Exotic meat No 2....Llama mmmmmm

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Aug 27, 2006

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, March 24, 2006

We arrive at 3pm in Potosi. Potosi, as a city, has a really rich heritage and was the largest silver mine in the world for many years, underpinning most of the Spanish economy in the 19th Century (mine discovered by the Spanish). It´s a bit of a strange city with a mix of fantastic old colonial buildings in the centre, where our hotel was, and then real poor shanty towns round the outside. Reminds us of Birmingham, nice in the centre but pretty shitty on the outskirts.
The following day we go on a tour to the silver mine. We´re kitted out in bright yellow suits, with yellow Bob the Builder style helmets...I think we pull them off?!? We set off to the mines with our guide Sol (an ex-miner woman, who made Lucy look tall). Our first stop is the miners market where we buy presents of coca leaves, soft drinks, 96% alcohol (which is like drinking fire) and ciggies. We also bought some dynamite, for the cost of a swift half in your local - just to arse about with.
We then stopped at the ore refinery plant, where they extract the silver, lead and zinc. Certainly no Health Safety and Environment regulations put in place here as we try to avoid the crushing machinery that´s whirring round at some ridiculous speed. We ask our guide whether there are many accidents. She told us that two people had died recently because they had mistakenly drank the VERY poisonous chemicals used to extract the minerals - mistaking it for water!!
We then enter the mine network. Note to anyone planning to take a trip into a mine, they are not designed for people over about 5´5". So anyone like Quinn who is over 6 foot will struggle, and for 1 and a half hours he did just that.
The group trudged through the mines (which are still very operational) avoiding the mine carts that were whizzing by (Indiana Jones style) gaining an insight to the awful working conditions of the miners. At points the mine can reach 50°C and the dust was choking. A long career in the mine is 25 years. After that the lungs of the miners have taken such a battering they often contract bronchitis (however you spell it). Add the fact that they consume huge amounts of coca, smoke unfiltered ciggies and drink 96% alcohol, 16 hours a day 5 days a week, its unsurprising they´re in such bad health.
Outside the mine the fun begins. Everyone in the group has purchased a stick of dynamite and are eager to blow stuff up. We moulded the dynamite into various shapes and placed it into a bag of ammonia nitrate (helps make the explosions bigger) stuck a fuse in and lit it. Then we ran (with the dynamite and lit fuse) down the hill to the control explosion area (an unused field), then with seconds to spare leg it back up the hill as though there´s 1Kg of dynamite ready to explode at any second. Check out the video and watch the camera actually shake as the dynamite goes off - only in Bolivia folks!
Went out that evening to a really nice restaurant, Quinn had Llama steak in garlic, really tender, a bit like steak but nicer mmmmmm.

Ok people, next entry will be the salt flats of Uyuni. Really looking forward to that bit.

Lucie pee pee and Quinny poo poo
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