The end of Bolivia

Trip Start Aug 20, 2005
1
5
14
Trip End Oct 13, 2005


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Hi,

Thought i would send in a couple of updates.

This first one covers from the 4th to the 6th Sep.

When i left you i was enjoying the pleasures of some dodgy food at la paz. Luckily with this behind me we jumped on a bus to some place i forget, where we then had to jump on an overnight train which would take us to Uyuni - famous for its access to salt flats and minute man pizza. The bus ride was pretty uneventfull, that was untill the bus driver decided he did not want to take us anyfurther once he arrived at the edge of town, citing reasons such as this is a ´special day´ so apparently he wasnt allowed to drive us any further. I of course was oblvious to all this so luckily there was a german tour group on board and so the tour leader would converse with the bus driver in spanish, then talk to her tour group in german, upon which some lovely german girl let me know what was happening. The whole thing was very confusing, a little like

bus driver and tour lady

ensalda como este no tourismo....

tour lady and group

alf wiederstein act tung ...

lovely german girl to me

you are the most rangiest and attrative man i have ever met, you should come back to germany with me....


well not quite, but you get my drift.

Anyway all said and done, we were dropped off a little closer to the train station, whereupon we walked the remaining 15min to the train. So no major dramas, just a little frustrating. So all loaded up with junk food we boarded the train, soon fell fast asleep rest assured in the knowledge that we would not have to get up till 7am when the train got in, well nice thought, but i must have screwed up my spanish (again) as 3am we were all sheparded out of the train with the good news that we had arrived at Uyuni. Now i have not often got to a new town at 3am but i can assure you the last thing you want is to be set upon by eager locals wanting you to stay at their hostal. But nevertheless that is what i got. Being cranky doesnt quite descibe what i was feeling but i was very close to randomly smakcing anyone that would say ´Hey amigo, you stay with us tonight´. After felling a few locals we did find somewhere for the pricely sum of 20b (4nzd) - still doesnt seem worth it esp as 3 hrs later we would be up and about looking for a bus to potosi.

Ahh potosi. Home of a very big mine. Only 6hrs of bolivias worst bus and roads from Uyuni. Now this was once place i was real keen to go to. Mainly because of the mine as i had heard some pretty cool yarns from people who had been there. So it was much eagerness i jumped on the bus. Not even the 6hrs of potholes and dust, nor the large andean woman who decided to rub up against me all trip could dimish my enthusiasm. A hostel booked, and mine tour booked. I was eager. A good nights sleep was not forth coming care of a rotund american woman who happened to snore all night, but nevertheless it was mine day.

The day started with a solid breakfast and then off to get kitted out in some mining gear, ie jacket pants and a really cool mining hat and light. Next it was off to the miners market where we were told we should buy the miners some presents. So we bought them the usual things of drinks, cocoa leaves and dynamite, yep that is right dynamite. Now i have never bought dynamite before, never needed to i suppose, but there is something about popping down to the market and finding explosives on teh same shelf as the chocolate bars - i like it. So with my kit bag of snacks for miners, snacks for richard and dynamite for any of those pesky locals that try and harass me, we made our way to the mines. The first bit all la de da as we were taken through the processing plant. Next we entered the mine. Now this was a live working mine. Apparently 6000 local men (and boys some as young as 8) worked there. As the while touring through there, we would have to quickly jump out of the way of some lads pushing trolleys back and forth. The conditions were very average, and even after 15 min of this it was easy to see why the life expectancy of a miner was 40 yrs of age. Most succomb to lung issues ie cancer. It was no wonder and i found i was struggling with all the fine dust and minerals floating arround. Looking at the faces of the miners it was a pretty solem place, in fact down in the minds it is the devil who is idolised as they believe the mines are the devils country and so little devil alters and sacrifices were the norm, all pretty freaky really, but i guess the miners need to believe something to feel sane. The mines were hot and the work just plan hard. These guys would spend 5 hrs chiseling a hole in the rock just to lay some dynamite. And the mining is all pretty much luck with it up to each group to find the next vein of minerals that would wield them as wealthy men. Ahh the money, that must be what it is. Maybe in bolivia it is good money but i was told they can earn up to 1000b a month. Now getting out my currency converter this is 250b a week or in nzd less than $50 a week!!! I know bolivia is a cheap place for a life expectancy of 40yrs, 10hr days and 6 days a week working in over 30 degree temp, it may just be me, but these guys are mad.... but alas in bolivia (2nd most corrupt country in the world), there arent many options.

So a little solemly and certainly thankfully i left the mine. A thoroughly rewarding and eye opening experience. I would defn recommend it if you are ever in the area. A word of warning though, these mines are again not built for anyone over 5´6´´ so be prepared to duck!!!

BTW i never got to keep the dynamite - i gave it to the miners But a least i now know where i can get it....

That evening we jumped back on the bus and headed back to Uyuni. I shall save those tales for another day(prob tomorrow or later on tonight). Untill then, stay safe, keep in touch

Rich
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