Tuesday, April 1
Woken several times during the night by texts going off... The same message from Sophie C seems to keep arriving every half-hour or so. Had to turn phone on as alarm clock is broken... Need to get a new one asap, but not today. We meet for breakfast 9.30am, before Lila gives us information at 10am about the city, the fact that the strikes have finished so we can go to Sucre tomorrow, and sees how many want to go down the silver mines this afternoon... Full house. No one's committing to doing anything so find nearest internet café... Super slow (6 minutes to log into Gmail), and Lila joins me. Get a chance for a good online chat with Erika which cheers me up a bit, plus chat to Lila as we wait for our pages to load. Back to the hotel for 12.30 then head off to a restaurant... Looks pretty posh but settle for a Hambuergsa Simple (yes, a burger!). Fits the bill, and we make it back to the hotel for 2pm.
Our tour guide, Juan Carlos, is pretty much ready, so we pay up and we're on the bus. We head first
to the Miner's market - essentially a series of stores selling miner's equipment, and the goods we are to buy as presents for the miners: coca leaves, cigarettes, 96% drinking alcohol and sticks of dynamite. We all opt to not buy the alcohol/cigarettes but add more of the others. The miners chew the coca leaves to enable them to function without food etc for an 8 hour shift, the alcohol is taken in small sips. Next, it's to the tour house where we are kitted out in boots, lamps, dirt-gear, etc. before heading to the mines.
We enter the mines - damper than expected, and much more space (afterthe Cu Chi Tunnels this is loads of space), and the headlamps are pretty effective. First stop, we see Tio, one of the Underground Devils to whom miners give offerings (above ground they are Catholics, below ground believe in Tio)... At the point at which light/darkness separate. Next stop is a miner's assistant working - I can't see much and some miners come past and ask for something - give my cocoa leaves. Down more corridors, through a museum area and into another area with a Tio where we are shown
the ritual. Scatter cocoa leaves, sprikle alcohol on the Tio then the ground (to Pachamama, the Earth Mother) before drinking a sip, then light a cigarette and place in Tio's mouth (the colour the ash turns has significance). Here there's an option to go back or take the adventure route. Take the adventure... Crawl through some narrow spaces/up ladders/past holes and we're out in the air. Gifts are given way except 3 sticks of dynamite which we set up (I get to do one) and stand back to watch - loud explosions! Back to get changed and the hotel, by which time it is 6.30pm. Meeting for dinner 730pm so quick shower to remove traces of dynamite (hope can get this off my camera too as am often swabbed at the airport), half-hour in a better internet café (to print off my LTM chapter which is now at proof-reading stage), and we go for dinner. We're at the Koala Café where a 4 course meal can be had for 25Bs (less than GBP2), so have salad, tomato soup, vege lasagne and granola/yoghurt. Some are off to the pool room, but go and crash, watch TV, chat to Linda and pass
out around midnight.
Wednesday 2 April
Woken up by Linda's phone (mine is off as my message continues to arrive on a regular basis) 730am. Decide to have breakfast now too and then decide to go to the Mint Museum after all... Wasn't going to bother, but so highly rated by so many guidebooks decide to check it out. Is pretty interesting - can only go round on a 1.5 hour guided tour (thankfully in English), and taking photos doubles the entry price (oh, toabout GBP2.50). After an hour, however, am museum'd out and am glad to go for a wander in the markets once the tour finishes. Still amazed by the meat hanging everywhere, including cow's hooves/noses/heads, etc so catch some photos, buy some apples and head for the Central Plaza. Some school parade going on, interesting to see, then find my way back to restaurant went to last night where run into Stuart, then Vicky, and have salad, tomato soup, 'Shepherd's Pie' and fruit salad before heading back to the hotel to check out, sitting around in the lobby until the local bus arrives to take us to Sucre (1pm, sets off 1.20pm). It's 2.10pm and there's
206km to Sucre. We're going some pace, and accompanied, once again, by the Andean Pan Pipes (lovely!). We made it for 4pm, checked into our ´4-star hotel´.. it´s nice, not sure what defintes it as 4-star! Went on the internet for a couple of minutes, then headed out with Adriana, Rachel, Mark and Stuart to check out the town, and find thechocolate street, have one chocolate, see a couple of other things, but it´s started to rain, so find a good-looking internet cafe. However, good-looking is all it is as after an but I´ve maybe achieved 5 minutes worth of work, but I´m holding on as I want to transfer some stuff off which I´d have to start from scratch... maybe it would be worth it! Dinner in 25 minutes!
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