The bus ride to Potosi was uneventful. Except that we had to sit in different seats. The booking offices here don't use computers. They have a sheet of A4 for each bus. If they lose it then they can easily sell the same seats twice as in this case.
We were pretty much the only foreigners on the bus. We had the usual periodic stops so local people could sell food and drink through the windows. Potosi has a brand new terminus. It is on two floors with ticket offices upstairs and the platform downstairs. The central area has a large domed roof. As you enter it sounds like a Muslim call to prayer as the ticket seller stand on the top floor calling out the place names and sale prices.
We booked our tickets out for two days later. Potosi is the highest city in the world at over 4000 metres above sea level. We grabbed a cab and had a 15 minute drive to our hostel. It cost £1.50!!
The hostel is a converted mansion built in a Spanish style. We passed through the small reception area into a large courtyard with sweeping stairs at one end. Our room was on the second floor. As we carried our rucksacks up the stairs I thought my lungs would burst. The lack of oxygen was crippling. A recurring them for the next few days.
Our room was amazing. It was huge and had a massive panoramic window which looked out to the mountains.
Potosi gained its wealth from the local silver mines. For over 200 years it subsidised the Spanish economy. The mines are among the most dangerous on the planet. Most of the silver has been extracted but still around 10,000 men and boys work in them in dirty and dangerous conditions. The tour operators offer trips down the mines. They claim they give money to the miners and their families but our research suggested this wasn't true. We decided not to take a tour.
The city itself has an old town which was where we were staying. Although it has way too many vehicles the buildings are quite stunning. We didn't really do much but it is a lovely place to stroll around. As usual it was hot by day and cold by night.
I'm a creature of habit. My passport is always in a wallet in my bum bag. It comes out for passport control and goes straight back. Every time we leave somewhere I check that I have it. Today we were leaving on a 10.30am bus to Sucre. We were up for breakfast and at about 8.30 I checked my passport. It wasn't there.
My credit card was there and some money but no passport. Logic said it had to be in the room. After all who would take a passport and leave money?
We turned the room upside down and emptied my main and little rucksacks. We looked under the bed, in drawers but no sign. Then I remembered. When we arrived the reception desk held on to it for a short while to complete the paperwork. When the lady brought it to the room I was up on top of the wardrobe trying to get the tele to work. I had taken it from her and got back up. There it was on the wardrobe.
Let me tell you altitude has your heart fluttering a lot anyway, add the trauma of mislaying your passport and it is not to be advised. Anyway panic over and we headed for the bus station. Once again we had to have different seats. When the bus turned up it was the most rickety we had been on. As we climbed aboard the smell was not good.
It was about a 40 seater and there were only about 20 off us so that was ok. Windows were opened and off we went. We went about 100 yards and then another 20 people got on. All Bolivians carrying there lives belongings in huge sacks. It was now smell, noisy and crowded. Apparently this is called embracing the local culture.
In the end it wasn't too bad a journey. Oh except for the last hour when two 'market sellers' came aboard and went through their patter to sell vapour rub claiming it to be a cure all and some jewellery. They were apparently very funny from the laughter on board and managed to make some sales.
We are now in Sucre which is the administrative capital of Bolivia with Le Paz being the de facto capital. We have a lovely hostel room and a quick look around the local area suggest Sucre is a pretty and thriving city.