Bolivia page 3

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The sign marking the Chilean border was certainly very welcoming.

Our vehicle was plagued with problems right fom the start. At the start... and at various other times, it failed to start. This prompted our guide to run around the front and play around under the bonnet for a little while quite frequently. This time... we actually managed to run out of petrol. Yeah, Bolivians suck royal monkeys when it comes to planning ahead.

I wonder what this truck was carrying...

All those 5am starts finally got to some of us and we managed to fall asleep in the jeep despite it being bottom-numbingly bumpy most of the time.

In the distance - our trusty vehicle... further in the distance - a volcano...

Once again, we were delayed by problems with our vehicle. I was starting to get worried because my bus from Uyuni to Potosi was scheduled for 7pm and, as the day wore on, it became clear that it wasn't likely that I would make it. The solution - I hitched a ride with another land rover on the way back to Uyuni - one that wasn't broken. You'll never believe what happened... it ran out of petrol. So I had to change vehicles AGAIN... I did make my bus, just.

Potosi (29/4/07)

Potosi, at an altitude of 4000m is a bit of a ridiculous place to have a town. Unless, of course, the mountain nearby happens to be one of the richest deposits of silver... ever. Nowadays, there isn't much silver, but still a bit of tin and copper, which keeps the collectives going. Here my guide buys a stick of dynamite...

I should be a model... idiot. Apparently the mines are very dirty and one must dress appropriately.

These are not modern mines. The Bolivian national mining company abandoned these mines in the early 80s when the price of metals collapsed. Since then, the mines have been owned and operated by collectives while more than half the population of Potosi simply sought work elsewhere. Even when it was run by the Bolivian national company, it wasn't a particularly modern mine. The techniques used these days are the same as they were around the turn of the century... as are the conditions.

Oooohhh... shiny. Mostly Zinc here... I'm told.

If my major in Archaeology isn't going to get me any closer to my dream of being like Indiana Jones... then surely this will.

This is the mine that we will be visiting today... as you can see... it is a hole in the ground... and not much more.

A shaft runs from the heart of the mine to the surface. Used for ventilation and for transporting stuff up and down (like canaries in cages).

My guide shows us a vein of metal.

This rather strange looking statue is a shrine of sorts where the miners come every Friday to pray for safety, luck and better metals prices. Oh, they also drink themselves stupid... did I mention that?

Now, onto that stick of dynamite...

Riiight. 10 bolivianos (a bit less than $2 AUS) buys you a nontrivial amount of exposive...

The photo doesn't really capture it very well. We were standing about 50m away from the blast, and it still felt like someone had just come up to you and slapped you with some force in the chest.

The guy I toured the mine with was this nutcase from Japan, who had literally just come off the plane from Japan the day before. Obviously, a town that is more than 4000m above sea level is an ideal first stop. Not only that, but going on a tour of an old mine where the ventilation is very poor... what a nutcase. Not surprisingly, at the end of the tour, he had a bit of a headache.

My next major destination would be Asuncion, Paraguay. Reached via Cochabamba then Santa Cruz... from Santa Cruz, a 23-hour bus ride.

All did not go according to plan though, a rolled vehicle or two severely delayed my exit from Bolivia.

No, this is not the effect of too much photoshopping, nor is it the result of too many cocoa leaves... this lovely scenery was on the way into Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia... but sadly only a transit stop for me.

The internet cafe at the Santa Cruz bus station was... how do I say it....(I give up). This is the keyboard that the modern ransom-note writers use.


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