two days to Tupiza

Tupiza, Bolivia, is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were finally killed. We’re headed there coincidentally on our way out of Bolivia. The new goal is to spend Christmas at lower altitude in the warmth and we’re headed for Argentina, instead of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.

The two-day track
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Back to Potosi, since we’re going to miss Sucre we should see something else semi-properly. We rush to get there in time to visit the Spanish, later the Bolivian, coin museum. Potosi is the site of a mountain of silver, Cerro Rico, the biggest ever discovered, commandeered by the Spanish in 1556.

As a result the town became the wealthiest and biggest city, briefly, in the world. I’ve had an interest in the trail of Spanish destruction since learning more about what happened in what is now Guatemala. I had, like anyone else, some knowledge of the main stories of Spanish conquest, but it’s the lesser known that surprise the most. So here’s another horror story: 8 million people died, or rather were killed, mining Cerro Rico. The Spanish ran out of Bolivians so they imported blacks. They kept them down the mines for 4 months at a time, in the darkness. No surface visits. They usually died on the second shift.

The Potosi museum is where the silver was smelted, ingots were poured and either shipped back to Spain or converted to coins. Here, for example is where ingots were squished into plate thin enough to be stamped into coins

Here’s a more modern version. Bolivian coins were made here until the 50’s. Now they’re made at the Royal Canadian Mint, unsurprisingly.

Here’s a strongbox. One key turns 12 locks. This was placed inside a church, the poor were encouraged to place put coins in the slots, and when full the box was shipped back to Spain. In corporate terms this is accessory revenue.

Also a room full of mummies, which is always fun

Outside the streets were flooded again…

Off to Tupiza. Morning rains as we set off through the mountains

Through an oasis town

Onto a concrete road

That started and stopped

At one point we could see the view of the road ahead. Magical

A couple of hours of fantastic riding later we were running beside a river canyon

Very beautiful. Small farms

And many ruins


At one point we could ride down to the edge

Sections were calving off

Behind where this pic was taken from was the most extraordinary cactus. I later learned this is an uncommon sight

A close-up of the flowers

A great situation

Lucinda hamming it up while we’re stopped

A little further along, a village. On the right hand side of the street people were being loaded into trucks

Walked around the market while Lucinda drew her usual crowd

I bought a silver ring for my collection from the guy on the left. Presents for the girls one day

A great little village in the middle of nowhere

A couple of hours later we were back into red sandstone

And into the town of Tupiza

The crazy welcoming statue

Mystery resolved as we passed and he said Holy shit, what a beautiful bike!

Downtown is another famous biker hotel/hostel, the Mitru. Riders coming through Bolivia to Argentina set up for the border here. Very friendly and a courtyard just for bikes. But of course I’m the only one around as usual

Butch and Sundance were killed somwhere in this town by heavily armed Bolivian troops. They claim to know where but apparently that’s bogus. But the truth seems to be that Sundance was injured, Butch realized the game was up so shot him, then himself.

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