Tell you all a story 'bout the decos and the thief in the night
24.12.2011 - 16.12.2011
The drive to potosi was very weird, we stopped for a cook group lunch and spent our time moaning about the heat - man it was hot!!! Then ten minutes later it was snowing and then before we one it there was a huge storm, then rain. Just strange.
On arrival in potosi we were faced with a carnival f marking bands and dancers and amazing costumes. It was very flamboyant and went against the shithole description that we'd been given of potosi.
Long drive days take their toll and I was feeling proper rubbish when we arrived in potosi so I bunked off that night and stayed in the hotel with a bag of crisps
And a cheese roll for company. It was actually quite nice to have some time to myself for a change. Quiet time is very rare on this trip! When everyone came back from dinner we watched a documentary about the local mine that we'd be visiting during our stay.
The next day I was back on form and ready to see the sights of potosi. At 8:30 I went back to the truck to retrieve my left bag and spotted a very drunken man staggering about. This was more like what we had been warned about.
Potosi is a mining town and home to the "mountain that eats men". Over the life of the mining industry in this town it's thought that 8 million people have died in the mines. It's very old fashioned but home to silver, tin and zinc so very much the source of income for most of the locals.
After a quick tour of the royal mint museum which was quite
Possibly the most boring thing we've done so far (I dont do museums), we headed off to pay a visit to the mines. On the way we stopped at the miners Market where the local miners go each morning to buy supplies for their days work. This includes mining equipment but also coca leaves which they chew to surpress appetite through long shifts in the mines, alcohol, the 96% stuff - there is a huge alcohol problem in the mines due to poor working conditions and dynamite! We were talked through it all and then encourage to buy gifts for the miners. Most of us bought coca leaves and drinks but some bought dynamite and fuses, anything for a photo with some explosives.
We took the tour through the mine, it was pretty nasty in there and we didn't even go into the worst parts. We sat with he devil tio, who the miners worship. They visit daily and share coca leaves, cigarettes and alcohol with tio. They believe if they keep the devil happy, he will give them a good days mining. It's a bit weird sitting in the mine with a papier mâché model of the devil covered in alcohol and with a fag in his mouth, but each to their own I guess.
Owing to the carnival and it being a Sunday there were no miners in the part we went to, so our guide decided to make use of our dynamite and explode some whilst we were in there. I admit I was a bit freaked out by this, I didn't fancy being one of the men eaten by the mountain and we were pretty slow moving in there. Anyway I lived to tell the tale and I can tell you
It was one hell of an explosion. You felt it right in your gut. We had to get out after that because of the dust that the explosion creates, so that pretty much concluded our tour. We found some people outside to share our gifts with and then headed back to the hotel.
On the drive back to the hotel we saw the true effects of the alcoholism in the town. There were drunks everywhere and one particularly bad one who'd taken a fall and split his head. This town was vile.
In the interest of avoiding the town and having some fun all the girls decided to go buy Christmas decs, wine and choc and go decorate the truck. We had so much fun that afternoon, lots of singing and dancing on the truck and general girl bonding. We were on there for hours.
Eventually we decide to take ourselves to the Chinese next to the hotel for some grub. This is where I had my bag stolen. Annoyingly I had taken my camera and phone to get pics of the truck and lost the lot. All of my pics of ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, of which there was 2000, gone in an instant.
The police eventually came and took me and Claire the guide to the police station on the back of their mopeds. That was an experience in itself and I might have actually smiled for a couple minutes. We gave our report (not easy as none of the police spoke english) and were told to return the next day to collect a report number and document.
The next day we returned and we saw the true carnage of potosi. They were releasing the prior nights arrests, most of whom were still more drunk than I've ever been. The police station itself was horrible, bare bulbs and corrupt policemen everywhere. We even got a glimpse of the corrupt lawyers who got a mention in marching powder. Needless to say they managed to "lose" our report and after scouring loads of notebooks we started again. We had to pay for the report which contains barely any of the information we gave them and then we could finally get the hell out of there. Everyone was waiting on the truck for us so we left straight away.
I spent that day on the truck mourning my photos. Totally gutted. I can't believe all of my memories of those countries, and some of the best times of my
Life could be taken so easily. This was going to take a lot of getting over!
That day we were driving to uyuni in preparation for the salt flats. It's another small and rubbish Bolivian town. Most people headed straight for the extreme fun pub to drink the most random of drinks out of even more random cups. They need to be explained, not for everyones ears! I borrowed some money and headed off to replace my purse and start getting things organised to claim insurance and get my things back. I did manage to make t or a couple drinks later, but a quiet one compared to some of the others.
The next day we headed off in jeeps to the salt plains, the biggest in the world. We'd had a lot of rain so we were very lucky in that we could play taking
Perspective pictures on the dry salt and taking reflection shots on the wet stuff. We had a
Lot if fun messing around, just what I needed to bring me out of my robbery blues.
On the way back our jeep broke down 5 times, we honestly though we'd never make it back home. It was pretty freaky for a while there.
Anyway, all the excitement of the day took it out of us so we retired to the hotel pizza place for some dinner before an early night. Some long drive days ahead of us off roading, so we needed to get some sleep.
Final day in bolivia is a drive day and one that can't end soon enough. We've just passed more flamingos and I've dulled because I cant take pictures to share with everyone back home. I've had some great times in bolivia, but it's by far my least favourite place in south America and I can't wait to leave it behind and hit the red wine regions of chile and Argentina. Some fun times ahead!!!