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Tupiza

 

 

Traveling for days across the blinding salares of Uyuni, brilliant white, ruby and sapphire, a cold that seeps to the marrow of one’s soul ... to another land of worn, warm earthen colors.

 

 

Or one can arrive to Tupiza along the Wara-Wara del Sur train line, which winds through the narrow slice of the Bolivian highlands where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid assaulted their last train. Some say the two famous bandits grew tired of living in quiet exile in Argentine Patagonia—others say they were broke and needed the money. They came to southern Bolivia to try their luck—working in the mines, or better yet, robbing paycars. Some say their spirits still can be glimpsed walking beneath the porticos of the town center.

 

 

Tupiza had already been here several centuries by the time Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid arrived. Founded in 1574 by Captain Don Luís Fuentes y Vega, the town got  its name from the Chango indigenous word “Topejsa,” meaning “red earth.”

 

 

The beauty of this town lies in its Wild West landscapes. Located between the Uyuni salt flats and the Humahuaca canyon of northern Argentina, the cragged rocks change colors all day. The mountains, with its catacomb of mines, turn blood-red in the dying light of day. A hush falls over the earth. If one listens closely, one can hear the voices of the ghosts of workers echoing through the valleys.

 

 

On the opposite bank of the river is the former country villa of the Aramayo family, one of the most powerful mining barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A statue of its founder, Victor Carlos Aramayo, stands in the main plaza. On a hill to the west, there is a large statue of Christ from which views of the countryside and sunsets are spectacular. Just off the main plaza is a small museum.

 

 

Hikes take the visitor along the rocky river or into the hills, through small settlements of present-day miners scraping a survival from this soil, through the semi-desert forests. Hikes are only one way to explore the Tupiza area: you can also rent a bicycle or go on a horseback riding tour.

 

 

Agencies in Tupiza offer other excursions: a three-day trip through the Uyuni salt flats, or to San Vicente, where Butch and Sundance allegedly were gunned down by Bolivian lawmen: some believe that one or both may have escaped. Despite rumors, their graves are there, in the local cemetery.

 

A place where the earth speaks in colors that touch the soul, where tales of miners and bandits echo through the mountains: Tupiza is this place, enchanting its visitors into staying for just a few days more, just to listen.



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