Tupiza as a starting point
Tupiza may not be the most happening town, nor the most obvious starting place for a tour to the Salar de Uyuni (that would be the actual town of Uyuni), but I had met enough people on my travels who said that Tupiza was the place to go to if you wanted a more pleasant experience. Apparently, the attitude from the majority of tour operators in Uyuni leaves a lot to be desired and Tupiza has not yet developed that weary hard edge to the endless stream of travellers passing through. So, I took the bus from the border town of Villazon, arrived at the terminal in Tupiza about an hour later, and walked the few minutes it took to reach my hostel, the La Torre.
The place was basic but clean and the staff were open and informative about the tours they offered. I’d heard good things about the tours organised by both La Torre and by Hotel Mitru, the prices were virtually identical and I ended up going with the former only because they had a space available leaving the next day. My intention had been to spend a couple of days acclimatising to the altitude but I was swayed by both the idea of being out in the middle of beautiful nowhere over the Xmas period and by the knowledge that an individual travelling on their own needs to sometimes fit in with the larger scheme of things. That meant that I had less than 24 hrs. to check out Tupiza so, after a quick morning siesta to get over the previous night’s bus journey, I headed out to explore.
Food was first on my list and I somehow avoided the restaurants, ending up on the second floor of the local food market, where I ate some of the freshest and cheapest local food surrounded by locals doing the same. Coming up from Argentina and Chile, I hadn’t experienced the communal food areas like you can find in the local markets here and, as I was soon to discover, throughout all Bolivia and Peru. If you’re travelling on a budget and are happy eating basic food with the freshest of ingredients, go to the food markets.
I next needed cash to pay for the tour, so headed to the ATM on the Plaza de la Independencia, where I came across one of the best nativity scenes so far on my travels. Who knew you could do so much recycling plastic bottles, empty yoghurt pots, egg cartons, paper, bottle tops… As a statement, it says a lot about Bolivia. I’d only just arrived in the country but, with this and the food market, I was already starting to really like what I saw.
Next on my list was a pair of flip-flops (always a good idea when entering into communal living, especially if it involves sharing shower space with fellow travellers), toilet paper, and two natural remedies that’d been recommended to me for altitude sickness, the more commonly known coca leaf and ‘pupusa’. This last one was the trickiest to find but I eventually tracked it down, together with the flip-flops, to the Mercado Central. I’m glad I did as pupusa helped a lot with the altitude, becoming a part of my routine as a morning tea to counteract the headaches I woke up with, followed by chewing coca leaves intermittently throughout the day. Worked a treat.
The following morning the tour was leaving at 9am, so I got up at first light and headed out to get a few more photos. I’d liked the look of the Mercado Central the previous evening and wanted to be there as the stall holders were setting up. The sun wasn’t up too high and the alleys were narrow, so it would be a good test for the Sony A7RII, to see how it would cope with these tricky conditions. There are some really standout images here. I think my ‘eye’ for what I see as a photograph on my travels is developing nicely…
(a few of these images appear in the ‘Photo of the Day’ section; check it out if you’d like a bit more info behind certain shots)
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