After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border to Chile, we decided to go to Bolivia instead. The bus was headed to the border, where we needed to get off. Cross by foot and catch another bus to Tupiza on the other side. We arrived at Tupiza very early in the morning and were completely frozen through. We’d heard lots of horror stories about lack of hot water, dangerously contaminated food and the overall unfriendliness of the Bolivians.. None of which turned out to be true for us. After a small breakfast we did a tour of the agencies offering the salt flat tours, picking the one that straight out told us that our idea to do Tupiza – San Pedro de Atacama was a bad idea, because it offered only half a day in the Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?). We also set up a bit of horse back riding for the afternoon, since it was still early in the day.
After that we went for lunch in one of the cheap lunch restaurants. The food was delicious, no one got sick. It didn’t include the amazing peanut soup everyone has been recommending to me unfortunately. But it was only the first day, so I wasn’t too worried.
The afternoon we set out with the horses to explore the surrounding area. The rock formations were amazing. The guide led us to the Puerta del Diablo, an opening in a rock wall. The canyon del Inca, a steep canyon and the Valle de los machos, so called because of the quite phallic shapes found in that valley. It reminded me of the valleys I had seen in Cappadocia a few years ago. But first we had to ride, slowly, through the village. It was a bit boring, but taught us some interesting things. Like the fact that bridges are for wimps and a true Bolivian will always cross the river directly. (This included the taxi driver driving us to our horses )
During the village crossing the horses were very impressive. We had cars honking at us, dogs (almost) biting their legs and got absolutely no reaction. They remained completely chill. The guide however got off his horse more than once to chase those dogs away. When we finally reached open terrain he looked at us and asked who felt comfortable with going for a gallop. Oh hell yeah. The beginners stayed behind with the guide, while we gave our horses free reign. It was absolutely amazing. I had no idea what a runner my horse was, it literally catapulted itself forward. When we finally came to a stop again, everyone had a huge smile on their face.
On the way back I had a talk with our guide and learned that my horse was, fittingly, called Sport. That he was a great runner over the first 700m and then lost speed dramatically and therefore was never really considered for competitions and that our guide only guided part time and worked the rest of his time in a stable breaking in their horses and competing with them in Dressage competitions. No wonder his horses where all so well trained!