Potosi breathtakingly stands at 4070m - it is the worlds highest city. It was once the worlds richest city during its peak. The silver mines that drove the wealth of Potosi also killed some 8 million Indian and African slaves.
... so we decided to take a mine tour to experience the hard-ship for a short time.
This is the miners market where we purchased gifts for the miners. The best presents are 96% alcohol drinks, dynamite, and cocoa leaves. The leaves are an acquired taste that miners experience all day. It seemed that all the presents were to help the miners forget about their harrowing jobs in appalling, disease inducing conditions.
Note the Jap on the left who had already used one video film up by the time we got to the mine!
They made us dress in miners gear for the day trip. We felt really silly walking around in our outfits complete with welly boots.... real Gringos.... but we did get to buy dynamite and carry it around all day.
Claire is really excited at the prospect of walking around a real working factory that sorts out the rocks and minerals.
Its a good job there was no health and safety around. You had to watch yourself with barrels of stinking chemicals filling the air, and huge fan belts spinning very loose. Most miners and factory workers have serious health implications within 7-8 years of working and die shortly afterwards.
The miners have this devil at the entrance to the cave. They leave booze, smokes and cocoa leaves in order to keep him sweet and thus not die today.
Interestingly enough women are not allowed into the mine as Pachamama (mother earth) will get jealous. This also enables the men to put large phalluses on their elaborate devil without being told off by her in-doors.
Hannah and Claire leave the boys to get on with their adventure as the mines don't bode well for asthmatics... and Pachamama gets jealous about these two blonde mining beauties.
Jason then spent the next two hours crawling through small tunnels and inhaling dust and gases including arsenic and natural asbestos.
The mine was supposed to be working although we didn't see too much real work going on.
Also if you worked in here everyday.... you would probably want to fix the roof supports to increase your life expectancy.
The working conditions down there are bad. Here temperatures reached 35 degrees, soaking us with sweat.
Jason through a number of small rocks at a particularly annoying man on the tour (nationality to be with-held). The guide then stopped him so Jason thought he was in trouble but instead was handed a bigger rock and asked to finish the job.