The Mountain That Eats Men


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South America » Bolivia » Potosí Department » Potosi
June 30th 2009
Published: July 6th 2009
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Almost no words to describe our experience in Potosi.
The bus journey from Sucre was an event in itself, on the bad side my seat was stuck in the recline position making things uncomfortable for me and the girl behind me and the bus was also (over)loaded with people standing next to us for the bumpy six hour journey. But as always the upsides made up for it, the mountain views are spectacular and the food and drink sellers who appeared each time we stopped were entertaining and made sure we didn't go hungry or thirsty.
The fact that the city of Potosi is the highest in the world at >4000m is a shock to the system of us sea level dwellers but the real extreme experience is the mine in the Cerro Rico mountain - the only reason for the city's existence. The tours warn that it's not a museum but a real working mine with some conditions that haven't changed since medieval times, but nothing can prepare you for the experience of going down there, it's unbelievably tough, scary and humbling. Breathing at 4000m is tough anyway, in the mine with only the limited amount of air that gets in naturally, the dust, and walking bent almost double because the roof is so low it's almost impossible. Changing levels involves scrambling up or down tubes cut in the rock and / or ladders that look and feel as though they were built by a five year old with a toy tool set. Then there are the wagons being pushed and pulled along by the miners who are doing their daily job and just want to get on with it. Many of the miners are only children, one we met was 13 years old and has been working in that awful place for 2 years already. We were down there 2 hours and glad it wasn't a minute longer, the miners work 8 - 10 hours a day, six days a week, surviving on coca leaves and soft drinks - pure hell on earth. We're glad we did it, but never again.


Additional photos below
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Atsuko in her mine wear at the miners market where we bought coca, soft drinks and dynamite as gifts for the miners.
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Martin in his mine wear at the miners market where we bought coca, soft drinks and dynamite as gifts for the miners.
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Martin and Atsuko about to go into the mine.
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There are few words to describe the life these guys lead in this awful place.
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How much coca is the guy on the right chewing !!!


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