Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

47. Into Bolivia (Tupiza, Bolivia)

From Salta I headed north into Jujúy (pronounced hu-huoy), the final province before Bolivia.

Jujúy - 03 - Cabildo
Town hall in Jujúy

My girlfriend returned to Buenos Aires for work so I was now travelling solo. I was looking forward to going to Jujúy for a while because Trent, one of my best friends from NZ, did a high school student exchange in Jujúy in like 1994. So I was hoping to meet some of his old school friends and see his old turf. Trent'd emailed me a bunch of people's contact details so I sent them an email, and hung out in Jujuy for 3 days waiting for a reply. Which never came, I presume because they didn't check their email while I was waiting. I did manage to get hold of Trent's host family and I had a weekend lunch with them. There I met one of Trent's school mates Guillermo and he showed me around the town and it's surroundings which was great. We drove to nearby Purmumarca where there's the famous Cerro de Siete Colores (Seven Colour Hill), as well as checking out the lake and their old High School.

Quebrada de Humahuaca- 02 - Matt Cactus
Me and a cactus

Quebrada de Humahuaca- 07 - Cerro de Siete Colores
The Seven Colour Hill to the right

The towns around here had a real Andean feel, dirt roads, and the people visibly have more indigenous blood than in the other parts of Argentina. The countryside was moreorless dry and cactus-filled, but I'm told in summer it's a lot more green.

Humahuaca - 05 - Cactus table
Cactus-wood table

Humahuaca - 09 - Boy Llama
A young boy with his young llama

From Jujúy I travelled north to the border town of La Quiaca, which borders the Bolivian town of Villazón. There I met up with Mariángeles, a friend of mine from Buenos Aires who was my Spanish teacher for six months. I also gave her classes in English when I was teaching. She had a ten day holiday so wanted to see Bolivia, which coincided nicely with my schedule. Crossing the border into Bolivia was no trouble, but getting hold of the local currency was. For some reason my ATM card wouldn't work in the only ATM in town, so I crossed back into Argentina to try my luck there. And the damn thing wouldn't work in the 3 ATMs on the Argentine side either, so in the end I had to use my emergencies only Mastercard to get cash out, carry it across the border, and then deal with the money changers on the Bolivian side. They gave me a good rate though, changing all my Argentine pesos into Bolivian bolivianos.

From there we caught the afternoon train to Tupiza, 3 hours away. It was a waste of time paying double for the executive class seats as they didn't give us any food or anything since we were only going to Tupiza. And the ticket seller bullshitted as there was no air conditioning either.

Near Tupiza is the town of San Vicente which is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made their last stand and were killed in a shootout with the police. The hostal we stayed in rented us the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford which was actually really good.

"Bolivia!? What the hell's a Bolivia?"
"I don't know it's a country in Central or South America or somewhere."
- Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In the movie the outlaws had robbed one train too many so to escape the heat they fled to Bolivia, which at the time had the richest mine in the world in Potosi Pulacayo. However they soon made a name for themselves as the Banditos Yanquis (Yankee Bandits) and it was ironically when they tried to go straight that they got themselves shot. That was how the movie played it, but talking to locals the story was that they robbed the payroll of one of the mines, so the owner put all his miners up to the task of getting their salary back, and that they killed the duo.

Horseback - 04 - Matt
Riding out of town aboard Chocolate

Tupiza was our jumping off point for a 4-day 4wd lakes and salt flat tour, which we were hoping to book that very night to leave the next day. We were trying to hurry because of Mariángeles' short schedule. But there was heaps of other cool things to do in Tupiza so we decided to stay an extra day which turned into 2 days. The first day we went horseback riding which was great. Well, the first 3 hours was real cool - riding through the red desert, surrounded by cactus, it felt like being Butch Cassidy in the Old West.

Horseback - 08 - Valle de Los Machos
Valle de los Machos. Can you guess why it's called that?

The last 2 hours sucked though, I swapped horses with one of my guides and couldn't get the damn thing to gallop, it would only trot, and with the rock hard saddle and an old worn sheepskin for cover my ass took a beating.

Horseback - 15 - Eddy trail
Following our guide Eddy up the hill

Unfortunately Mariangeles wasn't such a horse-woman. She was a bit slow on the horses, too scared to get them running. At one point we had to dismount to walk our horses down a steep part - well, she couldn't even walk herself down the slope and had to slide herself down it on her backside.

Horseback - 26 - Cactus
Cactus in a canyon

The next day we decided to relax in the sun by a river. But to get to the river we had to either walk 12km, wait 3 hours for a bus to take us there, or try hitch a ride on a truck. We went for the hitching option, asking a truck driver if we could ride in the back of his truck for a couple of bolivianos. He agreed and we set off, only to stop a minute later and pick up about ten locals who were also hitching a ride down the road. The guy drove pretty fast and although it was rough going we were soon there. Mariángeles didn't enjoy the ride anywhere near as much as I did, she was really scared we were going to crash and wanted to get off early. Even getting into the back of the truck was a mission for her.
We soon found our river but finding a swimming spot was difficult as there was a fierce cold wind blowing down the canyon which we couldn't find shelter from. After a couple of hours of looking we found a quiet spot in front of La Torre (The Tower), a giant natural rock landmark.

La Torre - 02 - Matt Torre
Me and La Torre

La Torre - 03 - La Torre wank

That afternoon we shared our packed lunch with a couple of local kids of about ten years old who we'd met fishing in the river with their bare hands. They followed us around keeping us company which was cool. I caught another truck back to the town and Mariángeles decided not to risk another truck ride and walked back into town with the two local kids.

La Torre - 05 - Gustavo
Gustavo, age 11, one of the local kids we met


  • Do the local kids (and locals) hassle you for money? or are they happy just to interct with a foreigner?

    By Blogger Hamiltron Stu, at 4:11 PM  

  • I think I got hassled more for money in the large cities of Argentina by beggers or drunks. Here, in the poorest country in South America, I haven't been asked for money yet.

    Those kids didn't ask for anything but hinted that they were hungry. I didn't mind sharing.


    By Blogger mattyboy, at 6:53 AM  

  • Hey, haven't been reading for a while and am trying to figure out where to catch up! Some great shots. You have been in some amazing country with all sorts of cool sedimentary geology of the sort found in the US southwest.

    La Torre is an injection structure. Here's a picture of another one, in the Kodachrome State Park in Utah:
    Injection structures are pretty uncommon. Plus, as you've noted, they're very phallic, and everyone loves a phallus!

    Sedimentary rocks are layers of mud that pile on top of each other and eventually turn to rocks. Injection structures are formed when an earthquake vibrates the layers while they are still somewhat liquid. The lower layers then shoot up into the upper layers.

    To have an injection structure, the part that shoots up has to be made of something that is harder to erode than what's surrounding it. My guess is that you've got some mudstone over sandstone.

    Don't you feel better knowing that?

    By Blogger Jason, at 3:58 AM  

  • All right, thanks Jason!

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 4:36 AM  

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