Arrived in Tupiza, Bolivia (elevation 3,160 meters) on Jan. 9th, late at night, after a long, bumpy bus ride out of Villazon. The only road isn’t much of a road, it’s just a collection of tire tracks across dried mud flats. Sometimes the double-decker bus pitched down into a ravine, and then the driver would stop and get out to check the depth of the river before driving through the water and up out the other side. After dark fell, I was constantly imagining the road to be even scarier than it probably was. We stopped halfway through for dinner; beside the road there was a shelter and a line of ladies with steaming pots of stew and rice. Hungry passengers piled out and, after choosing a tasty stew, were handed an enameled metal bowl and spoon to slurp their dinner standing up, then hand the bowl back to the proprietor. It looked pretty good but we’d already eaten (another) roast chicken before boarding so we weren’t hungry. We got in to Tupiza exhausted from the scary bus ride and the elevation and crawled straight into bed at a hostel.
When we woke up in the morning we saw that the hills and cliffs around Tupiza (which had looked gray in the night-time) were bright red and orange and stripey. We felt pretty feeble and spent most of the day in Tupiza resting and drinking lots of water. I think the altitude has really made both of us sickly and easily tired; it´s hard to say because traveling is exhausting anyway, but I think the altitude makes us feel breathless and sort of dazed and slow-moving all the time. We try to deal with it by relaxing a lot and not demanding much of ourselves (which is how vacation should be anyway). We started taking altitude-sickness pills in Tupiza (they call it MAL DE ALTURA) which made our hands and feet tingle oddly. And we try to drink coca-leaf tea, which is supposed to help too.
When we ventured out in the late afternoon to explore Tupiza, we found a small and pretty city, the fancier buildings with smooth painted facades and plainer buildings with exposed adobe brick walls. The adobe bricks kind of look like they’re melting in the rain, but since it doesn’t rain much here I guess they’re pretty durable. Like most of the towns we’ve visited in Bolivia and Northern Argentina, there’s a glorious church and municipal building facing the main plaza (Tupiza’s plaza is big and lush with trees and grass), a touristy part and a locals part to the city.
The tourist district has hotels and hostels, gift shops selling hand crafts, and at least 8 pizza restaurants boasting American/European style meals (Pizza! Breakfast! Porridge! Pancakes! Burgers!). Then the rest of the town is devoted to local commerce and houses. The restaurants outside of the tourist area seem to all serve stews and soups, and roasted chicken. Probably other stuff too, but we haven’t figured it out yet. The town markets are always fantastic, with tons of stalls selling fruits and veggies, dried corn and grains and pastas, packaged snacks and colorful plastic goods of all kinds, all manned by sleepy-looking ladies or kids.
Most of the ladies in Bolivia wear the most amazing styles, a bowler hat or straw hat, long braid or braids, sweater or pinafore/apron thing, and a knee-length gathered skirt with a sort of built-in bustle thing that makes the hips look wide, and orangey-colored thick tights with sandals. I am a big fan of this style but I feel odd about photographing people I don’t know, especially in a weird objectifying touristy way, so I haven’t taken pictures. I wish I could wear the same outfit but I think I would look totally ridiculous in it, so I just admire!