From Tupiza to Copacabana
Wed 27 May 2009 - Tue 2 Jun 2009 74 °F
After our unconventional jeep border crossing into Bolivia, we decided to head to the far south of the country to Tupiza. It is near here that Butch Cassidy and The Sundace Kid had their final shootout. Since we both love train rides, we opted to travel to Tupiza by rail. Since our train left at 3am we spent a few long uncomfortable hours in the Uyuni station watching the ebb and flow of of people arriving and departing.
Sunrise on the train revealed an extremely rugged route occasionally marked by mud villages eeking out a difficult existence. The flavor of Bolivian culture was made richer as we gathered locals on their way to the market in Tupiza. "Chola" women, with their distinct Bowler hats and their cargo tied in a blanket on their backs, flooded our car chewing coca leaves and chatting in their native language. Apparently we were just as strange to them as they kept looking at how Renee was dressed.
Arriving in Tupiza we found a small orderly town flanked on all sides by red sandstone mountains. We were excited to find a town that wasnt saturated with gringos. Sure there was a fledgling tourist industry, but it hadnt eroded the authenticity of the town. Unfortunately Renee had gotten sick during the journey. Between´getting used to the altitude (somewhere around 11,000 feet) and Renees condition, we missed out on the main attraction of the area, hiking through the stunning canyons. No biggie though because we have seen lots of amazing desert enviroments in the states.
We have to be in Peru soon for our arranged language classes, so after a week in Tupiza we headed to La Paz on an overnight bus called a flota. This journey will be etched in our memory for all time. The route crosses the altiplano at elevations over 12,000 feet. At night it got cold. Like deep space kinda cold. The bus, for some reason, had no heat. I couldnt figure this one out, I mean the engine is hot right? Why some of that heat wasnt diverted into the bus I dont know. We were the only gringos on the bus - we like this. Everyone had wool blankets and as many layers of clothes as they could put on. Renee and I shared a down sleeping bag. The inside of the windows were literally iced over from all our breaths. Renees flexibility allowed her to sit so her feet were covered by the sleeping bag. Since Im a stiff white male my feet remained outside the bag. I thought maybe Id loose a few toes by the time it was over.
As the sun rose over the hills, we craved its warmth like a starving man craves any scrap of food he can get. Getting off the bus in La Paz I almost fell down the steps because my feet were frozen. It took a good hour for them to feel normal again. I have never experienced that depth of numbness before, but we were in La Paz. Probably one of the coolest cities ever.