Published: December 12th 2008December 12th 2008
Thansk for your comments in the previous post. This article will be the last one about Bolivia. We are now in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. It´s with sadness we left this beautiful country.
Sucre, Chuquisaca Department:
Sucre is the culltural capital of Bolivia also called "the white city". After the huge effort done during our ascent of the Huayna Potosi, we decided to relax in this city full of museums and famous for its universities. As usual after a trek, we celebrate the achievement in a bar. This time we ended up in a night club full of students. We had a great time, but wearing the mustach did not really help us...
We had a very good insight of the Bolivian past by visiting "la casa de la libertad". Bolivia has lost many territories throughout its history and various wars against its neighbours and the Spanish.
We went to Tarabuco where takes place a very famous market. There were also a typical dancing contest. Sucre was a nice place to have a break and recover some energy.
Potosi, Potosi department:
Mineros had to face their destiny. Potosi is the main miners´ city in
Mineros congratulating each other
We did not find any gold nor silver but still a great experience for Mineros like us
Bolivia. The mines provided silver for the Spanish during three hundred years (16th century to 19th century). We do not how much silver have been extracted from the mine but the legend said they could have built a silver bridge between Spain and Bolivia from this exploitation. The work conditions were really hard, some miners could stay four months in the mine without going out. The average lifetime for a miner is 45 years old (mainly due to silicosis).
In order to look like miners we grew our mustach (cf. pictures). We then visited a mine for two hours with a guide who previously worked as a miner. During our visit we had to give presents to Tio (god of the miner): coca leaves, alcohol & cigarettes. Of course during the ceremony in the mine, we had to smoke, chew (macher) and drink at 10am to ensure Tio´s protection. We also bought presents for the miners: drinks, coca leaves, biscuits... Unfortunately we did not meet lots of miners as the activity has been decreasing for 6 months due to the fall of the price of minerals on the international market. Indeed, there were 15000 miners 6 months ago and now,
only 8000 miners are remaining.
Anyway, we had a good idea of the hard working conditions in the mine and could learn a bit more about their way of living.
We met two friendly Italians from the suburbs of Milan whom we had previsouly encountered in Copacabana (Lake Titicaca). We then decided together to go to Uyuni and go with them on a 4*4 trek in the Salar (Salt desert) and the south of Lipez.
Salar of Uyuni & South of Lipez :
Uyuni is not really worth it as it really looks like a ghost city. But this is the main location to organise a tour in the Salar and the south of Lipez. There is only one valuable thing to see there: the train cemetery. We went there for the sunset which was great time for taking pictures.
The day after we booked a 5-day tour in the Salar and the south of Lipez with the Italian guys (Andrea long hair aka Asna & Andrea bold aka Agi). The guide & driver was Alejandro, and Natty the cook, his wife. Alejandro was a nice guy but really behaving like a father towards us, telling us things
to do and not to do. His sense of humor was limited to certain times of the day (or it is maybe the fact that as we were not doing anything in the car, our jokes were constant and not that funny for him...)
We spent the first two days in the Salar, largest in the world (12000 square km). The Salar is at 4000 meters above the sea level which means the temperatures are extreme (hot during the day and really cold at night). We got the chance to see an incredible & unforgettable sunset. Landscapes were simply amazing : sometimes you do not know if it is water, snow or salt.
In the next 3 days, we drove around all different kinds of colored lagoons (red, green, white depending on the time and the weather conditions) and saw a lot of flamengos. Luckily, as the rainy season is about to start in Bolivia, we only had half a day of bad weather, but really bad as it snowed (you have to remember that, at 4000m high, rain becomes snow).
We were also able to spot geysers in the morning and could have swum in thermal baths (35 degrees
celsius) but we decided not to go as it was too crowded. This region is indeed really touristic but you will understand the reason why with the attached pictures.
After 5 days in Chile, we will head east to Argentina and then south to Buenos Aires where we will spend Christmas. It is thereby the opportunity to wish you all and your families a Merry Christmas.
As usual, you can find all the articles we have published since the beginning of the trip at the below link: http://www.travelblog.org/bloggers/los mineros/
There are more photos below