Christmas is over and it has been quite a different one from what I’ve had before.
Yesterday we started our visit in Potosi by visiting the silver mines that has made this town.
Contrary to other mines I’ve visited this one is special in the sense that it’s still a working mine.
The day started when we got picked up at the hotel, we then got equipped with protecting clothes and helmets before we went to the miners market.
When I heard about the miners market I thought it was a place for buying mining related souvenirs, but this time it was what it sounds like, a street where the miners buy their equipment before going to work.
We went to a shop and had a look and taste. A lot of the miners drink very hard liquor, that means 96% proof alcohol. I got to taste some and it didn’t actually taste as bad as you would think, but out did burn.
At the market we bought some stuff as gifts for whatever miners we would meet in the mines.
Two kind of gifts was brought. Some bought coca leaves, and some bought dynamite. Two sticks of dynamite, a stick of ammonium nitrate and a fuse with a blasting cap for 20 Bolivianos, no questions asked.
Guess things are a bit different than at home.
Then we went on to the mines. At the entrance we got headlamps and were divided into two groups. The activity in the mines was slow since Christmas was around the corner, but we meet a few miners. The first couple we meet obviously had a bad day. The miners mine was over two km into the mountain and they had walked in there to do some blasting only to realize after placing the explosives that they forgot to bring anything to light the fuse. So they were forced to pack up the explosives and go back home empty handed.
A bit further in we meet a 16 years old kid that was collecting rock samples, drilling the rock with a old fashion drill bit and a small sledge hammer, just like in the old time.
The mining business is hard work, but out also pays of for a lot of people. Miners in Bolivia have on average the highest income in Bolivia and can earn over 10000 Bolivianos a week. 3.5 % is paid in tax to the government and 10% goes to the cooperative that the miners are part of. The rest goes to the miner, but he would have to use a lot of that on equipment and the cost of transporting the ore from his mining site to a refinery that extrudes the silver and zinc from the rock.
After visiting the mines we had our Christmas celebration, everyone who wanted to be part if it bought a small 10 Bolivianos present and Lina acted as Santa and handed our presents. After that we had a nice diner at the hotel and a good party.
The day today had been a slow day, sleeping in until late and then just relaxing. Some of the group we to visit some hot springs, but I think the majority was just relaxing at the hotel or tried to find some food.
Finding open restaurants the last two days seems to have been our biggest problem but we have managed.
Tomorrow we are leaving to visit the Uyuni salt flats.