Let´s go Mining in Potosi!
Potosi Travel Blog› entry 18 of 31 › view all entries
We knew it wasn´t going to be a typical tour when the first thing the guide said was "engineers evalutated this mine 11 years ago, and estimated that it would collapse from over-mining within 7 years. So basically it should have collapsed 4 years ago...lets hope it doesn´t collapse on us today".
The mine in Potosi is like a giant lump of swiss cheese...and after 500 years of mining in any direction one chooses... is on the verge of totally collapsing. Very re-assuring. Also, the average miner dies within 15 years of first entering the mines due to all the asbestos, silicone, ammonia dust and metals in the air. Not to mention the cave-ins. We had to sign a disclosure that said it wasn´t our guides fault if we died and we wouldn't be refunded the 8 bucks.
After gearing up in sexy mining outfits, we headed off to buy some pressies for the miner´s. The market stalls sold 96% alcohol to dull the miner´s senses, extremely potent cigarettes, coca leaves for strength, and dynamite. Tristan accidently dropped a stick of dynamite about 30 seconds after purchasing it... Did you know that dynamite doesn't blow up on impact? Lucky US!!!
So we entered the mine...big wads of coca leaves in our cheeks...and were overcome with the stifling heat and dust that filled the air. The tunnels inside the mine were ridiculously narrow, and we were often crawling on hands and knees to fit through the tiny tunnels. We made our way down 4 levels in the mine, down some near-vertical tunnels.
We met with some miner´s that were working, and they quickly set Tristan to work while they indulged in some of our pressies from the market. While leaving the miner´s, Arlene came across a pick-ax, and never one to decline a photo opportunity, posed for some lovely photos. Little did we know that our group was powering away on hands and knees, and before we knew it, it was just the two of us in the maze of tunnels around us! We were completely and totally lost down in the mine!
After crawling back and forth down different tunnels, screaming out with no-one but our own echoing voices replying and panic starting to rise, we headed back to where we last saw the miner´s working.
We were never so thankful to see the light of day, and to breath fresh air when we finally made it out. But now it was time to play with the dynamite!
After demanding that the guide tell us what to do before lighting the fuse, he calmly told us "we light it, we'll take some photos, then put it over there"... Once the fuses were lit he was anything but calm, and with lit dynamite in our palms we weren't exactly tranquillo either. The "putting it over there" involved running hell for leather down the rocky slope while he shouted "not near the rocks!". IT'S A ROCKY SLOPE! What do you mean not near ROCKS? Meanwhile your hand is about to be blown of.
We got back to a safe distance as the first on went off. The guide decided to move the safe distance back as small rocks zoomed past us.
Big Bangs are cool.