The southwest circuit in Bolivia is a landscape of surreal beauty where the earth’s crust displays a glimpse of its tumultuous evolution and serves it up in spectacular displays of form and color that leave one bowing to the Creator in humble appreciation. The town of Tupiza which accesses this amazing environment is also where the famous outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came, not to see the beautiful landscape but to enhance their retirement portfolios. It was here, 108 years ago in 1908, where the outlaws met their demise. It was also coincidentally the last time when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series!
Tupiza is where we began our adventure of Bolivia’s southwest circuit. We eschewed the ubiquitous tours offered by a seemingly infinite array of operators in favor of striking out on our own to find the holy grail of Bolivia’s heart. It seemed simple enough. There were maps available which showed the highpoints of most of the tours offered and we had our own trusty four wheel drive vehicle to do the dirty work.
The first half of day one was spent just trying to get out of town! Seriously, it seemed so simple, we repeatedly asked locals which way to the Puerta del Diablo (door of the devil) the first stop on the tour. Little did we know that there were two ways in which to access the road to the sight just 5 kilometers outside of town. After bouncing back and forth for hours I insisted that we drive over this steep four wheel drive road that passed between two steep rock cliffs. On the other side was a winding road that passed what was clearly the town dump and wound its way off into some red rocky looking area littered with debris that was blow-out from the dump. No way could this be the way to the areas natural treasures so we ambled back into town in apparent defeat and found a local operator where I inquired in my best Spanish about the cost of a tour and also about the road access to the sites. The tour cost $120 dollars for the day and unbelievably the road past the dump was the correct access. I pointed to the area on the map and said “mucho basura aqui” (a lot of trash here). She said just close your eyes when you go past.
Clearly today we were neither going to try to regain our enthusiasm for this adventure nor were we going to pay someone else $120 to take us past the dump. Perhaps tomorrow when we are not at each other’s throats and we have regained our sense of humor we will embark again. For now we hear that there’s a brief hike nearby with a great view of town at sunset.