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Rich’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 12 Apr 2006

Location: Bolivia

MapAfter an uneventful border crossing in to Bolivia, we arrived at Tupiza, which is a real wild west town. Here we did a triathlon tour, involving cycling, a 4 wheel drive and horseriding around the area which was excellent fun, especially the final cycle ride where we got driven up to the top of the surrounding mountains and got to freewheel for about an hour back to town.
The next day we set off for a 4 day jeep tour of the South West of Bolivia, which has some other world scenery. The tour consisted of us, a driver/guide, a cook and four other travellers we had met previously. We spent the 4 days driving around weird coloured lakes that contained Flamingoes, beautiful mountains, deserts, snowy passes, deserted towns and the biggest salt lake in the world. During this time we had to cope with altitude sickness (we reached a maximum height of 5200 metres), hot days, freezing nights, a jeep that kept breaking down but overall, an amazing landscape that constantly took our breath away.
After the tour we headed for Potosi, once the worlds richest city and still the worlds heighest city (4070 metres). It was the worlds richest in previous centuries because of the adjacent mountain, that used to be packed full of silver but is now mainly mined for zinc. Most of Spains wealth came from this city as their coins were made here during the 16th - 18th century, and also a lot of the wealth ended up in British hands, thanks to the pirating skills of Sir Francis Drake and others.
The conditions in the mines that are still in operation have changed little in the last 400 years and we got to experience this through a tour. First we put on all the miners kit, then we went to the miners market to buy drinks, cigarettes and dynamite (no ID necessary) as gifts for the miners. This was followed by a 3 hour tour of the mine involving clambering up and down shafts, through tight tunnels and watching the actual miners at work with picks, shovels and drills. Some how office work doesn´t seem so bad anymore!