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Patricia Stanton’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 12 May 2005

Location: Potosi (still), Bolivia

MapOk, so you guys are so lucky, two messages in one week!!!!!

There is a little bit of civil unrest in Potosi at the moment and there are blockades surrounding the town. As such I am not going anywhere in a hurry and am able to write another update and put on some photos!!!!

The reason for the blockade is that the government is trying to close the mineral extraction companies (those that separate the minerals from the dirt) because they are causing too much pollution. If that happens then this town’s economy is drastically reduced. As such everyone has packed their blankets (some have taken boulders as well) and are sitting on all the entrances and exits to the town. Pretty interesting really.

Today we went on a tour of the mine. In times gone by they used to extract pure silver, now it is 5% silver, 8% lead and 9% zinc – the rest is dirt (which promptly gets returned to the river hence the government’s concern about pollution) This compound of three minerals is then exported to ‘todo el mundo’! pretty exciting huh?

The conditions in the mines are terrible, but the miners are the funniest bunch of people I have met since leaving Australia. The mines operate 24 hours a day, if the miners feel like working that much (well if the mineral is rich enough to justify it) and they work in a cooperative rather than for a company. It is really hot and narrow and dusty in the mines, and we spent most of our time on our tummies squeezing through gaps. Children start working there as young as 11 and there is fairly difficult selection process. They were particularly keen to get Dorney working in the mines after her proved very handy on the shovel and at reaching things.

People in Bolivia are really short, I think the altitude must have something to do with it. As such the 6ft 6 blonde I am travelling with attracts much attention. School girls stand next to him and measure themselves, small children hide behind there parents or measure their feet next to his and one lovely old man stopped us in the street and said ‘What are you? 2 metres ?’ Funny times.

We hope to leave tomorrow, even if we have to sneak across the barricades and get a taxi to Sucre! If it doesn’t happen not to worry, we have cable at the hostel and I have found a café with the best hot chocolate I have ever had!!!!

Well as they say…