Trip Start Jul 05, 2007
Trip End Dec 24, 2007

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Saturday, September 1, 2007

Potosi is full of churches and museums.  Those of you who are interested in churches and museums should read someone else's blog.  I didn't visit any of them.

I did visit the silver mines, which once made Potosi the richest city in the Americas as well as the highest city on the planet.  There were 30 people on our tour bus to the silver mines.  28 of them were German.  This was more of a problem for the tour guide than for Tom and myself.  He liked to make jokes.  The general reaction to these was for Tom and I to snigger at the back, while the rest of the bus nodded sagely.  There was one overly-keen German - "Jens" - who was particularly annoying who kept asking the guide numerous irrelevant questions such as:

"Why are the mines here?" (Because that's where the silver is).  Muppet.

The mines are not privately owned, but run through a co-opoerative where each group of miners sells the minerals extract.  Co-operative is a bit of an odd name, given that every time a new seam of minerals is discovered, the miners fight each other for it using pick-axes and dynamite.

Exploring the mines was fun.  For most of the group.  One of the obese Germans stuggled to squeeze himself through the narrowest holes.  At one point his backside plugged on one of the holes, but the guide freed him with a sharp kick.

The worst thing about the mines was the fine dust which made it hard to breathe.  Also, at one point one of the Germans asked the guide:

"What are the white crystals on the walls?"

"It's arsenic."  Replied the guide.  "Don't touch it."

It was at this point that I looked down at my own hands.  They were covered in white crystals.  But I'm still alive.

After the tour of the mines, the guides asked for a volunteer to help demonstrate how dynamite works.  Before he had finished his sentence, Jens had shot up, hand pointed skyward as far as it would go.  So we watched the guide and Jens set up the dynamite and light the 5 minute fuse, before the guide said to Jens:

"Now go and put it in the hole in the ground by that big stone over there, and run back."

Is it bad that I was hoping that Jens might trip?  Anyway, the dynamite was a bit disappointing if a bit loud.  It would have been much better if Jens had exploded.

After this we went with the tour group to watch a Bolivian football match.  (That's soccer for those of you who find the word "football" confusing).  The club was having a centenary party at the time so there was free beer all round.  Unfortunately, I sat next to an inebriated Bolvian man who seemed to find the fact that I was from England so fascinating that he wouldn't let go of my hand after he had shaken it.  I was saved by one of the German girls who sat on the other side of him.  He decided he'd rather grope her instead.

Next it's down to the sourther salt flats of Uyuni.  This is something that Tom is particularly keen on, but I've seen sallt before.
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