Poignant Potosi

Potosi Travel Blog

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Its only a 3 hour bus journey from Sucre to Potosi (Bs15/£1.50$2.50), and it goes through some great scenery as the roads wind their way up to 4,700m, and to the world's highest city.  I certainly felt the altitude when I arrived, with every step almost leaving me out of breath!!  I checked in at Koala Den hostel and spend the rest of the afternoon chilling out.  I booked myself on a tour of the silver mines, Potosi's imfamous attraction.  I went with Silver Tours (tour Bs70/£7/$10) and the next day I was ready at 9am to start.  we had a decent group of about 10 people and our first stop was to get ourselves fitted with all the protective gear necessary for the tour - overalls, helmet and lamp.

Miners' market
  I looked pretty comical as they only had very large clothes left for me! We then headed over to the miner's market, where it is customary for tourists to buy some supplies for the miners.  They particularly like Coke and Coca leaves as they are the things that get them through the day!  We were also able to openly buy dynamite - absolutely insane, and more of that later!

Our tour guide Freddy explaine the history of the mines and the importance they once held in the Spanish empire.  The mines are only about 5 minutes outside the town of Potosi and we were soon walking inside, ducking at every corner with the low ceilings.  We met some of the miners - they all have different roles in the process - and saw how bloody hard their lives are.  They all work as individuals, selling their ore through the co-operative, so some end up working horrendously long hours.

Just about to detonante!
  When you think how many people have perished in this place over the years, its quite harrowing.  But the current crop appreciated the treats we brought them and it was nice to feel like we were helping in some way.   The tour took about 3 hours, going up and down rickety ladders - I had to laugh as there is no way you'd be allowed to anything like this back with the health & safety rules - mental!  After the tour, we did the real fun bit - blowing up dynamite!! The miners use it on a daily basis, and we got to buy and then construct a 'bomb' putting the dynamite with ammonia, sealing it in a package and then eventually Freddy took them away and lit them - christ, did they make some noise! I tried taking a video, but each time one went off, the ground shook so much, you could barely see anything!

So, its yet another one of those unique experiences in South America, soon to be followed by another as I head to Uyuni and the vast salt lakes...

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Miners market
Miners' market
Just about to detonante!
Just about to detonante!
Errmm...that is bloody dynamite!!
Errmm...that is bloody dynamite!!
Doing a quick shift...
Doing a quick shift...
The random pagan devil they drink …
The random pagan devil they drink…
Nice outfit!
Nice outfit!
Potosi Hostels review
Decent, basic place to stay
Koala den was recommended to me by a fellow traveller and it does the job. Its no frills, dorms starting from Bs35 a night. It has good hot showers … read entire review
Potosi
photo by: Biedjee