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Tuesday 20th April 2010

Potosi

We got an overnight bus to Potosi which was quite luxurious. Arrived at Potosi at about 5am and got a taxi to the Koala Den hostel.

Potosi was once a booming silver mining town and its altitude of 4090m makes it one of the highest towns in world. It’s still a mining town but the money is now gone and all that is left to mine is low grade composites.

In the afternoon we went on a tour of a silver mine which was quite an intense experience. Our first stop was the miner’s markets where we bought presents for the miners to thank them for showing us around. We bought soft drink, pure alcohol and dynamite.

We got kitted out with overalls, helmets,  dust masks and lights then headed down the mine. The passageway was extremely narrow and cramped and as we descended the air quickly became stale and dusty. We went down two levels via dodgy ladders so that we were 1.8km in and 200m below the surface and it was a very uncomfortable experience. In some parts it was extremely difficult to breath and there were times when the air was so thin that I almost hyperventilated as I felt that I just couldn’t get enough oxygen into my system. It was horrible. The guide talked to some of the miners that were working down there and they were thankful for our gifts. Some of them had been working down there since they were 12 years old and the conditions they work in are absolutely terrible. Most of them weren’t even wearing masks. Apparently the average life expectancy of a miner is only 48 years old. I was seriously glad to get out of there alive but it was also a good reality check and made me realise how lucky I am. I promise I won't complain about my job again!

Once on the surface we exploded some of the dynamite we had bought. It was massive!

Dinner consisted of a llama steak and then we just had a quiet one back at the hostel.




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