skin, the clothes on your back or the huge rucksack that has become some abnormal body part - never separated from it for too long. It's both refreshing and calming to be able to walk around freed from eyes.
We couldn't even come close to relating to the lives of these Bolivians, but we learnt so much and threw ourselves into replicating their daily routine: an early start, a filled day and an early night, ironically the closest structure to English living that we've come across.
One the first morning we walked straight into the towns Sports Day; school children competing in a fun-run and playing games while others enjoyed a bike race, volleyball and a marching band to keep them all going with their encouraging music. Groups of the Army and Police trainees were also involved performing typical training, games and even a boxing match!! Once that had died down we walked around Tupiza which took about 20mins due to its teeny size.
Wanting to purchase gloves and hat (we'd previously been warned that the temperature drops dramatically in the evenings in Bolivia as the sun disappears behind the mountains) so we went where the locals would, the market. Imagine a place in which you can find any piece of junk or treasure you could think of...
For lunch, locals were huddled around a woman and a gas bottle who was making traditional Bolivian food, freshly made Empanadas: curried potato, spinach and spices neatly wrapped in pastry. I.e. Nick's new favourite snack! Stood in the street enjoying our cheapest lunch yet, we turned to see a statue overlooking the town. 15mins later we were out of breath and fighting with the clouds of dust alongside their Jesus statue. The altitude hadn't really affected us until now, one flight of stairs and we were practically on the floor! From the hill we could see the dust swallowing everything up, street by street and within minutes we were next on the menu. Eyes, ears, hair and any other hole, filled with dust and dirt, we chose to make a quick exit.
The next day the sand hidden in all parts of our bodies, had been replaced by cold/flu symptoms, so we spent the day relaxing in as much sun as we could. That evening however, we wondered over to a traveling circus that had stopped by... which turned out to literally be a circus. Unrehearsed acts sandwiched together by short scenes involving a clown, a midget (Parysa I wish you were there!! & cameras weren't allowed!!) and a random dog wanting a piece of the limelight. It was a bizarre 2hrs but the man being driven over by a car, one very bendy lady and a blind-folded trapeze act still kept us silently impressed and we were glad we'd splashed out a mighty GBP1.80 for the ticket. Coming to the end of our South America travels, our budget is starting to shrink but we couldn't be in a better place, with the currency being 11 Bolivianoes to 1 GB pound we were still able to live like Kings even on a tight budget.
We spent 3hrs of the next day taking in the mountain scenery that envelopes Tupiza, with a 19yr old local and 3 horses as our guides. This horse trek was definitely a highlight of the past 2 months. Nick elated to be back on a horse (he rode as a child) and me experiencing being on a horse for the very first time. Luckily I was surprisingly fearless which was fortunate as I soon found that Bonicho, my horse, was also fearless: this trophy winning jumper was definitely the leader of the pack. He directed us the entire way and bit any of the other horses that dared to edge forward and attempt to take charge. Throughout the 3hrs Nick's horse got braver and braver which ended in the horses chasing each other, cantering through the Wild West! We had no choice but for Nick to remember what he had learnt as a child and for me to learn now! Despite the horses competing with one another, they were amazingly trained and we felt completely safe and we were soon telling these horses to get moving so we could learn how to canter properly, rather than the other way around.
Cowboy by name, Indian by nature: taking on the role of cowboy to enjoy Tupiza´s surroundings, we were soon feeling like Indians, in awe of the sights. Silence would descend over us at moments during the trip as words could not express what we were witnessing. My camera died 30mins into the journey so we were only able to get a few pics, but just like the memories of those bed-bugs, they will be sticking around for a long while.
Our bus to Tarija, our next stop, wasn't due until 8pm so we spent the evening in a family run Parilla (BBQ) restaurant - Dad takes charge of the cooking, mum has control of the kitchen while the two young children, aged no more than 14, run the restaurant and wait on tables. We've never seen a happier family.