Manic mining, overloaded buses and being crap as a cowboy...Explosive Bolivia !!

Tupiza Travel Blog

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The day afer the referendum we had expected riots, roadblocks, total anarchy, but a it turned out, nothing really changed ! the buses were running as usual, people were out and about as usual, and the chicken bus to the Mining town of Potosi was as grungy and full of chickens as usual ! There is a standard joke here.. how many bolivians can you fit in a bus.... the answer being .. "jus two more".. so we had a REALLY full bus, with people sitting in the aisles for the three hours or so and of course with more luggage than Paris Hilton ! But we made it ok and got to potosi where we checked into our hostel ( which was full of "too cool for school" traveller types, These are the ones I cant stand !! with their multitudes of bracelets and bad hippy trousers, and with faces like smacked arses looking like they really are not enjoying the fact that they are travelling and looking down on anyone who cant speak the regional quecha dialect they learned during their 4 week stay with a "traditional " family in the arse end of nowhere !!.. sorry rant over.. but they piss me off and should learn to lighten up and be a bit more friendly !!) so anyway, we had a very nice lunch ( with submarinos!! its hot milk with a bar of chocolate dumped in it.. H Loves em !) and then wandered around looking at the fanastic ( if dilapadated) colonial buildings that the town has from back in its silver mining heyday ! We booked ourselves onto a mining our.. this is the thing to do in Potosi, go and vist a working mine ( no longer silver but copper and stuff) as made famous in the film "the devils miner" about a 14 year old boy who worked in the mines. i tried chewing cocoa leaves ( not very nice , stick to tea, its better) and had an early night.
So the next morning we joined our our group of 9 or so people to go up to the mine, we crammed into a minibus to acend the hill to the miners market, and promply had to get out again when the bus couldnt make it up the hill. First stop was the "miners market" where we each bought "gifts" for the working miners we were about to see, this included POP, fags, coca leaves and of course.. DYNAMITE !! yep anyone can buy it here and its about a quid for a stick with all the trimmings !! so we got some of his too :-)
HEading up the hill a bit further, and now kitted out in out miner outfits complete with hats and lanterns etc, we entered the mine ( the entrance of which being daubed with llama blood for luck !! This was a real working mine, a co-operative where the miners and their families work either by hand or with drills etc to extract tonnes of minerals for sale, and we, the tourists just went along to see them at work ! The main tunnel in was ok, but after decending about 10 m on a rickety ladder we started to see why this place was called " the devils mine" its hot , cramped, dusty, at some points we were crawling along on hands and knees to ge to the face where the miners were working . We had taken face masks for the dust but these guys had nothing and it really kills the lungs ! So we were down there for about 2 hours seeing different levels and ways of working, handing out our cigarettes and coca leaves to grateful grubby faces ! Near the end of the tour we vistied one guy laying Dynamite with his son, this was interesting to see ( H nearly got killed by a falling rock.. but was ok :-) especially when the guy came down to where we were standing and basically told us to leg it.. as he had lit the 3 minute fuse!!! so we legged it and sure enough, while we were still in the mine, about 100m down from the face, the blasts went off ! the shockwaves were incredible, all our clothes ruffled with the air and we had to plug our ears against the noise!! Even worse was then getting out as we had to go through the dust storm kicked up by the blast, our guide again telling us to "run and hold your breath if possible !!".  It was amazing !!
After this we visited the shrine of the devil ( that they have in every mine, as the silver "belongs" to him, and offered some libations of cigarettes and alcahol for safe passage etc.. then went back outside to the relative safety.. well.. i say safey, but this was the time we got to low up the dynamite we had bought ! The group must have had about 6 sticks in total and we blew up the lot ! KABOOM !! its quite a feelling holding a lit fuse with a big bad bag of dynamite on the end before our guide legged it off up the hill with it so the blast woudnt kill us all :-) what FUN !!!
So as you can imagine, by this point we were quite hot, sweaty and very dusty and wanted to ge back to the hostal for a shower.. which we did.. ony to find the buggers had given our room away !! Arseholes !! they found us another hostal, but it was just a drag and the new place had no hot water, so we took a loooong time packing and leaving ( after taking a shower !!) and moved begrudgingly round the corner. In the PM we went to the excellent "mint" museum.. no not polos, but where they used to make the coins from all the silver they had mined for the spanish. This was a really good tour in English and a great way to wrap up our stay as we were off in the morning to TUpiza in the south !
Well Morning came, and we were up at 6.30 for our bus, we knew the new hostel only had hot water from 7.30 to 10am , but what we DIDNT know was that there was NO water before this time, no washing, cant flush the loo etc..... I woke up the proprietor who was no help so we just got out and got on the bus asap !! There was not point complaning.. this is Bolivia !

At the bus staton, our bus had been cancelled :-) good start. but hey put us on another and 6 hrs later we arrived in the dusty wild west town of Tupiza ! After escaping from a mental hostal where the ladies running it were a bit too full on, we got a great place and went exploring ! there is not a lot here to be honest and the exploring didnt last long :-) so we booked ourselves onto a horse riding trip for the next morning, booked a 4 day jeep tour to the Sal de Uyuni , with a very nice english couple called Ed and Luisa and had a pizza !

Morning arrived as did our guide for the horse riding , a nice young chap ( I would say all of 14) who escorted us across town to to our waiting ponies ! but of course, safety first, as we left the hostel the manager called us back " you forgot your hats " ! Phew, one shouldnt be riding without a safety helmet ! but of course , this being Bolivia, safety was not paramount and we were proudly presented with two stetsons ! ah well at least we looked cool.

The horse riding was ace, the horses knew exactly where to go ( and for those worrying, were well looked after) and we spent the morning riding out into proper canyon country (see the photos) with mountains, creeks , waterfalls, the works !! Its been a while since I last rode a horse, and soon learned that the act of trotting was specifically designed to destroy male testicles.. so we didnt do much of that and restricted ourselves to walking !! The trip was going so well, right up to the last ( and i  mean this) 5 meters, when a big dog and a truck conspired to spook my horsey ( Browney) who shyed and threw me off into the dirt.. OWCH !! but luckily he ( and harriets horse, whitey) didnt step on me, so I just got a bit winded and bruised my shoulder.. it didnt stop me gettting back on for the final "team Photo" !!

The rest of the day was spent in the bar and restaurant where we once again met Ed and Luisa ( of the weasel as she was now known) for more beer and Pizza before the tour on the morrow..

Next Blog ( and Im really trying to catch up here !!) Will be the Salar de Uyuni and leaving Bolivia.. Ah well Im only a month behind.. Adios muchachos !!

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photo by: wilfredoc2009