Potosi Potosi Potosi!

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Potosi is the highest city in the world, and was once the richest due to the silver mines that opened 400 years ago in colonial times. The streets were packed with beautiful colonial buildings which were characterised by over-crowded power lines, faded colours and crumbling facades. For all its beauty, we knew that we couldn't understand Potosi until we confronted its grim past which led to its former and present glory. So, despite serious reservations, we organised a tour to the ancient mines. We knew it wasn’t going to be a postcard moment since we knew that over 8 million slaves and workers have died there. The mines are still being used today and the practises have changed little since they opened. The men work with no protection, not even masks to protect against the gases and dust, use dynamite that they pick up at the local market and push heavy carts with their findings. They make offerings of coca leaves, cigarettes and alcohol, which is 93% proof, to 'El Tio’, an effigy of the devil, as they believe that they are working in his place and that through mining they are taking from the devil. The 7-foot tall devil statue was truly shocking with thick black tar for a mouth, llama foetuses surrounding it, and its huge member symbolic of the devil’s virility and power.

The experience in the mines was especially difficult for Eleanor as she had alot of difficulty breathing. This was probably the result of the high altitude and the thick dust in the mine. She soldiered on through it for a long time but it got worst at one point and she had to get out. She thought that she was going to pass out and started to panic. A guide took her out but it took a long half hour to reach the surface and then to descend to lower ground. On reflection, we realised that entering the mines was a dangerous activity because the guide clearly had no medical knowledge or equipment. It was a memorable experience but not one to be repeated.

Later that day we went to what must be the highest cinema in the world with some Danish friends, Peter and Anne-Mette, on a 2 for 1 deal which worked out at 47 pence each. This was still too much for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s "Night and Day," which was worst than our already low expectations! It was laughably bad- especially when the European enemy was thrown from a moving train but managed to still hold on by grabbing a trusty chain of sausages.... Need we say more.
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