We caught the overnight bus from La Paz, a very quick ride due to the drivers habit of heavy acceleration, and which was or course interrupted by an internal smoke out within the bus due to his heavy braking. It was a relief to get to Potosi safe, and with only a mild case of brake dust asphyxiation. This wasn’t nearly as bad as what was to come in the mines.
We entered the mountain via a small tunnel, complete with tracks for the miners cart to travel along; as we began to enter we heard the rumble of the cart coming along. Standing aside, out into the daylight popped the miner, pushing at rapid pace a large steel cart carrying roughly half a tonne of dirt - very, very precious dirt
We were just a bit too tall to walk normally, so had to crank our necks to the side. It felt like being in one of those old country and western movies, with the typical miner’s tunnel, held up ever so fragilely by a very ancient looking timber structure. We reached an intersection and it was time to go off course. Getting on our hands and knees we crawled through a very tight tunnel into a larger cavern. At the end of the cavern was a grotesque life size statue of El Tio, “The Uncle”, sitting smugly, and with a very erect penis. This is the miner’s god; part devil, part sacred keeper of the mines, keeping a watchful eye over the miners hard at work within.
Next stop –more dust – and the Wild Wild West in Southern Bolivia, Tupiza…