Bolivia, Potosi : 16th October 2002

We left the lovely city of Tarija on the 25th of September with Alfalfa, Avena, Maize, Afrecha and Carrot-filled bellies, a new set of tailormade shoes each (very expensive here probably because there are not to many horses around) and new energy after a good rest.


Tusa had a sore tummy one day during our stay and Miss M got a huge fright when she arrived at Club Hipico to see poor old Tusa lying on the ground making funny noises. A vet was called out straight away and he confirmed that it was indeed a mild form of colic and with some carrots, wheat and exercise, Tusa should be well in no time again. Well, the friendly Vet certainly deserved all the fancy papers hanging on the wall in his rooms, because true to his word, Tusa was back to his usual self within a couple of days.

Our departure from Tarija didn't happen without its excitements and I guess Miss M would have preferred a more tranquil exit… but she has also learned by now never to get too relaxed because a surprise always lies waiting around the corner!

The surprise in this case was the leading rope that has Tusa attached to the girth of the saddle on my back that got between my back-legs (without Miss M noticing). This was rather irritating and as I just couldn't stand still, I started kicking and bolting and at the same time charging and zigzagging across the roads - straight in front of the oncoming cars. All this off course resulted in the rope causing more and more friction on my inner-thigh and at this stage there was no stopping me. Miss M held on for dear life and at the same time trying to get me to stop and Tusa got dragged along, frantically trying to get out of the way of my kicks! Miss M thought at one stage that she is not going to stay on top and started to think of a way to jump of without hurting herself too much. And me? Well, I started to get tired of all the commotion and running after a while and finally came to halt under a tree.

A few men (who had scattered away earlier) came forward wearily to give some assistance to Miss M who at this stage was suffering from the shakes!! Tusa only gave me a disgusted look but I got a sympathetic nudge later when I showed him the "wound" on my thigh where the rope took off the surface of my skin. It looked worse than what it really was but I enjoyed the attention from him for a while anyhow!

It took us quite a while to get out of the bustling city and when we finally reached the road to Potosi - a dirt road - it was already close to lunchtime. There were very few cars around and with the odd truck or bus passing, we had the road for ourselves. Miss M decided to let Tusa run freely and he couldn't believe his luck when she untied the rope that is attached to the girth. When Miss M and I set off again, he stood still for a few moments and then realized that nothing is pulling him and started trotting in our direction (well, truthfully he first took a mouthful of grass on the side and then he came running towards us!).

Our first stop was a tiny little village called Tucumilla and fortunately it wasn't too difficult for Miss M to find a place for the night to stay even though there was some misunderstanding initially! No corral for us and as the evening came closer, Miss M brought us downhill from where we were munching on some dry grass-shrubs so that we were not too exposed in the cold and wind.

The trip the following day from Tucumilla to Iscayachi must have been the most difficult so far. We went up and up to some really high altitudes and even Miss M complained of a headache. The air was thin and chilly and we could see she had little breath when she walked at times with us.

Leaving Iscayachi, our calculations regarding the distances were a bit wrong and we almost got stuck between the mountains with nowhere to stay....and this on Miss M's birthday and all! And this wasn't the only memorable experience of the day...
We were very lucky to have found a little village (called Puesto Grande with only about 5 houses) in between on the way from Iscayachi to El Puente because we went for miles and miles and no place in sight. A lovely girl called Reynalda offered Miss M a place to stay and we got some corn leaves for dinner. Not the most filling and at one stage Tusa suggested that we go and look for something tastier. We were not tied up and as Miss M was busy preparing something to eat herself, we quietly sneaked away. The next thing, a little girl came calling for Miss M, shouting that we are running away!! The little brat! Reynalda came chasing us with Miss M behind her (alreadly in her sleeping wear and slip-on shoes!). Tusa and I still laugh at what happened over the next few hours with Miss M & Reynalda running after us as we were galloping back(it seemed to Argentina!) through the mountain road for about 7km. They tried to take short cuts to catch up with us but all they caught were cactus-thorns in their feet and fingers! I will let Miss M tell the story as to how we were caught eventually and it was already dark when Miss M and Renalda rode us back to the village, bare-back and without bridle & reins. I am sure Miss M wouldn't forget her birthday easily, in fact she had two huge sores on her bum for a few days afterwards from the bare-back riding!

Miss M thought it wise to go back to Tarija by truck to get some vitamins for us (she still is quite squeamish to give us the injections and I still won't still) because she sensed that we were quite tired. Leaving Puesto Grande, we had to travel two more days before we finally arrived in Camargo, the biggest town since leaving Tarija. From there on we went up higher and higher to altitudes of more than 3400 metres. We had a negative experience in a town called Cruz de Belen which now had been voted by us as the dirtiest and most depressing town in South America. For two hours we were assured that we will have a place to stay for the night and then finally nothing materialized. Miss M saddled us up again and left the town furious (and close to tears), not knowing where we will put out heads that evening. Fortunately all worked out well in the end but not without its frustrations and annoyances.

The last village before we reached Potosi was Kuchu Ingenio and although it was a very scenic and spectacular ride from there, it was also tremendously difficult and tiring. Potosi is the highest city of each size in the world at an altitude of 4070 metres and when we finally arrived, we had to go through the city to get to a place outside where we were going to stay for a few days. We travelled that day for about 12 hours and we've never been so happy when we ultimately came to a stop and Miss M started to unsaddle.

Oh yes, we also saw our first Llamas on the way and Miss M got very excited, shouting and saying "hola, hola". We couldn't be bothered too much about these strange looking animals and all they got from me was a formal nod. I am not sure if Tusa even spotted them as I think he was too occupied looking for something to stuff his face with…!

We are leaving for Oruro on Monday and it will be a good ten days before we will get to see the crystal waters of Lake Poopo and we hope to reach La Paz around the middle of November. We are counting the days because Miss M's friend, Tracy is coming to visit and both Tusa and I are really looking forward to meeting her. Tracy will also bring over bits and bobs that Miss M needs and included will be a few things from HorseHeaven (the best equestrian shop in Ireland - take my word for this!).

Off course we will be in touch again. Watch this space…

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