New Years and Primative Potosi Mining

Trip Start Nov 17, 2006
Trip End Jan 24, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Update 12: New Years and Primative Potosi Mining
Location: Sucre & Potosi, Bolivia
Date:  Wed 3rd Jan 07

New Years Eve was something of a big event for us in Sucre! We headed out round 10.30pm to a great bar called Joyride Cafe - the place had 3 levels and it was going off... The staff had the whole 80s getup going with massive ´fros and chains and all the like - quite rare for bolivia and the place was packed! The place was playing the most random mix of music from Rock, Dance and Hip-hop in both English and Spanish... it was really good thou...

Well,   having caught a cold in the jungle, i thought i would be the first to head home - NOT SO! I pretty much spent the night dancing away with a couple of Bolivian girls - Cecilia and Silvana - who were really fun. I had a ball! My mate Steve crashed - well passed out actually round 1am, my american friend Matt made it till 2.30, Lyle crashed at 3.30 and i came home at 5am when the sun was coming up!

One other interesting point of Sucre has to be the restaurant menu i stole from one of the restaurants. The translation of the menu into english was one of the best i have seen, seriously, eheheh and here are a couple of the translations as written:
Talking about pepper steak - 'prepared with special of delicately of delicious sauce of pepper of the one of Court of Meat´
and in general about all meals - 'all the expecialities in meats go accompanied of a trimming of vegetables and a portion of rice or french fries of Smashed potatoes.'
Gotta love smashed potatoes.

Potosi is the highest town in the world at 4070m asl with around 120k inhabitants. it was once the richest cities in all of south america and the area has been mined for its silver for over 300 years. The area is still being mined today, in somewhat primative fashion, and our highlight was a tour of one of the many hundreds of small underground mines.

The day started off fairly poorly with the 'included breakfast´at our hostel consisting of crackers?!? apparantly they could buy no bread that morning! grrr! Aftyer being picked up, we travelled to the companys's office where we recieved our safety gear and briefing before heading to the miners market! At the miners market there was sticks of dynamite, bags of ammonium nitriate and safety fuse already crimped to detonators all sitting next to each other - far from the standards we would see in australia and that i am familar with from my mining engineering. Now the thing here in bolivia is that anyone can buy the explosives - no licence or id is required...

To demonstrate how safe the dynamite was - which was actually a nitrogylcerine based exposive, our guide bit into them and started throwing them around. One thing i know about nitro based explosives is that over a long period of time (perhaps 5-10 or more years), the explosive agents can precipitate out making the device explosive on contact. Needless to say, i took a few steps back not that it would have done any good had one exploded. I checked the date and the packages were less than 3 months old... but still!

I will skip the mine tour itself, which we were down for about 2 hours, except for the fact it was extremely primative with conditions that you would not expect to see in the 21st century. The ventilation was terrible, there was no engineering into the mine at all, and i hit my head so many times on the low ceiling,  but i did have a helmet so it was all good.

The highlight of the tour, was the bit at the end, where we got to make bombs out of the explosives we had bought, and the guides lit them all at the same time and put them on the hill... Now from all the groups, we had 9 devices, consisting of:
1x detonator/safety fuse
1x stick of nitro explosive and
1x 250g bag of ammonium nitrate.

The explosions we not covered in any way and we were about 150m from them. They were so loud and yer, needless to say, it was awesome!
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