“…and like that….its gone!”, Sucre, May 28th, 2011

The bus ride from Uyuni to Potossi was enjoyable for two reasons. First it was a great scenic drive through Andean territory but more important it was a day ride and we were not tired as we slept so great in out cold shady hotel. I guess we were just tiered enough. Why do people go to Potossi, Bolivia? Some just want to click on their list to have been at the highest city in the world, at 4070m above sea level but most come for the mines. Around the 15 hundreds this city was world famous for its silver reserves, millions of indigenous people and slaves got killed working in the mines. Sad about it – the conditions have not changed, thrilling about it, tourists can see, visit and live it for real. Our agency of choice to do the mine tour is named “The real deal” and trust me, they live up to the promise. But first they invited us for a local football match and of course we took the offer.

The atmosphere here is so much quieter than in Buenos Aires for example and the level of play is even worse but hey, they run for 90 minutes at this altitude. I could not see the first 10 minutes as I grasped for air after walking up to my seat. Also interesting how mainly children offer basically everything for sale and how some Danish tourists present their country, see video.

Back to the real deal. Six young men who used to work in the mine themselves now offer the mine tour. It starts with changing clothes and creating a group spirit.

Then it goes to the miners market which is for real as the mine is still actively running. Miners are independent, no fixed income and therefore they also choose their equipment themselves. The quality of helmets and tools ranges accordingly. Tourist buy juice, coca leaves and dynamite as presents for the mines they meet later. Yes, dynamite. Potossi is the only place in the world, where explosives are free to buy, any time, by anybody, any age. Next we visited the factory, where the minerals are chemically extracted from the stones. Small example, 40t of stones for 1kg silver. That ration used to be better in the past. Check out the nonexistent safety standards in the video.

Finally we actually entered the mine. Let me give you some quotes of our guide Pedro, so you understand who we where with and what we had ahead of us:

“The Lonely Planet is wrong. Miners do not die after 10 years, maybe after 15 years is correct.”

“Miners are tough men, and machos too.”

It got dark, very dark, dusty too. Then it got wet below the feet, even more dusty and darker. Suddenly loud as miners rolled a wagon along the broken tracks almost cutting our feed off. More dust, more narrow paths, through little wholes, down and up broken wooden ladders and then even louder as minters drilling wholes for dynamite into the walls. I very well understood the tourists that decided too leave the tour.


Just when I was ready to panic, the paths got wider, the air better and we took a break, giving our presents to the miners, listening to great stories of Pedro. Two more quotes:

“These are 33 brothers, the fourth one died of miners illness age 38.”

“My father died with 54 after working in the mine for 40 years. When I asked him about the new safety standards the government imposed he said: “Bolivian law is stupid, just work.””

The rest of the day we spent being amazed, showered, relaxing and showering again. At night we played a little poker tournament with two Danish guys (not the drunk ones from the stadium). The next day we completed our minerals knowledge by visiting “La Moneda”, the famous museum with the first real coin printing machines left in the world. Another 3 hour bus ride takes us to the next World Heritage Site, Sucre, the actual capital of Bolivia. We agree with it and have the triple “WOW” effect. Wow, nice city, wow, great traditional market and wow, what a luxury hotel.

Thursday and Friday we spent chilling, eating at very local places, walking around, eating at very touristy places, taking pictures and eating at very scenic places. Thomas adds his share of fun pretending not to know the chess rules and then beating me. I did not laugh that much.

I have to give special notice to the following fellow. He stood at this street corner like a model, not climbsing with an eye when I started to take photos, almost enjoying without showing. His feet however got my special interest. On one hand we might say they look bad but maybe, just maybe they work for him since he can walk and never gave him any trouble. We don’t know.

On our last dinner before taking the night bus back to La Paz I had good reason to laugh again. We entered a local chicken bar for dinner passing a big pot with dirty water. Well, if that is where they wash the dishes lets hope they grill the chicken really hot. The food was good and the peach juice interesting but ok as well. As we are leaving I hear Thomas: “Oh, that is the juice we had!” The bucket was not to wash dishes, it was the juice container, right at the door, 1m from a busy street. That is traveling.

The bus ride was safe and fun, the Saturday in La Paz not. We were looking forward to watch the CL final at the Loki hostel with Steve but before we enjoyed another walk in the streets of La Paz. One man bumped into me, excused himself with a friendly smile. Three minutes later, at the hotel I noticed my open jacket pocket in which my I phone 4 was in…………..and like that…………its gone. My mood turned bad for 5 minutes, you might imagine. But I do not let him have this victory and therefore I clearly mention here. Bolivia is an amazing place and one of the most important reason for that is ………….its great people, friendly, kind, open, honest.

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  • Hey Frank, ich habe Deine Internetseite vor zwei Tagen entdeckt – tolle Tour und beeindruckende Berichte und Angi ist grossartig.
    Die besten Wünsche und viele Grüße. Kerstin

    • frank4444 says:

      Hallo Kerstin,
      lieben Dank und Grüße nach Hildesheim. Was Angi angeht, könntest Du auch Recht haben, smile.
      Tschau FRANK

  • gabor says:

    Where the f..k is Potossi? Or did you mean Potosi? Or perhaps Pot + Ossi? And are there Kaktusse/Kaktenen in Potossi as well ;-) ?

    Such a lot of questions at the end of the week …! As it is already mentioned in your xing profile “…Antworten auf Fragen, welche ich noch gar nicht habe…”

    • frank4444 says:

      Lebt in Bayern und will mir was von Rechtschreibung erzählen. Das Schlimme, Du hast Recht. Ein Pot Ossi in Potosi, soll noch mal jemand was gegen die Wende sagen.
      Tschau FRANK

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