Potosí is part of the historic, colonial south-west of Bolivia; and it's a prime stop on the Bolivian gringo trail, due to its famous 400-year-old mines in the nearby mountain of Cerro Rico. Potosí also claims to be the world's highest city. It's a nice place, and for most of the day and evening, it's quite lively and has a good atmosphere. Quite cold, though.
After a day spent relaxing yesterday, today Chris and I made the journey, by bus, from Potosí to Uyuni. Was a bit of an exercise, actually finding a bus to take us there; but once we got our tickets, the trip itself went without incident. The road, of course, was unpleasant to say the least; and the number of random "extra" people on the bus was a bit worrying. But hey, this is Bolivia.
For my last full day in Potosí today, I decided to visit the nearby thermal baths of Tarapaya, which are naturally warmed by the waters of the hot springs that come forth in this little area. Found a deal in Potosí, where you can hire a bike for the afternoon, ride down the 25km, nicely-sealed, mainly-downhill road to Tarapaya, relax in the hot springs at your leisure, and then return to Potosí via combi (just whack the bike on the roof). Great ride, and a very nice way to relax and get more clean, after yesterday's filthy and exhausting mine tour.
I really did get absolutely filthy from my tour of the Potosí mines today. They gave us special protective clothing, which we wore over our own, and then gave back to them at the end of the tour. I had a long and thorough hot shower, when I got back to the Koala Den this afternoon. And I took all my clothes to the lavanderia this evening, for an emergency laundry wash (making a special exception to Jaza's law of washing). And even with all that, I still can't get the nauseating smell of the mines off my person, or the taste of the mines out of my mouth. Really, really filthy place.
It's always nice to find a tour agency in a non-English-speaking country, that advertises having services available in English. But when the advertisement for this service is written in dubiously-grammatised English, it does make you just a little apprehensive of the quality of said service. Here's a photo of the sign for a tour agency here in Potosí — the sign reads: "the guide speak English". Is that so? Well, if he does, then I hope it's better than yours! :P
After we finished our tour of the Potosí mines today, we had some fun outside. Our tourguides got three of our packages of dynamite, ammonium nitrate, and fuse; ran about 50m down the road with them; and then ran back before they exploded. One of the packages got stuffed inside a cute little teddy bear. Poor little guy left this world with a big bang. Check out the video here.
Today, I went on the famous tour of the mines of Potosí: the No. 1 thing to do here in Potosí, and the main reason why tourists come to this town at all. The tour was very dark, very cramped, very asphyxiating, and very disturbing. The mountain of Cerro Rico currently has 15,000 miners working in 400 mines, in positively hellish conditions. The mountain has been constantly mined for over 400 years. Experts predicted about 10 years ago that the mountain had about 7 years left, before the whole thing came crashing down, due to its foundations being literally "undermined". And it's still going.
Some towns only have one place worth staying at. The Koala Den in Potosí is one of those places. Quite friendly, with a nice little lounge area to chat with ye 'ol fellow travellers, and a great TV / dining room as well (excellent collection of DVDs!). Also has quite an extensive 2-for-1 book exchange collection. And, very importantly, it's a warm "den" (as its name suggests) in a very cold town.