After a shonky bus ride which included getting bogged, a few lollypops to calm the stomach around the bendy roads and we arrive in the colonial town of Potosi. The highest city in the world apparently. Sitting at 4200 meters. As you can imagine a lot harder to breath and slightly colder. As we didn't plan to come to Bolivia and with no maps or guide books, we really had no idea where to go. So it was plain and simple....follow the obvious tourists from the bus, an Irishman, an Englishman and a South African. Turned out to be the way to go as we befriended them pretty quickly and found a hostel to stay. Great company and all with a great sense of humour particularly the Irishman as you will hear at the end of our movie. We arranged a mine tour with our new friends for the next day. The Potosi mineral mines is the richest in the world although the safety conditions of the miners is the poorest. With a life span of 35-45 max due to the exposure of silica on the lungs. 8 million miners have died and the quality of a miners life is most shocking. A typical day includes manual exploration, drinking almost pure alcohol and chewing coca leaves to take away the pain, hunger and fatigue. Even boys as young as ten begin their life in the mines.
We begin our mine tour purchasing gifts for the miners including alcohol, soft drink, cigarettes, coca leaves and dynamite. We then make our way up the mountain to view the refineries which are obviously taking its toll on the environment. They discharge the processed water including toxic chemicals straight into the river. A short time later we meet a small team miners at their entrance and start the decent into the compact mine shafts. We will let the movie enlighten you on our experience in the Potosi mines. What an eye opening day we had with the adrenalin certainly pumping at its highest it's been for a while.
Bolivia seems to be always full of surprising events. Mid morning before a night bus back to La Paz, we find out our sleeper bus as crashed and we unfortunately have to catch a normal seater bus. It's going to be a long, restless, sleepless night back to La Paz. We are looking forward to a day to stop for a change and take some R & R.