Thursday, April 12, 2012

Potosi and Tupiza

I arrived on April 10, 2012 to Potosi which claims to be the worlds highest city at over 4,000 meters.  The next day I walked around the city.  Its a nice city and was nice to walk around the artisans shops and of course the food markets. I had a wonderful polenta soup with aji (hot spicy sauce).  And of course stopped to get a fresh carrot juice.  Then I went on a tour of the casa del moneda (house of money, mint).  The museum is a nice museum and has lots of old money and machinery as well as paintings and mummies of children. Too bad I couldnt understand the tour guide. 

Mine tour
Then I went on a tour of the coopertive mines. Its what I expected.  I recommend the tour guide Pablo from the Real Deal Tours.  All the guides and owners were ex miners so they can tell you how it really works.  While I think I would have rather skipped the mine tour it wasnt terrible just long and alot of information I already know from having spent so much time here.  I did like how they showed us the process of separating the silver by chemicals. The guides took us to a cooperative mine which has less regulations but people get to keep the profits.  They said that people can make more money and some have gotten rich although others make between 200Bolivianos and 800Bolivianos.  While at a private mine they make around 600Bolivianos.  700 Bolivianos is about $100USD and I was told that a policeman makes around 800Bolivianos a month.  The guides said they like working in the cooperative mines because all the people are laid back and fun.. they like to joke around and there is potential to make lots of money, they dont have to worry about how they dress or being formal.  They also all speak Quechua.  Which as the guide said is something many people with other jobs would be too embarrassed to speak at work. I had learned that many of the young children in the cities dont want to learn Quechua and only speak Spanish.  Many of them dont wear protective masks because its difficult to breathe even though so many become sick and die from the dust of the mines.  The guide also said they dont eat until after work is finished because they are covered in dirt mud and toxic chemicals being leeched by the earth.  They just chew coca leaves.

April 12, 2012
Walked around Tupiza which is a nice town with a beautiful backdrop.   I went on a horseback riding trip. While the riding itself wasnt exciting the backdrop was pretty.
They bough dynamite

The chemicals used to extract the silver

extracting the silver

They put the sandlike substance out to dry

The silver is exported like this in raw form

ready to go into the mines

the carts are all man powered.. people pushing or pullin the carts

lots of bags of silver to be refined

we had a professional reporter on tour with us

Inside the mines could be really muddz in some areas and really low where I had to crawl as well as dark

Did I mention they are working at over 4,000 meters?

This is tio.. because the natives could not pronounce dio which is  God in  Spanish they called him Tio.  Which means uncle in spanish and is given gifts by the miners to keep him happy so that nothing happens as the mines can be very dangerous. 

This pretty stuff coming from the ceilings is toxic

More toxic chemicals leeching from the tunnels

We came out of the dark, wet, and small tunnels to a beautiful sunset

Then they lit the dynamite

A street in Tupiza has wonderful backdrop of mountains

We had a horse only a few months old come along for our ride so that he could feed from his mother.

The sun was going down on our ride back

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