Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Koala Den

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, June 9, 2008

From Uyuni, we rang hostels in Potosi that would agree to take 17 of us at 2am when the bus got in. We eventually found one - after discovering that many of the numbers in the Lonely Planet were wrong.
We left Uyuni at 7pm. Just over two hours into our seven hour bus journey, we stopped in the middle of nowhere. There was the usual peering out the window by the passengers to see what the problem was..all we could make out was roadworks. Then the bus driver called down the bus for the men to get out and help another bus that was in trouble.
Due to the roadworks, the other bus which was going in the opposite direction took a wrong turn and got stuck.
Not to be outdone, most the girls jumped off our bus with the lads, mainly out of sheer nosiness, and there is was, a big bus - stuck in the mud.
The passengers had been there for four and half hours. All the guys rocked and pushed and pulled the bus, there was also a lorry trying to tow it but to no avail. So, we simply had to leave them there and continue our journey to Potosi where we arrived at 3.30am.
We slept a few hours and eight of us re-located to Koala Den Hostel the following morning which came with good recommendations. Good showers and good heat.
Potosi is the worlds highest city (4060m - breathe in, breathe out, breathe in..) and a UNESCO site. The city was founded in 1545 following the discovery of ore deposits in the Cerro Rico mountain. That mountain continues to be mined today and there are tours (the main tourist attraction), so Donegal Maeve and myself booked ourselves in for a tour along with some of the others.
The tour was very demanding physically. Our tour guide was called Julio, he runs a company called Green-go Tours. A single father, he´s not fond of women and makes that known very early on! You enter the mine on foot and head towards the middle of the moutain. He was rushing us because he said we had to see the miners before they went home. There was alot of hoisting ourselves up ropes and through tiny holes, not for claustraphobics or those weak in the upper arms! It was an experience though. We met one family who were searching for a thread (a line of silver for example, running through the wall). It´s like playing the lotto. They get paid by a co-operative if and when they find a thread. The life expectancy of miners is around 45 and then the eldest child (male of course) takes over, leaving school between the ages of 14-16 to work and support the family. Young miners are bullied until they prove themselves in early months and only survive by being ´macho´, according to Julio.
We were there for three hours. The further we went in, it was more difficult to breathe due to the dust and lack of air. They work in awful conditions, pushing heavy trollies manually. We were shown a statue of the devil the miners made. They view the mine as hell.  
Away from the mines, us backpackers got stuck in Potosi for a number of days due to a truck and bus drivers strike over the price of gas. We all spent our time reading at the hostel and eating in a bar called 4060 which had the best food in the city. Before we all went crazy with cabin fever we decided to get taxis to the blockade, walk to the far side of it and get a bus to Sucre from where we had booked a flight to La Paz.
Grechy put on his Irish CD on the bus to Sucre..Sawdoctors, Shane McGowen, The Hills of Donegal, the works and...the Bolivians loved it!
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