Bolivia – Potosí mines

We are heading our day with our first post about our adventures in Bolivia. We are not focusing in any of the amazing landscapes that can be enjoyes in this beautiful country, but in a very particular experience. We will show you our trip to Potosi mines; so take a deep breath outlaw as it is not an experience suitable for all audiences!

Dare to join us?

Undoubtely, the main attraction in Potosí is its silver mines; they were a source of wealth for many years and it is the origin of the Spanish saying “valer un potosí” (worth as a potosí)

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One of the main things before preparing the trip is get some gifts to the miners that still work there in extreme harsh conditions. Three particular gifts would be kind of mandatory:

  • Coca leaves: Legal product in Bolivia, used for preparing “coca mate” or for chewing it.
  • Refreshments
  • 96º alcohol: yes, 96º! But not for healing wounds as it is a “drinkable alcohol”…. Well theoretically, this is what the label states (you can see it in the video below)

Once you have all the gifts and once we are wearing the mandatory protection equipment (helmet, overall, boots, front lamp and masks) we are ready to enter the mine.

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First thing that come to your mind when you get into the mine is “there is no oxygen here….”

Indeed outlaw, Potosi is more the 3900 m height and considering that we are walking through narrow passages with lack of light and a mask, the situation becomes rather claustrophobic and breathing is quite an effort.

We strongly recommend  getting used to the height of Bolivia before doing this trip.

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The visit goes by through a maze of narrow tunnels and nooks , and we find the miners along the way (chewing coca leaves) and we give them the presents as we thank them for allowing staying there and visiting the mine.

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We have the chance of talking briefly with some of them explaining the harsh conditions and weak security of their work.

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The route finishes with a worship to “El Tío” ,their God of the Underworld in Potosi who protects the miners. We sat with the miners and they started to mix up the 96º alcohol and the juice, sprinking “El Tío” with the mix as a present to him so that he continues protecting them.

El Tío
El Tío

After that , the shots round starts and we don’t know what to do. (Should we drink up all the shots?) the height and the lack of oxygen reminds us that this is not a good idea, though. Thus, we decided to sprink “El Tio” with our shot and pretend that we were drinking up the rest of the mix left in our glass…

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Finally, we are happy to show you a video with a recap of the experience.

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