Highest city in the world.

Potosi Travel Blog

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Potosi's main cathedral undergoes some renovation.

Hello All,

Well the bus to Potosi dropped us off at an unknown location in town at about 12:30am.  I am really getting sick of buses dropping me off between the hours of 11pm and 6am without any accomodations reserved.  None of the places a normal traveler stays at in these cities have a 24 hour desk presence, so you invariably end up knocking on doors or ringing doorbells to wake people up.

Last night I had been misinformed about how long the bus would take, so I didn't expect to have to get a room at all.  So after figuring out that the city center was a bit of a distance fropm the bus station, I grabbed a taxi.  Together we went to four different hotels before finding the right combination of price and availibility.

The Tia statue that miners leave little sacrificial items for to ensure safety in the mines.
  I settled on a shared room for $25 Bolivianos at Residencial 10 de Noviembre about four blocks from the plaza.

There was one other guy in the room, but I still slept pretty well.  I woke up at 8am, and started looking for info on a tour to the Cooperative Silver Mines on Cerro Rico.  I found an agency that had a four hour trip at 2:15pm for $50 Bolivianos, and I also got a ticket to the 8pm bus to La Paz tonight for $60 Bolivianos.  They also had a sleeper bus for $90, but I havenĀ“t seen much of a difference between classes in Bolivia, so I'll save the $4.

The busses here are never sold out for the locals.  So, even if there are no more tickets available, the bus will leave the station, head around the corner, and pick up a bunch of people waiting to sit in the aisles for six hours.

I was very happy to breathe some fresh air and stand upright at this moment.
  I'm not sure how much they pay, but many people get on and off along the route, and they do settle up with the conductor.  So sleeping is really not possible, even on the first class 'sleeper' buses with all of the stopping and shuffling of passengers.

I'm getting much more into the street food as a cheap, tasty alternative to restaurants.  I was emboldened by the tasty success of Sunday nights 'Llama burger', so when the bus stopped at 10:30pm at a little town I tried what turned out to be a fried egg sandwich fromn a street vendor that was good.

Then this morning I had a few 'saltenas' from street vendors.  This being a mining town, I would compare them to another 'miners food', the Cornish Pasty that was so popular when I lived in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

The view of Potosi from the mines on Cerro Rico.
  The saltena, like the pasty, is a baked little treat with meat and veggies inside that is easy for the miners to carry them into the mines for eating later.  I had two of them for $1.5 Bolivianos ($0.20) and was full.

Knowing I'd be out of my room for a while this afternoon I grabbed a nap and listened to my computer for about 90 minutes before checking out.  Listened to my computer because as predicted the iPod is a no-go again.  I was able to listen to it for most of the bus ride last night by keeping it flat and steady, and not changing tracks.  But there came a point when we climbed the ridge surrounding Potosi that it just gave up the ghost.  It was better then nothing for sure.

Potosi, Bolivia claims the title of 'highest city in the world' at 3,967 meters (13,015 feet).

Potosi's new 164' tall observation tower.
  Although more accurately, it's the highest city in the world of it's size, about 115,000 people.  It has tons of history, as the site of one of the richest silver mines in history.  Potosi was the largest city in the Americas around 1600.

Well, they are closing the internet shop for some reason at 1pm, so I will head downtown to the tour agency for my mine tour.

Ok, now I'm back and this thing was amazing.  It was historical, frightening, and educational.  The group was me, two people from Belgium, and the other five from South America.  We suited up in our mine gear, overpants, jacket, boots, miner's helmet, battery and head lamp.

We then stopped at the Miner's Market to buy gifts for the miners.  We could choose from coca leaves, homemade bidi cigarettes, some 96% alcohol moonshine, fizzy 2 litres of soda, or even dynamite.

Not sure what church this was, but it looks cool. More research later.
  I selected two packs of bidi's and a bag of coca leaves for $5 Bolivianos, and we left.  We drove halfway up the Cerro Rico in a 10 passenger Toyota converted from right hand drive, until reaching the mine.

It was a narrow shaft that varied from 4' to 7' tall, and there were rudimentary train type tracks laid down for carts to roll out the mined rock.  We made our way through progressively more narrow tunnels, to the point we were on our hands and knees and crawling up rickety ladders.  Along the way we met some of the miners, chatted with them, and gave them our gifts.  As a big guy I can certainly see the benefit of being small and working in the mines.

I also felt my first overt signs of the altitude sickness.  The air in the mines being even thinner, combined with the extreme elevation gave me a pretty good headache by the time we exited.  My Petzl LED headlamp worked great in the mines also.  I used it as a hand-lamp to further illuminate some of the darker areas, or viens of zinc.  Afterwards, our guide blew up a stick of dynamite for us, and it was powerful and loud.  Very cool.

Well, it's off to the bus station to head for La Paz.  If possible, I'm going to try to hit a cash machine a continue to either Copacabana, Bolivia, or Puno or Cuzco, Peru depending on the bus schedules.

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Potosis main cathedral undergoes …
Potosi's main cathedral undergoes…
The Tia statue that miners leave l…
The Tia statue that miners leave …
I was very happy to breathe some f…
I was very happy to breathe some …
The view of Potosi from the mines …
The view of Potosi from the mines…
Potosis new 164 tall observation…
Potosi's new 164' tall observatio…
Not sure what church this was, but…
Not sure what church this was, bu…
photo by: Biedjee