Shortly after takeoff I changed into my PJ's and joined Amy for dinner.
Shortly after takeoff I changed into my PJ's and joined Amy for dinner.
A light breakfast as we cross Botswana
A light breakfast as we cross Botswana

Potosí, Bolivia

Bolivia Comments Off
Jun 022011

Once our salt flat tour wrapped up, the primary mission was to get out of Uyuni.  In all honesty, the town is a trashy dump that seems to exist solely for tourism (although it was once an important railroad interchange).  There were two highlights of our brief stop in Uyuni: 1) having a pizza at Minuteman Pizza (owned by a guy from Amherst, MA) 2) leaving town.  It was raining when we woke up but fortunately it was only a five minute slog over to the bus.

The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni

The bus was not exactly a fancy double-decker Argentine bus but it was fairly new and the seats were in good shape.  It lacked a video system which meant we wouldn’t have to endure hours of terrible movies.  Of course, there were other factors that made the six hour ride a bit suboptimal.

Climbing out of Uyuni it didn’t take long until the drizzle of rain turned into snow.  We passed Pulacayo, a once-mighty mining town and a few other small villages high in the mountains.  I had hoped that the bus would warm up after we got moving but it just kept getting colder and colder.  The weather outside toggled between rain and snow as we climbed and descended through the mountains.

Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí.  Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí. Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.

About halfway through the trip we stopped at some dumpy settlement high in the mountains.  There were a couple of adobe buildings and a small shack for the pigs that lived there.  Conditions were cold and snowy and even the pigs couldn’t be bothered to come out to see us.

Is this really South America?
Is this really South America?

Closer to Potosí the weather got even worse.  Heavy snow and, being in Bolivia, I wasn’t exactly expecting to see battalions of snow plows.  Sure enough, on a few of the passes we came to a complete halt while the motorists attempted to clear the road with shovels.  The music track for this comedy was dueling music between passengers: one guy in the back with a boombox versus two guys in the front with cellphones.  A fun ride indeed!  Fortunately, we made it safely to Potosí and to a nice hotel in the center of the old city.

Potosí was once one of the most productive silver mines in the world.  Most of Spain’s silver came from Cerro Rico, the mountain adjacent to town.  Apparently hundreds of thousands of people have died in dangerous mines.  The most popular tourist activity in Potosí is a visit to these mines which are now run by local cooperatives.  We had heard mixed things about the mine tours and decided against a visit.

Potosí, Bolivia - Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Potosí, Bolivia – Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.

Despite skipping the mines, we still got a good taste of what the Spaniards really wanted with the town.  We visited the Casa de la Moneda, Spain’s former coin mint, and saw everything from the crude machinery used to make the coins to the horrific conditions that both people and animals were forced to work.

Next up on the blog, Sucre, Bolivia’s white city.

Potosí, Bolivia
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
The snowy mountains outside of Uyuni
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí.  Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Our rest stop on the way from Uyuni to Potosí. Snow/rain/slush and some very meager food options.
Is this really South America?
Is this really South America?
The central market in Potosí
The central market in Potosí
Buying some salteñas (the local take on empanadas)
Buying some salteñas (the local take on empanadas)
Rotary-dial pay phone.  Only in Bolivia.
Rotary-dial pay phone. Only in Bolivia.
Potosí, Bolivia - Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Potosí, Bolivia – Cerro Rico, the silver mountain at left.
Our guesthouse in Potosí...
Our guesthouse in Potosí…
...and the courtyard inside.
…and the courtyard inside.
Beer is nice and fizzy at 4,060m!
Beer is nice and fizzy at 4,060m!
Buying some fresh OJ
Buying some fresh OJ

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