Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 41 - Uyuri - Potosi

Distance travelled (by bike): 4700

Setting of early we hurtled towards Potosi, 50% of the road was paved which made the driving easier and quicker. The road kept winding and climbing arriving at the city the road continued to climb. Managing to find a hostel we unpacked the bike and went in search of some lunch. This wasn't to be as we stumbled across a mine tour about to leave (the tour was owned and run by 4 ex miners), staggered at our luck shane ran back to the hostel to grab the cameras, not an easy feat at 4500m above sea level. dressed in waterproof trousers, jacket, boots and helmet we loaded the bus taking us to the mine, slight detour to a street that sells all things mining, boys been boy we had to by dynamite, where else would they sell it to you? We also got coca leafs and water as gifts for the miners. 
The mine is primarily silver and tin and is still working, mined by a co-operative. Our instructions before we descended were simple, if the guide shouts you flatten yourself against the side of the tunnel so the worker and their carts can get passed. Starting the walk into the mine was daunting, with no electric or ventilation the further we were guided in the hotter and dustier it became, having walked 2.5km into the mountain our guide thought we should make for the surface at speed. On the way out we had to help the miners push one of the carts as it was jammed, when the drama was over they wanted to offer shane a job in their co-op. After scrambling, crawling and jogging it was good to get some fresh air. It was then time to blow up the dynamite, it made a pretty big bang! The mine was an incredible experience, the medieval working conditions and the lack of infrastructure was a real eye opener. 
That evening we ate dinner in a local cafe with the miners, who explained that they made more money than doctors and solicitors, but the life expectance was 50 due to 'black lungs'. They also told us that 30 people die per year in the mine. 

playing miner, the guide, who is  a real miner is behind

96% prof. alcohol that the miners drink, we tried it, it was strong!

coco leafs

the entrance to the mine

one of the tunnels

further down the mine

the miners at work

shane playing miner

rooftop od potosi

dynamite blowing up!!!

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