Very high, actually, Potosi is arguably the world’s highest city, at 4090 metres above sea level. Even then the nearby Cerro Potosi dominates the landscape. It’s a place where it’s exercise just breathing and headaches are the order of the day, as the body tries to adjust to much less oxygen. Having said that, the Salt Flats most certainly gave Potosi a run for its money. In this high altitude panadol and I have been besties! And that’s coming from the gal who hates to use any medicine unless there is no other option!
|Potosi, with Cerro Rico in the background.
Potosi is a lovely place to just hang around and take it easy. The two main things it is renowned for is its silver mines and the National Mint (Casa de la Moneda). As I have gotten older, there are just some things I can’t do anymore, the mines being one of them. I did the tour in 1999 and was not going to do it again. Also known as Cerro Rico (Rich Mountain), the peak’s huge supply of silver has led to both immense riches and appalling suffering. I simply was not prepared to view those appalling conditions, which I viewed in 1999, again! If you have time, it is worth taking a look at what conditions look like today.
|The Mint (La Casa de la Moneda).|
We partook in a three hour guided tour of the Mint (also known as the Mint of Potosi in the colonial era). It is famous right across the Americas as it is the mint from which most of the silver shipped from the Spanish Main came. Potosi’s first mint was constructed in 1572; its replacement (this one) is a vast and striking building that takes up an entire city block! It was built between 1753 and 1773 to control the minting of colonial coins. The history we were provided with was mind-blowing; tragic on so many levels, especially the number of black and indigenous slaves who died working there, all in the name of money. Pun intended! Without a doubt, a Potosi ‘must see’!
|Inside the Mint.|
|The Mint; constructed between 1753 and 1773.|
|The streets of Potosi.|
I love the street life in Bolivia, and Potosi is no exception. I am a sucker for markets, I admit that. But I have to say, Bolivian markets aren’t for the faint of heart.
|Negotiating my veggie fix in Potosi …|
|… when all of a sudden I turned around and saw Billy Goat Gruff!|
|The locals doing their meat shopping.
Word of mouth is a great thing, and someone told us about the Eye of the Inca (El Ojo del Inca), a natural warm water lagoon only a short bus ride out of Potosi. Along with some new friends from Mexico and Germany, we jumped on a bus and took off for the day. It was a 20 minute walk from where we were dropped off by the bus and we spent a pleasant few hours there. It’s supposed to be 25 metres deep and even at the edge it drops 1.5 metres, so watch out if you can’t swim! South America doesn’t really do life jackets either!
|El Ojo del Inca.|
|Taking a swim.|
|With Jana and ‘Brujo Intenso”.|
|Alex with Jana and ‘el Brujo Intenso’.|
|Livin’ La Vida Loca! El Ojo del Inca.
|… where the water’s very hot!