Highways and buses
Unless you are an experienced traveller... think twice before taking buses along the southern highways. They are all very old buses, most of the time without service on-board and the distances seem to be endless though extremely crappy unpaved routes!
But... if you like adventures and the simple joy of taking the risk, by all means... just go ahead! ha!
- Road Trip
Not Sure the Mine Is Worse Than This
These women were working in an unbelievably polluted river. I was not able to figure out just what they were doing. The river was like a thick gray soup. Whatever was in that water could not be good, even to just touch your skin.
rituel : il y a des sacrifices de llamas aux entrées des mines et il leur coupe la gigulaire et prennent le sang et le lance sur les maisons sur l'entrée de la mine pour protéger les maisons et pour porter chance dans les mines.
- Study Abroad
Pay your respects at the mine
Near the entrance of everymine is a statue of the devil who inhabits the mine. To ensure your safe return from the mine, everyone who passes muts give the devil something to keep him happy. This involves lighting a cigarette for him and placing it in his mouth, giving him a sprinkling of coca leaves and pouring some liquor on him before setting him alight. Once you have left his gift you can proceed.
The miners' market
Usually trips to the mine involve a stop at the minors market before hand. Here you can buy Nitroglycerine, dynamite, fuses, cigarettes and coca leaves. It is customary to give gifts for the miners in return for them letting you watch them at work. Many of the miners rely upon the gifts from visitors as it may be the only source of food, water or coca they have in their long shifts.
Just before my visit to Potosi there had been rioting during which dynamite was thrown at the police, so open stalls selling explosives were banned, so we had to do our shopping in someone's house.
Potosi Mines: The trek begins.
We took a bus to the mines that dropped us off at a store where we bought dynamite, detonators, coca leaves, cigarettes, and other presents for the miners. From there, we climbed uphill to the entrance of the Santa Rosa Mine. We changed clothes to protect ourselves from water and dust inside. Once we had our gear on, we followed the guide into the mine. Let me tell you, the tour into the mine turned out to be a worthwhile experience. We descended down 6 levels (there are 7 levels) and then made our way up. We met about 5 miners who we offered the gifts we brought. We saw all the processes of the mines at Cerro Rico. The guide told us that there are 3 levels of miners: associates, secondary miners, and helpers. We met them all. The first miner we met was a lone associate mining for zinc. As all the other miners, he always hoped to hit the jackpot and find silver, a rarity these days. On we went on our journey. On one occasion, we went down 2 levels on rope (about 30 meters). We just used our hands and carefully wend down the vertical fall. We met another miner in the bottom. Later on the tour, we got to see 'El Tio,' which is a statue of the devil. Miners believe that the devil owns the minerals since it lives below the surface. Therefore, they offer cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and more for good luck. Since it comes fully equipped, some tourists offer him contraceptives as well. Another peculiar ritual is that the miners don't eat lunch since they believe that doing so means they are eating the minerals. The tour in the mines lasted about 2 hours. At times, I felt like Indiana Jones :). It was a kewl experience. Not only was I in one of the highest mines in the world, but also one of the most famous one. Being there made me respect the hard work miners worldwide have to endure. Oh, I even got to hear a detonation on one place.
- Adventure Travel
Potosi Mines: Journey to the Center of the Earth
I got lucky and found a tour to a mine in the infamous Cerro Rico with Silver Tours (dirt cheap at about $5 USD). It was just Japanese and I on the tour! Cerro Rico is known as Sumaj Orcko in Quechua, which meant beautiful hill. We visited the Santa Rosa Mine, which is worked by the 21 de Diciembre Cooperative. This is only one of nearly 300 mines in the hill. In total, about 6000 miners search endless hours for minerals on the mines of Cerro Rico. The hill has been mined since the mid-1500´s so today the hill is about 400 meters lower in height. Much of the Spanish wealth during colonial times came from this mine. During the mid 1700's, Potosi was the largest city in the world, easily competing with London, Paris, Shanghai, etc. It is said that the Spaniards mined enough silver to build a bridge from Potosi to Spain just out of silver. However, it didn't come easy. All in all, over 8,000,000 Indians and African slaves died mining the hill for the Spaniards. That is enough bones to build two bridges out of bones from Potosi to Spain (one to go, the other to return). Today, the death rate is lower at about 3 to 5 per year for all the mines in the hill.
- Adventure Travel
Future Cobblestone Street
Many of the streets in Bolivian cities are paved with stones. Here is one before it is finished. Cerro Rico looms in the background.
- Historical Travel
Old Mining Smelter
This old mining smelter is located on the south (Indian) side of La Ribera. You can see present day miners' housing in the background.
- Historical Travel
In the Inca's time a caravan of llamas was consider as a train of our days, they use to transport salt, textiles and others.