What follows below, has been penned by Ryan's own hand and is his (as yet, incomplete) account of his tour down into the silver mines of Potosi. It is his first full blog post, and likely to be his only one! So lets hope its a good 'un.
Ryan: I'm up at 6.30am, an early rise. It's a very chilly morning, which certainly wakes you up. Breakfast is fresh orange juice, coffee, pineapple, bananas and more rock hard bread with jam and butter (if you threw it, you would risk killing a small child).
We set off, our Koala Tours rep, me and two Swiss girls from the hostel. We're walking down the road and all of a sudden someone yells 'Vamos, vamos' and we just manage to get on the bus to join up with five Brits who are also doing the tour. So we are a group of eight willing participants each spending 100 bolivianos to go down into a third world country mine in tight, stuffy conditions, sometimes with poisonous gases floating around. Perhaps we are slightly odd people.
Our first stop is to get kitted out in a fetching getup of black gumboots, red pants, MC Hammer styles, grey coat, brown hard hat with a light attached and a matching belt. Our next stop is to buy the miners various sorts of gifts - dynamite, coca leaves, bananas and juice. We stroll through the miners market where the miners purchase things like gloves, hats, overalls, etc which they have to buy themselves.
Our guide Juan is an ex-miner, having worked down there for three years. He has excellent English and explains to us that every first and last Friday of the month the miners drink an alcoholic spirit which is 95% alcohol to keep the devil away from the mine.
The next leg of the trip is to the refinery plant which we have a walk through. It's a very basic area, no health and safety here. We learn about how the minerals are extracted from the spoil and that silver floats to the surface because of the bubbles from the machines. Bolivia exports the raw materials because it does not have the technology that first world countries have. We give the workers each some coca leaves which are received with huge smiles and puffed cheeks. The workers shake our hands then we're off to the mining bit of the tour. We crawl through tight spaces and there's a lack of oxygen. One girl turns back.
....To be continued....