Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tupiza and Desert Trekking

Arriving in Tupiza after our short, but loud, bus ride from Villazona, we headed across the bridge and out of town to our hostel located “on the cliff” (as some reviews had put it) – Hostal Salaras. We arrived to a warm welcome by one of the co-owners and immediately enquired about the price of a salt flats tour as nearly all hostels offer their own tours. We already had a fair idea of the price and what the tour should entail, but we wanted to see if this smaller, family run establishment could provide us with the same, or similar, tour for a good price.

The tour description was great and we especially liked the fact that our money wouldn’t be going towards a company, but into a family business.  In the end the tour ended up being cheaper than most companies and our guide took only a maximum of four people in the 4x4 (some companies cram in six which is fairly uncomfortable as most of the days are spent travelling…). Fortunately our German friends we’d previously met crossing the border, Fernando and Saskia (a.k.a. as the ‘Schatzies’ – our German translation for “Treasures”), were keen to join us so we already had our group of four and we were ready to go!

We had one day to pass in Tupiza before starting our tour, and even though we were tempted to dress up as cowboys and do a horse riding tour into the nearby canyon we were told that it was only a four hour walk so we decided to save money and hike instead.  However, after a lazy morning exploring the town and markets we once again found ourselves starting our hike at 3pm – the hottest part of the day! You think we’d learn…

Despite the heat it was a great hike through the desert, although the first section after leaving town traversed the local rubbish tip…. We also almost took a wrong turn (we didn’t really have a map) and started walking through a small shanty town, but luckily the local homeless guard dog warned us off and we quickly backtracked!  Using our finely honed ‘native Australian’ tracking skills we figured the best way to head the right direction was to follow the horse tracks through the desert as the horse tours go along the same route. 

DSC01495Back on the right track we passed a few natural wonders, all named after the Devil again, such as Peurto del Diablo. The trail finished at the Canyon del Inca, and we wound our way through colorful rock formations littered with cacti – it was worth the hot hike to see!  After a quick snack at the entrance to the canyon we headed back, racing the sunset as we didn’t want to be caught out at night in the desert.  We made it back in time to enjoy a nice dinner with the Schatzies in town before heading back to our hostel to get ourselves organised for our excursion into the Salar early the next morning.

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