Once we had our passports stamped, we walked through Villazon in search of a bus to Tupiza – the first place we would stay in Bolivia. We found a very cheap local bus leaving at 2 pm Bolivian time (3 pm Argentinian time). It was clear from the beginning that travlling by bus in Bolivia would be a veeeerry different experience compared to travelling by bus in Argentina. The semi-cama busses in Bolivia were similar to the very economical busses in Argentina. Also, you were lucky if your seat was not broken, or if some local didn’t almost sit on your lap (Cobus had the involuntary privilege of providing a older lady a “lap” seat for a while as she allowed other passengers to pass ;-)). The drive to Tupiza was over within an hour and a half, so the uncomfortable bus was bearable.
First on our list in Tupiza was to find the tourist information office where someone could direct us to our hostal and provide us with a map. Our hostel, Hostal Los Solares, wasn’t too far from the bus station on the other side of the river, so it was possible to walk with our luggage. Hostal Los Solares may look somewhat rundown from the outside, but once you’re inside, the place is sooooo nice. The hostel is run by a local family, and it was one of the best places we’ve stayed in so far for the cheapest price so far. We paid the same price for a clean and comfortable private double ensuite (with very hot water) than for the dorm room in the shocking Hostal Humahuaca. Santos and his wife are excellent hosts, and gives the hostel a homely atmosphere.
Santos advised us to go to the Alamo restaurant, which is also one of the eateries rcommended in the Lonely Planet guide book. On our way to Alamo, we saw another strike (I think in almost every country so far we’ve seen at least two or three). Alamo is a good midway restaurant (between touristy and local) and a place to taste Bolivian cuisine. We paid 70 bolivianos for the experience, which included two main meals, drinks and a tip. Coming from Brazil and Argentina, we were so surprised at how cheap it was. Later on we even found cheaper local restaurants, and also realised that the more touristy ones are more expensive, as usual. The restaurant is decorated in green with photos of Hollywood stars on the walls. We enjoyed the music videos which included music from the 60’s through to the 90’s! Some of the music videos we haven’t even seen before.
Back at the hostel we met Tara and Alfred from Bristol, UK. They have been touring around the world for about 8 months, with one more month to go. It’s interesting how many travellers you meet in South America that are travelling for more than 6 months.
Tara and Alfred were one of the nicest couples we’ve met so far, and we were disappointed that we could not spend more time with them – they were leaving the following day. Also in our hostel was 3 travellers from Germany who have been doing volunteer work in Buenos Aires for a year. Two of them worked in an orphanage and the other one were aiding handicapped people in their daily tasks. There are a lot of travellers in South America, particularly from Europe, who do volunteer work at some point or another, and it is amazing (and heartwarming) to hear what some of these people do.
Tupiza is surrounded by dramatic red escarpments which jut ruggedly skyward from the coarse, gray terrain. Legend has it that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended their notorious string of bank robbery raids near Tupiza, where they were caught by the Bolivian army. A horse trip seemed appropriate in this cowboy country and we booked a 5 hour horse trip for the morning of the second day. Our guide was a 16 year old boy named Luis. He couldn’t speak any English, and we only a little Spanish, so we didn’t have a lot to say to each other. The landscape is a beautiful extension of the landscape seen in Northwest Argentina. The horse ride was great, but we quickly had to accept the fact that we were not leading those Bolivian horses, they led themselves. The horses know the road so well, they just do what they want to and for 5 hours I was not in control at all. The horses either walk very slow or run very fast; you just have to go with the flow. I got a bit worried two thirds into the journey when my horse broke away from the other two and kept on running. After that, I asked the guide to take the reigns of my horse for the last part of the journey as my legs were getting tired from clutching to the saddle (obviously a 5 hour horse ride for an unfit person was a bit enthusiastic). Cobus’ horse was a mare and a bit more laid back, so he was disappointed he didn’t get to ride my horse. He later on switched horses with the guide, and almost fell off the horse, hehe.
After the horse riding, we met up with a cool couple from Ireland, Donal and Jemma, and two guys from England, Damian and Alex. All of them were on an extended travel trip through South America. We went to Alamos again as we all enjoyed the food there. We had a very nice evening full of laughing and chanting along with the music videos from the 80’s and 90’s.
The next day we were so stiff from the horse riding! I struggled to walk around like a normal human being, so we walked veeerrryyy slowly through the town and the markets. In contrast to Argentina, Bolivia operated more similar to South Africa in terms of the working day. There was no siesta time as in Argentina, but rather a normal 8 – 5 pm day. I was caught by surprise in the market realising that some of the more traditional local people didn’t want business from tourists. They made it no secret that they prefer the traditional life style, without any tourists. At first the unfriendliness really upset me, but later on I realised that I actually prefer the honesty above people putting up a friendly face in order to get more business! We bought some supplies for the Salar de Uyuni trip, which included a pair of sun glasses, beanies and a pair of gloves. Afterwards we decided to try out one of the MANY Italian restaurants in Tupiza (believe me, there is a whole street dedicated to Italian restaurants). We were disappointed with the food and the prices were much higher than the other local restaurants.
We booked a 4 day trip across the South West of Bolivia to Salar de Uyuni through Hostal Los Salares, who organise their own tours. The trip would start very early the next morning, so we decided not to stay up too late. Unfortunately, reorganising and packing for the trip took longer than we expected, so the early night did not happen.
Tupiza was such a nice town to start travelling through Bolivia. We definitely recommend staying in this town for at least a day or two. Bolivia seemed to hold some great adventures for us and we were very excited about the next 3 weeks! Although I was somewhat upset about the unfriendliness of some of the locals, Santos and his wife showed me the opposite, by being very hospitable people. Bolivians seemed to be more genuine in their approach. Also, there were no expectation with Bolivians to receive a tip for every simple little thing they do, like we found in Argentina. We tried to tip the guy who loaded our luggage in the bus, but he didn’t want to take any money. In Argentina some of the guys didn’t want to give our baggage claim tickets to us if we didn’t tip them.
6 Maar U verwag opregtheid diep in ‘n mens se hart: laat ek dan diep in my binneste weet hoe U wil dat ek moet lewe.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.