The tour ended in Uyuni which is a really awful cement block town. I was hoping to spend my five hour layover uploading photos but the connection was horrible. I think I managed to get about 7 photos up in 3 hours. Good thing I was on-line though because Winks sent me an email on a great place for dinner in Uyuni run by an American. Mmmm chicken and gorgonzola pizza. A real splurge after having to eat whatever was put on the table for the last 4 days. Buses are funny here. Unlike Brazil, they have lots of companies running the same routes. But for some reason all the companies leave at the same times. Christian, Muitia, Raschid and I loaded onto our bus for Potosi at 7pm and found that we were the only tourists on this particular bus which was small and stuffed with people. Our guide in Uyuni had told us to watch our stuff carefully. I was going to stay up and read but the lights were turned off as soon as we left Uyuni even though there were people standing precariously in the aisles. Arrived at midnight. Caught a cab to our hotel. Crashed.
First order of business in the morning was a 30 minute shower. what a feeling to be clean. the four of us had a relaxing breakfast in the hotel courtyard. Potosi is designated as the highest city in the world so it's very cold here at night but during the day when the sun is shining on you it's incredibly warm and comfortable. I spent most of the day wandering around exploring the streets of Potosi. it's an old Colonial town and the churches are spectacular. One oddity is that the sidewalks are very narrow and in some places narrow to only a couple of inches wide. There are small micro-buses running up and down the streets and almost all of them have a small boy of no more than twelve leaning out the bus yelling destinations. I had a late 4 course lunch or almuerzo before hitting the Internet for the rest of the day.
Up early to make it downtown for my mine tour. when i walked in the door of the tour agency i was happy to find some Canadians I'd met on the trail over the past few days. We were all booked on the same tour. they drove us to a small hour outside of town to pick up boots, pants, jackets, helmets and head lamps before heading over to the mines. We stopped at the Miner's Market to pick up some gifts for the miners: soft drinks, coco leaves and dynamite (and a stick of dynamite for us to blow up afterward). our guide Efran was excellent and ave us an in depth explanation on the importance of mining in Potosi and the processes involved in turning the blasted rock into a fine dust mix of silver and 2 other minerals. Even though this silver mine has been in production for hundreds of years, there are no smelters in Bolivia to process the silver which explains why the streets aren't lined with cheap silver as I'd hoped.
We headed into the first level of the mine which wasn't too bad, just dark and a little low in places. We were practically running though so that we wouldn't be in the way of the miners hauling rocks out in primitive carts they pushed and pulled on tracks. We scrabbled down to the second level where there was hardly any air and had to crawl on our hands and knees in places. A girl from Holland freaked out Efran calmed her down and we moved on to the third level where which was much more spacious and had fresh air pumped in. We talked with some miners and gave them our gifts. Some were as young as 15. about half us pushed on the fourth level which was down some rickety steps. There we met a miner working alone banging out by hand a hole for dynamite. Coming out of the mine was just as treacherous and we all felt very affected by the experience. This definitely wasn't Disneyland Mine.