Silver Mine and more riots

Potosi Travel Blog

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Cerro Rico, Potosi

Went our separate ways this morning - Melissa on a walk around town and Noel to the famous Potosi silver mine under the Cerro Rico (Rich Hill).  Not a lot was open as Melissa wandered about, but had a lovely morning tea with Yvonne and Holly from our group at a local cafe - a delicious banana milkshare to boost the dairy intake.  We intended to come back for lunch (they sold pizzas, sandwiches, empanadas, etc) but got there at 1pm to be told they were closing for lunch (!).

Noel headed off on the mine tour at 9am with most of the rest of the group, the tour lasting about 3 1/2 hours.  He bought dynamite, coca leaves and food for the miners as gifts, then went underground.

Noel with his stick of dynamite, Cerro Rico silver mine
  They also tried the local brew, which seems to be 96% proof industrial alcohol, and nearly burnt his lips off in the process.  The miners seem to like it, though!  The tunnels are very narrow and low, with lots of loose rocks.  Mining began around 1470 by the Incas, but was not really exploited until the Spanish arrived in the 1540s.  Over 7 million slaves died during that time (mostly from Africa) and working conditions are still very primitive - 14 year olds are employed by many co-operatives and while the money is comparatively good, life spans are not so they work hard while they can.  Happily for Noel, the tour ended with a dynamite-exploding demonstration, which was quite impressive.

We joined up again for lunch, and just after arriving back at the hotel heard another riot start outside.  They seem to follow us around, the only difference in Potosi being that they blow up dynamite instead of fire crackers!  The shouting, drum banging and explosions went on for quite a while, and those of the group who were out and about got locked into their restaurants for safety.

Had dinner as a group tonight as it was our leaderĀ“s birthday.  The food at El Fogon was very nice, but the service very slow.  Had a quick drink at a nearby bar and then home to bed because Melissa not feeling so well (due to altitude).

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Cerro Rico, Potosi
Cerro Rico, Potosi
Noel with his stick of dynamite, C…
Noel with his stick of dynamite, …
Miner drilling hole for dynamite, …
Miner drilling hole for dynamite,…
photo by: Biedjee