Potosi

Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Potossi is the highest city of its size in the world, with over 110,000 inhabitants at an altitude of 4100 metres. We arrived around midday and we all felt the effects of a little less oxygen in the air. Even carrying our packs 20 metres had us puffing like we had run a marathon!

We visited the Mint Museum in the afternoon which was quite interesting. Potosi is a mining town as there is a huge mountain nearby called Cerro Rico which has large silver deposits. Back in the day when the spanish ruled the area, they used the local indians and slaves from Africa to extract the silver from the mines to fund the Spanish monarchy back in Spain and make all the Spanish money. Its quite ironic that Bolivia now pays Spain to make Bolivianos for them!

The next day we did a tour of the mines. First we had to stop at the miners market to buy gifts for any miners we encountered while on the tour ... soft drinks, coca leaves for them to chew and dynamite! We also bought some dynamite for our group to blow up. Everyone is a pyromaniac at heart. We didn`t blow it up ourselves, our guide did it, but we did get to hold it once the fuse was lit ... lucky it was a long fuse!

The mine itself was very interesting ... there is a section of the mine which is run by a company, then there is a section which is a co-operative, which means they work for themselves. The company has all the modern technology, but the independant miners till work with hammers and chisels and battery powered torches on their heads. If they can find a decent vein of metals, they can make a decent living, but there is all sorts of bad stuff in the air down there and they live short lives, on average dying around 55.

There isnt much else to do in Potosi once you have visited the mines, so then we head to Uyuni ...
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