Rafting near Salta. Futile search for dollars. By bus via Quiaca to Bolivia. Feeling safe thanks to a machete. Riding in Tupiza: Stretched gallop along the slope.

Travelogue 2003
Argentina to Bolivia

February 16th, 2003

Dear Friends,

Friday evening Priti and I talked about all the things we saw the last ten days, went through all the things that we saw, it is incredible what we experienced. I hope that my reports can give you a brief impression. While we were talking about all this stuff it got late and therefore I had to skip a proper breakfast before going rafting. I hadn’t done rafting before. I had to take a shuttle for two hours going south from Salta , then we got a brief introduction in safety and commands (“Remos arriba!”= Hold the paddle up in the air and shout as loud as possible), then we started. I was the only non-Argentinean in the party. The first part was very easy (it is a so called grade 3 river) and I was a little disappointed, but after a little snack it got quite wild, exciting, funny and WET. If you want to have a closer look visit http://www.saltarafting.com/ where you also find photos. Yes, there they showed us some footprints of dinosaurs, but who the heck is interested in who went where a million years ago?

My start to Bolivia turned out to be a bit stressful. Travelling so much had made me a little lazy with the planning and so I waited till two hours before my bus left to read about my planned route and found out that there weren’t any ATMs. This is the first (and probably last) time that I don’t take any traveller checks for emergencies, so I had only my Dollar reserve … I tested about every ATM in Salta to find one that dispenses Dollars but the only two I found that were supposed to do this didn’t. Finally I took some Pesos with me … and actually the exchange rate at the border was excellent.

sign at the border of Argentina: 5121 km from La Quiaca to Ushuaia
La Quiaca is the most northern point of Argentina – Ushuaia is Argentina ’s most southern city, the most southern city of the world.

The journey itself was very easy. I took the night bus from Salta to La Quiaca at the border and arrived there at six in the morning. On the walk through the dark city to the border I was lucky to have my machete with me. I took it from my backpack for the first time (beside some very martial Taichi practice) and felt much better holding it. I am neither sure if I had any reasons to be afraid nor if I had any reason to feel safe holding the big knife. Of course I would never have started to fight but I hoped that a possible robber would think twice before attacking a man with a machete. At the border I had to wait till seven when the immigration office opened, went over and almost immediately got a bus to Tupiza, where I arrived at nine.

My first impression of Bolivia: Hey, I finally arrived in Latin America! Apart from the landscape Bolivia has nothing in common with the culturally speaking very European Argentina. The buses here fall apart, it is dirty and the people live under simple and unfortunately poor conditions. The difference to the much richer Argentina is that they got used to poverty. Most of the people seem to be of Indian origin and are dressed that way. They are as friendly as in Argentina but the cultural barrier seems to be higher.

A word about rainy season: It is supposed to rain heavily every day now, but fortunately (for me) it isn’t (though a thunderstorm just killed some part of this translation), it is a unusually dry year.

I took a room in a little hotel which is said to be the best in town. It is also a travel agency and offers all kind of activities possible in this area and one of them is … horse back riding! This time it was real riding rather than sitting on a moving horse. We (that is Carmen and Keith, two guys I met at the hotel and two guides) started right away with some trotting and were showed how to do it properly (not so easy), then even started gallopping.

colourful rocks in the region of Tupiza
Colourful rocks – still nothing compared to the Salta region

We went through a landscape which was really amazing though the elements (e.g. kakti, coloured mountains) start to repeat themselves. We had a little break at a canyon which looks (from colours and shapes) like I imagine a little version of the Grand Canyon. Keith and I did a little hike and then we returned, this time going faster. One of the guides made Keith and me go FULL GALLOPP. If someone had told me earlier that I would go so fast I had never got up that horse. BUT IT WAS FUN !!! (Though a little scary)

red rock formations near Tupiza
And strange rock formations (© Keith Christiansen)

Also my further plans got sorted out. I had planned to go to Uyuni and take a four-day tour to one of the biggest salt lakes of the world and more of the regional attractions (active vulcanos, geysirs …) but now I was found by a group of four (including Carmen and Keith) who take the tour from here which is a little more expensive but adds a day of additional program including the places where Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid robbed their last money transport and got shot afterwords (by four man and not an army as in the movie).

It is incredible that only two days have gone by since I posted the last report and yet there is enough for a new one. So I send it now, and asume that after the upcoming tour I will have enough to tell for a new report.

All the best from Tupazi, Bolivia


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