From our old-fashioned mine experience in Potosi, we headed down to Tupiza, a small town set in scenery that looks almost exactly like the Wild West. After the mine, it was like being in Disney’s frontier-land around the Runaway Mine train, although the mine experience was in no way similar to the happy Disney version.
The town is surrounded by walls of blood red mountains on both sides, with dusty streets and dry riverbeds. Grey-green cacti stud orange, rocky cliffs, and during the day a hot sun burns down over the dry landscape.
On our first day, we headed for a short walk to El Cañon just outside of town. The walk took us past the military barracks, the cemetery and a small, ramshackle patch of huts belonging to people who make a living panning the rocks for minerals. Following a shepherd with his herd of goats and sheep, we headed away from civilisation and towards a gaping, craggy opening between the two towering walls of rock.
Inside the canyon, we scrabbled over huge fallen rocks, squeezed into cracks in the sides of the cliff, and generally acted like two overgrown children exploring. The walk was pretty tough going thanks to the boulders filling the dry riverbed, and we couldn’t get very far because we reached a dead end where climbing looked almost impossible. It was a great place to explore, though, with the rusty orange and vivid red cliffs standing out dramatically against a blue sky, and cartoonishly perfect cacti jutting out from the dry, barren landscape.
Tupiza is genuinely just like the Wild West; its impossible not to be there and think of scenes from any John Wayne movie – or, for geeks like me, hunting scenes from the game Red Dead Redemption – and the colours of the landscape are just incredible, a bizarre contrast to all the green we’d been experiencing in the rest of South America.