Potosi, Sucre, Uyuni & Tupiza
Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
83Trip End Aug 11, 2012
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Woke up very refreshed on Tuesday morning in Potosi and had breakfast in the hotel & were treated to a very dodgy remix song which seemed to be made of various chicken clucking noises. Interesting! We were picked up at the hotel for the silver mine tour. It started by going to a street where all the miners buy their own supplies of dynamite & any tools they might need during the day. There was also coca leaves, fizzy drinks & 96% proof alcohol which the miners party with on a Friday night in the mine to worship Pachamama (Mother Earth) to bring good luck to mining. Iīm surprised any of them make it out on Friday night! The miners donīt eat anything in the mine but chew huge balls of coca leaves to stop them feeling hungry & give them energy. We brought some coca leaves & fizzy drink to give to the miners while we wandered around taking their photos. Next stop was getting kitted up in overalls, wellies, hard hat & head torch. The entrance to the mine was really small, even i had to duck! Paul practically had to crawl! We saw miners pushing trucks full of rock out of the mine & saw them digging the rock out. Everything is done by hand as machinery makes too much dust which gets into the miners lungs & makes them very ill or eventually kills them. Surprisingly though no miners wore masks. We clambered all over the mine into little cubby holes where the miners slept & partied & climbed up to points where they were working. It was hard work in wellies but good fun & felt very authentic!. It was really hot in the mine too; some places could reach 40Šc where miners tended to work naked (health & saftey doesnīt exist here!). Thankfully we didnīt go that deep into the mine!! The miners keep the silver & other minerals they dig out to sell at markets themselves. On average miners can earn about 80 to 700 pounds a week depending what job they do - hauling, digging etc. On miner found a huge vein of silver & is now the richest man in Bolivia!
We were back in Potosi for lunch & usefully found everything was shut! Me & Paul decided to get some street food. We had a fried empanada with salad which cost 20p for 2. Bargin!! We were back on the truck at 2pm to head on a short drive to Sucre. I donīt think any of us were too upset to leave Potosi. Basically it smelt of wee!!
Once in Sucre we headed to Joyride for tea. I had a chilli which was very tasty & Paul had a steak sandwich. We then all headed to bed for an early night.
Next morning we headed back to Joyride for breakfast - the pull of free wifi was too great. Had a very tasty scrambled eggs with ham & a cup of tea. Tea is served black here & we had great fun trying to ask for a portion of milk to come with the tea. Even our Spanish speaking guide got it wrong as we ended up with 2 mugs of hot milk. Yum! We saved it though by asking them to turn them into hot chocolates which were actually really tasty. We wandered round the city & got a smoothie. I brought a new engagement ring. An old guy was sat making rings by twisting pieces of wire into various patterns. It cost 4 Bolivianos (40p!!!!). We went back to Joyride for more tea & cake - all about the wifi! We headed back to the hotel to chill out for a bit then me & Paul went to find something to eat. We ended up at a tiny pizza place called Romayna Mia & had a really tasty pizza & chips for about 4pounds.
Next day we had a 9hour drive to Uyuni (via Potosi - Yay!!). The roads were interesting. They are doing loads of road works so there are some lovely new bits of tarmac but most of it is still a dirt track. Little bumpy! The scenery was stunning though! We got to Uyuni which is a town in the middle of the desert next to the salt flats. Our hotel, Hotel Tonito, is run by an American guy & his Bolivian wife &, according to Dave the driver, has the best pizza in South America. Obviously we had to try them! Me & Paul had a spicy llama pizza & a meat feast. It was very tasty & huge!
Friday 21st Oct - Today we headed out to Salar de Uyuni which are the largest salt flats in the world - 4000 square miles. Our first stop was a train graveyard. It had all the old British built steam trains that had reached the end of their lives. Apparently some of the trains had been robbed by Butch Cassidy. It was fun clambering all over the trains. Next stop was a little town where we were shown how the salt was collected, purified & bagged. As with the mines this was all done by hand. We stopped for lunch at Fish island which is an island in the middle of the salt flats covered in cacti. The salt flats used to be an ocean so it was once a real island. Some of the cacti on the island were 900 yrs old! There was also cactus wood which comes from the inside of the cacti & can be used to make furniture. After lunch we headed further out into the salt flats towards the volcano at the base of which was our hostel Tunupo. We stopped on the way to take the compulsory illusion pictures. These involve people standing at different distances away from the camera to be able to do things like stand on hands, sit in pots or hats etc. Itīll make more sense looking at pictures when we manage to upload them! It was funny taking the photos especially looking around at people doing funny poses out of context of the photo. Once at the hostel we drank tea with biscuits then headed back out to the salt flats to take sunset pictures. We ate tea then went out to look at the stars which were amazing! However it was freezing so we didnīt last long outside. Back in the hostel we wrapped up & went to bed in our slightly prison like rooms. Paul had a troll patterned bed sheet which made us laugh!
We got up early to see the sunrise. It was REALLY cold but beautiful. We had breakfast then headed up towards the volcano to walk close to the crater. The volcano is dormant & the last time it erupted was 130 yrs ago. On the way were popped into a little cave to be shown some mummies. It was quite a hard walk which brought back many Inca Trail memories! The view from the top was worth it & the colours of the rocks near the crater were impressive. We headed back to the hostel for lunch then started heading back to Uyuni. On the way we stopped at the salt hotel which is made completely out of salt- tables, beds, walls everything! You used to be able to stay there but now itīs a museum as itīs not classed as safe to stay in anymore. Our last stop was at the salt eyes with were holes of bubbling water. The water is supposed to have healong properties for arthrtis & various other conditions. There was a film crew there filming for a Bolivian Paramedic program. Dave was asked if he would feature so he had to sit with his leg in the water (which I was surprised to find was really cold) then he had his leg massaged & wrapped in a scarf. It was funny to watch. Claire was then asked to speak into the camera in English to introduce the program. The crew then wanted to have photos with us all. It was very funny! Back in Uyuni we had more pizza (BBQ chicken & spicy llama with a small mediterean for snacks tomorrow) the headed to bed as early start in morning.
Driving to Tupiza today which unfortunatley is going to take 11hrs as we have to go back up via Potosi again as the direct road is too small for Jack. The drive was long but more beautiful scenery. Once in Tupiza we were greeted by a beautiful sight - a swimming pool. We abandoned our bags & headed straight in. We got chatting to another Tucan group who had come from Rio & were heading to Lima. Our small hicup with Jack breaking down seemed like nothing as they told us their truck actually caught fire!! The hostel had lovely hot showers. I came out lobster red! Small things make me happy now! We headed out for tea where all the meals seemed to consist of the same thing (meat, rice & chips) even though we ordered various dishes! It was really cheap though, only about 5 pounds for the 2 of us.
I have now definately rambled enough & that brings is to the end of our second country. Weīre driving to Salta tomorrow so itīs goodbye Bolivia & hello Argentina, sunshine, red wine & meat. I think weīre gonna like Argentina!!
Love to everyone xxx