Right, I havent posted on here for a while, and i do apologise. I been tied up in a new job, had a foot operation etc… etc.. I wont blabber on :)
So.. we went to the highest city in the world POTOSI!!! situated in Bolivia of course :)
We saw a leflet for a guided mine tour. The mine was still in operation and an English speaking ex-miner was our tour. We had heard of these tours previously and heard mixed reviews, it was one of those “you’ve got to do it, but will never do it again” sort of sayings.
So morning came, we got on a coach and drove even FURTHER up, hitting past 4500 metres above sea level, you can feel the altitude starting to take effect. I opted to go for what the locals go for and buy some coco leaves to chew. So the coach pulled over and we went in to this deserted looking building, where we were given our protective clothing, helmets with a flash light on top and some wellies. After here we went to a market round the corner. This market was the miners market, here we had to buy the miners gifts to give them later whilst we were in the mines. No one disagreed as we guess this was a little price to pay for the type of work they do (and also given the chilien miners situation, it could be what they live off if they get stuck). We went to the markets and they were pretty shocking to say the least. The first stall was were we got sticks of Dynamite. The guide bought all the necessary parts and showed us how it all works, the TNT, the detonator etc… as you can see in the pictures they let me smoke a TNT (we learnt these will not explode when alight unless there is a detonator involved :) ) we all paid for the necessary parts (4 in total) and this merely came to £2. You also did not need any proof or was there any age limit to buy this dynamite, its was purely there to buy from anyone, like a chocolate bar.
The next stall had a massive bag of coco leaves outside and was selling, bags of coco leaves, coco cigarettes, juice and alcohol. The alcohol was 96% Vol. (thats 192 proof) it was ridiculous. I managed to get a bottle for myself also which i managed to get in to New Zealand and Australia to use as a good social ice breaker :) .
So after the market we had a bag each full of goodies. Mine contained 4 bags of coco leaves, 2 sets of dynamite, a bottle of alcohol, bottle of juice and a pack of coco cigarettes. All of this didnt even touch £10. We got back in to van and drove even FURTHER up the hill until we came to the mines. There was a tiny entrance to the mine, and when they told us we were going through that way, you saw a lot of worried faces. So off we went through this tiny pitch black hold, with tracks running through it for the carriages you see in the “indiana jones” type movies.
To get around in the mines you needed to crouch quiet low, the gap was about 5ft high and 5 ft wide, there were pipes running on the ceiling which meant you had to crouch even lower, then also not to mention the helmet and light on your head. Basically you had to crouch really low.
It was Pitch black inside, there was dust everywhere and you could hear explosions deep in to the mine. Every so often you would have to move to the side and allow miners to run out pushing a cart full of rock, which are very heavy, we went past a part of the track which had broke and it took about 5 of us to move it back on the rails, the guide said the carts hold a ton of rock. The deeper we went in to the mine, the hotter it got and the more the altitude effected your breathing.
We then got taken to a section of the mine which was like an underground cemetry, but what was in there was a statue of the devil. These miners worshiped the devil, the statue was covered in gifts of coco leaves and small bottles of alcohol. They believed these gifts would prevent them from harm within the mines. It was quiet a strange experience, the guide told us that they believe if anyone thinks or speaks about god, heaven etc… then the mines would swallow them up.
After here we went deeper in to the mine and come across a massive hole in the ground. This hole was probably 75metres deep, and was used to bring stock from the lower parts of the mine up to the top. they would walk of thin planks of wood over these holes, so could easily fall down if one of these broke or had a misplaced step.
We carried on through the mine and met some miners, they were very grateful of our gifts and we had pictures taken with them. They then offered us to sit down with them and share some alcohol and juice with them. You had to take the alcohol in your left hand, then give some drink to the mother earth (patcha mama – not sure of the spelling) then drink it, if you didn’t do this you had to drink again and you do not want to be drinking this stuff again, it is lethal!
We then left the miners and headed out of the mines. I then knew the meaning of “you’ve got to do it, but will never do it again”. The experience was amazing, but was also distrubing. The mines were so cramped, small, dark, dusty and hot. There were explosions going off everywhere, so you never knew actually how safe you were in there, even though our tour guide was amazing and made us feel safe, actually being safe was a different story.
When we got out of the mine, we still had a dynamite left in our bag so the guide put all the necessary pieces together and lit a fuse that lasted about a minute. We then had pictures taking with the alit dynamite, when it was near to the end he took it and put it away to explode. This was incredible! I filmed the explosion but this does not do the noise justice!
At the end of the day the tour was incredible, I would advise to do it. If you are very claustrophobia then it maybe advisable to give this one a miss. If not, definately hit it up, its great!!!
Enjoy the photos!