Bolivia 4: Tupiza

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two raced into the unearthly high Bolivian desert.  They left the town of Uyuni aboard a 4WD and spent four days, three nights travelling through some of the world’s most spectacular desert scenery before racing back to Uyuni.

Arriving in Uyuni late that afternoon, the team raced to the nearby bus office and bought a ticket on that evening’s 8pm overnight bus to the town of Tupiza.  After a quick farewell dinner with Team Organic Hobo, they were aboard, heading out of town.  Owing to the heavy afternoon rain, their bus soon stopped 45 min out of town at a swollen river crossing.  Their driver informed the passengers that they could not pass but would wait for the river to go down. Simon left the bus and visually checked the depth of the water, but could hardly see much in the evening gloom.  Returning to the bus Simon and Ang settled in to wait.

After what turned out to be a restless night that included a twelve piece impromptu Argentine bus band forming, to complete their own Exclusive Race challenge, and playing until two am, the bus driver finally consulted with the passengers at 9am the next morning as the river still was impassable.  Consensus was reached and it was decided to return to Uyuni for breakfast and long awaited use of a bathroom.  They would attempt to cross again in the early afternoon before any later afternoon storms could flood the road again.

Back in Uyuni, Simon and Ang quickly located a bathroom then ate breakfast before jumping back on the bus with the rest of the mostly Argentine passengers.  As their bus approached the blockage, it was clear that the water level had fallen, however it was unclear by how much.  The team was hopeful they would be able to get through otherwise they feared they would be eliminated.

Their bus arrived at the back of a queue that consisted of more trucks, cars and buses than earlier that morning.  The road remained impassable, so once again they settled into wait.  Simon commenced looking at alternative routes.  He managed to work out there was a chance to take a six hour detour north to the town of Potasi, change buses then head six hours south.  But in discussions with Ang, they realised this was probably a silly way to go.

Yep, that road is closed Watching flood water with the locals

About two and a half hours later, a particularly loud, hoarse speaking Argentine guy screamed out “una mapa de Bolivia por favour” (a map of Bolivia please).  He was quickly provided one and about twenty minutes later had worked out the same route that Simon had, and began chanting ‘Po-tasi! Po-tasi! Po-tasi!’, to drum up support for his detour.  He then started negotiating with the driver to get him to turn the bus around.  It was about at this point another double decker bus decided it could make the crossing (without anyone physically checking water depths in the raging current) and ploughed into the flood waters.

Blasting through, the double decker bus proved the way and soon others, including the team’s bus followed.  Hoarse Argentine guy remained quiet for a little while, then got back into the music jam session with the other Argentinean folk.  While they were almost fifteen hours delayed, by driving now during the day, the team was treated to more spectacular scenery, which they would have missed had the bus passed during the night bus.

Just like a chocolate milkshake, only flooding Everyone celebrates the crossing
Putting backpacks back under the bus Empty, but flooded Bolivia
Bolivian landscape at its best Like a matte painting!

Eventually after travelling through mind blowing canyons and countryside, the team arrived in Tupiza on dusk after almost twenty-two hours of travel.  They were given their next clue and owing to opening hours being 9-5pm, decided to find accommodation.

Tupiza building Velo shop, Tupiza
Local bike seat Andean sandals made of car/truck tyres
Dried chillies, Tupiza (oddly missing from restaurant menus) Dried pasta (present on all menus)
Small Bolivian market

Waking the next morning they were picked up and set off to complete the Tupiza Triathlon along with another Team Australia.  This event was a combination of a jeep tour, horseback riding and a downhill mountain bike.  Ang was excited by the prospect of more downhill mountain biking, but was fearful as she previously had bad experiences with horses.  Their jeep driver took them on a tour of the surrounding countryside that included spectacular rock formations and canyons.  They soon arrived at a ranch where they were put on horses for a three hour ride around some canyons.  Ang was informed she would be been given the most placid, friendly calm and slow horse, given her history of being thrown off a few, but this soon proved to be quite the opposite.

Panoramic rock formation during the jeep leg
Cutting in the rock wall Ouchy catcus!
We’re on horses! Bolivia’s wild central plains

Ang’s horse, sensing they were racing, took the lead of the herd.  It cantered on and off as it pleased and made sure no other horse would pass.  Simon tried to spur his horse on, but unfortunately it seemed broken, only cantering once during the ride out.  On the ride back, Ang’s horse was attacked by a rouge juvenile horse, which scared her and almost threw her off as her horse was buck kicking the juvenile.  But thankfully they were all able to canter on the downhill and returned to the corral with the only casualties being one of the other Team Australia’s iPhones being thrown from the horse (it sustained minor scratches only).  With this leg of the triathlon completed they all jumped back into the jeep and headed to the next task.

Unique rock formations Ang in the lead
Simon playing cowboy Racers on horses

Their final task of the Tupiza Triathlon was to complete the downhill mountain bike leg.  They were driven to the top of a long dusty dirt road.  After picking bikes the group set off.  Simon and a member of the other Team Australia took an early lead.  Unfortunately, the rough gravelly road caused the other guy to get a flat tire.  This left Simon alone to complete the final stretch.  Eventually the other team and Ang caught up.  Ang was particularly displeased as the standard of the provided bikes was less than those provided as part of the World’s Most Dangerous Road.  Simon thought later that single shocks should be banned from downhill off road riding, after the jarring but fun ride.

Traffic on the Bolivian downhill road Simon gets ready to ride
Giant Ang gets ready to ride
Fantastic Bolivian canyon panorama
Another canyon panorama
Bolivian downhill road panorama
Ang flys past and on to the finish line

Once all team members had rendezvoused at the bottom of the hill, they rode back through town.  There they received their final clue directing them to the pit stop for this leg of the race.  Arriving tired but happy, Ang and Simon were the first to check into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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