Mining, explosions & karaoke
Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
71Trip End Apr 03, 2011
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The first stop we had was getting into the protective clothing consisting of overalls, wellies and hard hat with head torch. We looked well cool as we rocked down to our second stop, the minors market. At the minors market we were to buy gifts for the minors as they often couldn't afford luxuries as soft drinks and dynamite in their working conditions. The list of things we were told to chose from were dynamite (Potosi is one of the only cities where you can buy dynamite over the counter with no paperwork), soft drinks, coca leaves with chalk like stone that they chew to take away the taste, cigarettes and 96% alcohol
Before we visited the mine we were taken to a mineral extraction plant where they used many chemicals to separate e.g. silver from the stones that had been broken down. We gave the guy's coca leaves to thank them for letting us into their plant and also it helps them in their day. The plant was by no means state of the art, and looked like an accident could easily happen at any time.The last part of our tour was to the Cerro Rico mine itself where we spent about 1hr and a half crawling through tunnels which were far to short to stand up straight and in some points we were on hands and knees to get through to other tunnels.We met minors as they went by with one at the age of 16 (the legal age is 18 however not enforced). He told us that he had been working down the mines for 3 years already – I just can't imagine that kind of life. Most of the minors that we met were in high spirits (we were told that you just had to be to working the mines). Although we didn't see anybody digging as we were too late for that, we did walk round in tunnels and see people haul mine-trains of rock out of the mines – here we had to run and find cover as these trains don't stop
Near the end of the tour we stopped by a religious artifact for the minors where they give coca leaves and other things as presents to the underground god. Our guide poured alcohol over his fallace in pray for girls for the single boys, boys for the single girls, baby's for the girls who had boyfriends, and more tourists for him. He told us of the party's that the miners would have in February where they would drink for days and set explosions and fireworks off all across the land.
I was glad to get out after the hour and a half that was spent down the mines. And when we did we had one stick of dynamite left. So our guide took it out of its wrapper, gave it to Janita to roll into a ball whilst he made the fuse, he then put the fuse in the dynamite and all into a bag full of something else to increase the explosion
After we got back and had a much needed shower we went for some food in a restaurant that served the best food I'd had in ages, and this in a poor mining town in Bolivia where the food is meant to be terrible – talk about a diamond in the rough! Later in the night we went to a Karaoke bar which we wern't sure if it was a sex house at first, and then the appalling singing started and it was all OK, especially after the Ron and lemonade.In total – it was a great day, with some confused feeling about how I should feel about the minors and their short life expectancy and poor working conditions. I felt that I should feel bad, and I did – especially for the kid, but they seem to put a brave face on things and give the appearance of fun and happiness – this may come from the fact that they work for themselves down the mine and so work to their own rules and time,with anything they keep is theirs. Again the downside along with the conditions is the lack of inclusive health-care and the fact that if they don't find anything then they don't get paid – standard rules for working for yourself, however the consequences seem more severe here.Have pictures – will upload at a later date