Potosi...what a blast
Arrived at 2am and straight to the Koala Den Hostel to reserve some energy for the mines later that day. The mines of Potosi are silver ore mines, set high in the mountain which overlooks the town of Potosi. The economy and culture of the town is dependent on the mines and has been for thousands of years. We were all a bit apprehensive about going into the mines after hearing other stories from backpackers about not being able to breath, getting claustrophobic and getting carried out. These mines were described in the guide book not as museums but as fairly nightmarish places but this didn’t deter the hardcore four!
We met our guide called Ronaldo who decked us out in hardhats, coveralls, wellys, bandanas and headlights. We HAD to name our group…. The Sexy Llamas. Quote un quote from Ronaldo “You be the sexy, I’ll be the llama”. Feeling and looking like proper miners we headed to the market to purchase gifts for the miners which included 97% alcohol, cocoa leaves, homemade cigarettes and a stock load of dynamite. Sarah and Eilis tasted the alcohol and could feel it burning their chests for 10 minutes afterwards.
So we entered the mines, four foot by four foot tunnels with no lights and sudden dips. There were four levels you could go down to, each dustier and harder to breath then the last. At times we were climbing on our hands and knees and scrambling up and down ladders. Bolivian Health and Safety standards were nowhere to be seen. Miners were using the most basic of tools in the most stifling of temperatures. We were introduced to a few of the miners. Throughout the tour we gave out our presents to the miners and got to chat to them all. One of them started working when he was 20, he’s been working there for 24 years but must have looked at least 70. Ronaldo told us that the man in question had 9 children, in his words again “By day, we works in the mines, by night, he works in the sex mines!” We were as shocked as you were. How can you answer that one??!! The miners don’t leave the mines all day, they eat cocoa leaves to get rid of hunger and give them energy… the 4 of us are thinking of going on the cocoa leaves diet.
When we finally emerged, covered in dust and gasping for air, it was time to blow up some stuff. Ronaldo gathered the rest of the dynamite, lit the fuse and quickly passed it around to each of us. We had 2 minutes to take our pictures and get the hell out of the way before it exploded. See our video for our very girly reaction at the explosion.
Great day had by all. Turns out we like to blow stuff up.
Onwards to La Paz…..