Sam goes Mining

Trip Start Oct 29, 2009
Trip End Jan 26, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, November 6, 2009

While I spent a leisurely morning in the town Sam visited the Potosi Silver Mine with some of the tour group. He will need to tell you about the mine so I will try and persuade him to write an entry but in the meantime I will post a few pictures of Miner Sam.

The following is a very late update by Sam who has been enjoying his holiday too much to stop and write…

The Mining Tour stated with getting kitted out in house near our hotel - boots, hardhats and attractive yellow suits, I had to lift the trousers up (Simon Cowl style) because the one size fits all was a little tall for me!! Next stop was the miners market where we were taken to buy presents for the miners - we had the choice of tobacco, soft drinks, chocolate, coca leaves (legal only in Bolivia), 95% alcohol drink that came in plastic bottles and of course dynamite and fuses (just your typical Tesco supplies).

It was early in the morning so not many volunteered for the alcohol tasting but I couldn’t resist and boy does it burn the throat. Back on the bus up the mountain to the mine entrance where the tour guide gave his speech about the history of the silver mines and for a thrill said we could light some dynamite!!! Oh Good!! The only one with the courage to light the fuse, dynamite in hand, was a young Dutch guy - that’s real Dutch Courage for you or in the case of the guide the result of all the coca leaves that he chewed throughout his speech…. They blew up two stick of dynamite which having been lit had to be run down a hill, dropped and then the guy had to run back up the hill to watch the explosion with the rest of us, you have never seen a Gringo move so fast!! Although the guide dawdled up the hill like it was just a normal day in the office. Not sure this would meet the Health and Safety standards of the English Tourist Board!!

At the entrance of the mine the gifts were handed to the miners, the young guys only seemed interested in the alcohol, but when you see the conditions inside you wouldn’t be surprised. We went into the highest level of the mountain, keeping us in the safest conditions, the mine actually goes down five levels where I hear the heat and fumes are unbearable. Even in level one the conditions were pretty harsh and not going to meet an UK working standards - the lighting was non-existent (just our head torches) ventilation was poor and even I banged my head numerous times so anyone taller would have a real problem.

At various locations in the mine they have the mine god statues (actually its the Devil) and the guide did the full gift and prayer ceremony that the miners do to keep them safe. Here he leaves all the same presents we gave the miners and also a llama fetus. We all had a sip of the alcohol (I was mad enough to have another taste)and then we continued through the mine.

On a serious note the first level of the mine was enough of a taste and showed us the miners working and the difficult conditions - it certainly teaches you how lucky we are and not to complain about our 9-5 routine.

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