The Mines of Bolivia...Potosi
A big shock to the system in Potosi,
firstly because of the weather, but mainly because of the immediate
contrast between Argentina and Boliva. As soon as we crossed the border
in Trevor, the roads became untarmacked and just dirt tracks.
The weather in Potosi was bad, rain. Luckily, I, Jo, had bought a lot of clothes in Salta to prepare for this weather, whereas Ginge was left to search through the piles of Ponchos in order to find some decent sort of clothing.
Stayed in a really nice hotel. The saddest thing being that as soon as we saw the tv we both switched it on and jumped on our beds, lapping up all the subtitled american sitcoms we could!
Potosi was, at its height, the biggest city in the world, due to the silver mines that laid in the Cerro Rico, but with the decline of the industry, the city found itself with no other source of income and therefore found itself in decline. Then with a rise in the demand for tin, the resources then began to be mined in the Cerro Rico. We went down to see the mine where the locals work, strictly men, in the dark, in extremely dangerous conditions. The mines were claustrophobic and really made you feel for the miners, especially with the death rate being one per day. It was like a pot-holing adventure through the tunnels, but pretty scary. Obviously Ginge wasn`t phased, but I found myself slightly overwhelmed!
We had to take the miners packages of biscuits, coco leaves, cigarettes and alcohol to say thank you to them. This was when we discovered that the alcohol that they drink is 96%! On the last friday of every month they drink a full 500ml bottle of alcohol and lay cigarettes by the statue of Tio Jorge, the devil of the mine, as the miners believe that the devil owns the minerals and they must pacify him in order to obtain what lies in the mines.
We also got the amazing chance to blow up sticks of dynamite, having purchased it in the local market along with a sizeable amount of ammonium nitrate!! I got the chance to light the dynamite, and it was probably the most adrenaline filled experience of my life, like something out of a movie and needless to say I didn`t stop to take photos! Outside the mines we got to blow up whatever we wanted, and the guys had selected an enormous pumpkin, which was shattered to pieces that were splattered all around the valley!!
Some of the guys enjoyed Llama steaks for dinner, but Ginge and I plumped for the local delicacy of a milanesa, basically just a chicken breast in breadcrumbs with cheese a ham, but amazing.
Oh, next point; money. Bolivia is amazingly cheap. Unbelievably so. A coca-cola costs just 1Boliviano, the equivalent of 7p and a beer between 5 or 10 bolivianos, not more than 70p for a litre of beer. It is just amazing, and we can`t help but convert every price into pounds, just to get that feeling of satisfaction, that we have got a great bargain!!