A Western-like town and our last train trip
Tupiza is a famous tourist spot in Bolivia. Uyuni and the lagoons in Sur Lipez can also be reached from here (although tours need to be longer and therefore more expensive). Also, the valley’s surrounding mountains have eroded in a way that reminds of the “Far West” movies, and the city has exploited that with horse tours or museums in the name of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, two famous cowboys who apparently lived here for a short while.
We stayed for 6 days to rest, visit all the sites, and also make time for the train to Villazon. The journey to the Argentinian border was not particularly scenic and involved a heavy climb, so we would rather avoid it.
Due to our long stay, we got a good deal in our hostel. After a couple of first days just visiting the local markets or doing nothing, I took the chance to visit the Canon del Duende, a canyon on the south-side of the city and easily reachable by bike. One of the best things in Tupiza was that most sites are free and easy to visit, so it’s perfect if you have a bike.
I got lost to get there because the GPS in my phone refused to cooperate, and the strong wind broke my homemade front mudflap and I lost it. But after asking a guy I found the right path. The canyon was empty and very impressive, all to myself.
Luckily it was the rainy season and there was not a single cloud in the sky, otherwise I would be afraid to visit it as the walls were very narrow and there was no escape in case of a sudden increase in the water levels.
After the success of my little trip, the next day Susanne and the kids joined me for another side trip, in this case to the Canon del Inca, closer to town and more advertised.
To reach it we still had to cycle a dirt path full with rubbish, which is one of the downsides of a place where mass tourism has not taken its hold yet. We had to push the bikes the last kilometers as the path was too sandy, and we then hid them behind some bushes to keep walking. Again, there was nobody there.
This canyon is, in my opinion, a bit less spectacular, as it does not get as narrow and claustrophobic as the other one, but still very nice. On the way back we took an alternative path, also full with rubbish, to reach Tupiza from the top.
When it came the time to take our train, we had our usual dose of bad luck and there was another “paro” (strike) since Tupiza was protesting the government the lack of investments and the non-fulfilment of past promises. All exits of the town were closed with car barricades, fires and stones. In the end, the two days protest became only one and our train could travel as usual.
We were the only passengers, and after a bit of negotiating that our bikes should be transported for free since we paid nothing in Uyuni, we boarded them in the train. The train goes through a tunnel in a narrow passage the river has carved south of Tupiza, in a very spectacular way.
We were 4 passengers (us) and 3 staff (the driver and 2 helpers). This came handy later on, when a tree had fallen on the line and we needed all manpower available to remove it.
We arrived in Villazon, the city at the border, just before sunset. It was cold and windy, so we just looked for a hotel and something to eat. We will cross the border to Argentina the next day.