A (pony) Tale of Tupiza
So we arrived at the Bolivian border at 7.15am only to find that the border didn’t open for another 45 minutes in pure baltic conditions. After adding a few layers of clothing the border finally opened. Crossed into the crusty little town of Villazon where we dashed for the first bus to Tupiza. First impressions of Bolivia: Cold, everyone is really short and everything looks slightly third world-ish, not to mention how cheap everything was.
We paid for our bus tickets, 10 bolivianos, the equivalent of one euro. Where is our bus? Surely it can’t be that dusty dinky tin can on wheels with smoke coming out the back. Where do we put our bags? On top of the roof you say? Is it not a bit dusty up there? Bags ripped from our hands… discussion over.
On the bus, it’s total chaos. People everywhere. We are literally bouncing around the back of the bus. It turns out Bolivians don’t believe in proper roads. Dirt tracks are more their things. Sarah and Eilis were stuck in a tornado of dust in the back corner of the bus. They had to fashion burkas to protect against the dust which ended out being totally useless as confirmed by the torrent of nose bleeds that followed.
We were told that the bus would last between 3 and 6 hours so we were on constant watch for signs for Tupiza as it seems that a random shrub/plant or llama act as the local bus stop.
It also turns out that Bolivians are not known for their manners. Example one was when Siobhan offered a little boy a packet of biscuits, he snatched them out of her hands without even a gracias or even a smile and shoved them in his jumper.
Example number 2, an elderly lady pushed her way to the back of the bus, Maggy kindly offered up her seat, again without a gracias, eagerly taken. At which point Eimear woke up expecting to find Maggy sitting beside her. Not unless Maggy had aged 50 years. Poor Maggy was left standing for a good hour after that.
When we finally arrived in the dusty little town of Tupiza, we retrieved our dusty bags from the top of the bus. We quickly found our hotel (we decided to spoil ourselves). Maggy, Eilis and Siobhan were sharing a room… imagine how impressed we were to find that there were no bunk beds and a toilet just across the hall… heaven. Sarah and Eimear had been booked into the “matrimonial” room which had its own toilet and shower, they were so lucky that if you wanted to you could sit on the toilet AND shower at the same time….one teeny wet room. Real heaven. They also had their own TV. So cinema night had to be expected at some point … Not before catching a few old school episodes of Batman in espanol (Kapow, Pop, Bam & Boom are all still the same).
Our main reason for visiting Tupiza was for the Gaucho (cowboy) experience so we galloped off on our 3 hour tour around the surrounding areas. Our tour guide, who rode bare back on a donkey had to settle Eimear and Sarah onto their horses as it was the first time they’d been horse riding. Maggy’s horse, called Panchito (Hot Dog to those non Spanish speaking of you all) ran the roost, by constant threatening of the other horses. Sarah’s horse (actually called Gaucho) kept control of the rest of the pack, except for Eilis’s horse who kept trying to bound ahead, much to the annoyance of HotDog. Learner Eimear who held the group back (she still swears it wasn’t her fault) was placed on a pony… the smallest of the lot who refused to run unless beaten with a stick. In hindsight, we think the horses reflect our personalities!
We felt like we were in the real Wild West, all dressed up in our cowboy hats, galloping (Eimear managed a simple canter) through the barren desert, cacti and everything. The real Butch Cassidy Kids!
That night, we were all a little tender from the horse riding so we took full advantage of our TV and had our own cinema night involving Harry Potter…. Living the dream!