Bolivia - Death roads & Dynamite

Uyuni Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 16 › view all entries
After leaving La Paz we headed south trhough Bolivia, through Potosi & Uyuni and then over the border to Argentina.  Bolivian "roads" need to be seen to be believed.  A couple of years ago I did the road to Siem Reap from the Thai border and though that was bad but these were worse.  "Corrugated as Brendan described them.  At one stage we abandoned the road altogether and drove for half a day on the river bed because it was in a better state than the roads.  Altogether it was 3 or 4 days of bone shaking, teeth rattling, butt bruising travel.
Potosi in Bolivia is famous for Cerro Rico - Rich Hill, were silver has been mined since the time of the Spanish conquests.  Its estimated over 8 million have died in the horrendous conditions.  Nowdays its mainly tin thats mined there but they allow tourists down the mine ti see it being worked today.  Eight or nine of us got all kitted out in overalls, boots, helmets, lamps etc and headed down the mine with ouyr bags of coca leaves, cigarettes and dynamite as gifts for the miners.  Its crazy - you can walk up to a street stall and buy a bag of dynamite, fuses and ammonium nitrate, for $2.  Definately not at home now!  Mine tour was a bit of an eye opener, when you see 15 year olds working down there who´ve already been working there 3 years.  They haul wagons of rock weighing over 2 tonne and most of the time are ankle deep in water or crawling through 3 foot high passages.  And I moan about my desk job!..  At the end of the tour they let us blow up some of the dynamite.  We did the total tourist thing of all having our pictures taken with the lit fulse stuck in the dynamite, before the guide casually strolls off down the hill to drop it before trotting off just in time before it goes up!  We all went home happy little children having had a chance to blow something up!!

Next on the Bolivia agenda was Salar de Uyuni - the Uyuni salt flats.  12,000km2 of flat blinding whiteness.  (Don´t even think of going there without sunglasses!)  It creates this weird effect where things in the distance seem to float on the surface so the jeep in front of us seemed to be hovering over the ground rather than driving on it.  Its also so flat and white it distorts your depth perception so you get all the classic photos of tiny people jumping out of giant wine bottles or standing on a house of cards.  Some people spent hours in search of the perfect photo.  I just fried in the blistering sun and spent half the day hiding in the jeep because it was the only place there was any bit of shade at all.  Seriously seriously hot....

From Uyuni, we headed south on a long long drive to the Argentine border.  The scenery around Tupiza (I think?!) is really beautiful.  All red sand stone pillars carved into mad shapes by the wind.  We spent our last night bush camping in a gorgeous spot on riverbank under rock face with sky blanketed in stars... Not a bad memory to leave Bolivia with!....
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photo by: razorriome