We caught a shared taxi from Sucre to Potosí as my (Simon's) tummy had not been feeling well for a few days. It was twice the cost of the bus but it was quicker and allowed stopping if necessary. So by 11:30 we were at our hostel in Potosí; one of the highest cities in the world at 4,090 metres. It was a bit of a jump from Sucre, at 2,810 metres, but with no towns between there is no choice. We headed out for lunch and found that the National Mint museum was closed on Mondays for maintenance. It's meant to be the best museum in Bolivia and was the main reason we came to Potosí so it was a real shame. Potosí's historical importance is based on the mountain it sits by (Cerro Rico) since it was the major supply of silver for the Spanish Empire - the mint is therefore a big deal. Because of the riches, Potosí became one of the wealthiest and biggest cities in the world at the time (1700 approx.) and legend has it that the mint mark of Potosí (the letters "PTSI" superimposed on one another) is the origin of the dollar sign. Due to the extensive mining the mountain has apparently shrunk - it used to be a few hundred metres taller.
The other more modern fame that the city has is that the mines are still open, and as this is Bolivia, many children work in them in terrible conditions. It is possible to be taken down the mines to see the suffering and also give the miners an additional income but we didn't want to see the former as a 'rich foreigner'. Due to poor working conditions and constant inhalation of dust the miners only have a life expectancy of 40 years. I once supported a UNICEF campaign to fund school places for the children miners so I've already seen enough pictures.
I digress from the day but we didn't do much on our only day in Potosí because an unexpected event happened. Before that we bought some strong medicine for my tummy and then went to have lunch in a popular place; so popular it had a queue outside before opening and when we got inside and paid there was nowhere to sit. So we just had to wait for a table to become available. We waited for at least 30 minutes in the heat as we were stood under a skylight. I stepped away from Katy and into the shade as I felt a bit short of breath but she called me back, told me that she felt faint and then she fainted! It was the 3rd time in my life I've tried to catch a dead weight (2nd time it's been Katy) and this time I failed again. At least I slowed her fall but she still hit her head and elbow on the floor. I started shouting "Ayuda! Ayuda!" (Help! Help!) but because I was panicking I wasn't sure if I had picked the right word. I used to get 'ayuda' ('help') and 'ayer' ('yesterday') mixed up so at the time I thought I could have been shouting "Yesterday! Yesterday!" but as I had made my choice I had to keep going - luckily I was right. Katy was a scary sight - her eyes had rolled back, her mouth was open, her neck had swollen and 5 to 10 seconds later when she woke up she couldn't move her hands! I kept slapping her on the cheek to wake her up and then taking it in turns to shout at her "Wake up!, Wake up!" and then at the crowd that was forming "Call someone! Call someone!" (in English as my Spanish had gone by this point) with my hand held up like a phone. Two diners/doctors appeared - one of them raised her legs and (once Katy had woken up) the other one just kept saying "It's OK, it's nothing". Katy by this point was saying "I'm OK" but I was still worried as her neck was still swollen and she couldn't move her hands. Luckily she returned to normal quickly and the 2nd doctor just kept saying "It's nothing, it's nothing" like he saw this all the time. Another guy came over and said something about an ambulance but the doctor said it wasn't needed so it was either cancelled or was never called. I tried to ask the doctor if it was the altitude but it was hard because he didn't speak much English but I think he said it was - it must have been. Shortly after that we got a table and had lunch - a bit of an extreme way to get a table but it worked. Katy felt better sitting down and with food but she spent the rest of the afternoon in bed.
Bolivia is a great country but the altitude has made it hard a few times and one of us always has a slightly dodgy tummy but at least nothing major. Mike and Tijs both got badly ill on their trip ahead of us but not everyone does so we must have all been unlucky. We thought by the time we got to Bolivia, our 11th country, that we would be stronger but it seems not.
That evening Katy felt well enough for dinner and managed a pizza while I had a burger - not very traditional but we were protecting our tummies. After we had a walk around the main square which was lit up in Christmas lights and had many people dressed up in different costumes for children to have their picture with. We then retired to bed for our early(ish) bus to Tupiza - our New Year's location ahead of the Salt flats.